Interface Management: Customer-Supplier Relationship

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Interface Management: Customer-Supplier Relationship

This section is aimed at achieving quite a few goals and concluding the chapter with a thorough analysis and synthesis.

First of all, the writer would revisit the research aims and objectives and the research question posed at the beginning of the thesis. By addressing these important pillars of the thesis, the entire effort would be organized into a well-thought-of effort of writing. Such a route to conclusion would also ensure that the entire process was systematic and would help the current writer propose a robust framework of interface management and supply chain in specific relation to procurement, production, and distribution logistics.

To begin, the thesis posed a research motivation by stating above that since research on interface management is going on and is informative, latest research is multidimensional and multifaceted. This makes the understanding of the current frameworks and concepts considerably cumbersome not only for a student of management such as this writer but also for the practitioners working within the very same area. Thus, the primary rationale and motivation for this thesis was to investigate the current outlook of the extant research as applied to interface management with specific reference to procurement logistics, production and distribution logistics so that a more robust framework can be offered. Such a framework/design would be informed by research in multidisciplinary areas but with the same field: Interface management. Similarly, the objective of the thesis was to review current empirical literature on interface management with particular reference to procurement logistics, production and distribution logistics, and analyze the entire empirical body of research in a way that can suitably offer an effective approach, model, or framework which can be original contribution in this very area.

The motivation and objectives have been addressed throughout the thesis, particularly in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 where the review of extant literature was extensive, in-depth, and critical. The review undertook critical analysis of a number of areas from global trends in supply chain management [1] to blurring of the processes of product and service manufacturing.[2] The thesis has also extensive drawn from the research on a number of areas that cover procurement to distribution logistics in connection to interface management. In particular, the review of procurement logistics, production/manufacturing logistics, and distribution logistics reveals that these processes, to this day, are not (i) linear and (ii) aimed at facilitating the parent company. [3] In fact, all these processes are aimed at facilitating the end-consumer (considered as a yardstick of business success [4]) who should become the center of all the efforts put in the whole supply chain that includes the major firm and its supplier.

Review of procurement, production, and distribution logistics also informs us that today fiercer competition and globalization [5] are giving way to lean production in which knowledge-generation, learning, mutual goal-accomplishment,[6] and many other activities and processes of interface management which has changed previous understanding into a whole new concept of it. Today, hence, supply chain is globally strategized, procured, produced, and distributed.[7]

There are a number of integral sets and subsets of critical understanding while attempts of understanding interface management are carried out. This thesis has undertaken a painstakingly in-depth review of all the critically relevant areas to interface management. Thus, it has been learnt that interface management is a very broad and dynamic concept where the supply chain activities, i.e. procurement, production/manufacturing, and distribution logistics are not linear anymore.[8] Moreover, it is also learned that interface management is not merely about the contact points where the supplier meets the parent firm and deliver the goods/services required.[9] In fact, research reveals that interface management is perhaps one of the most decisive factors for market-success today.

The area of research within interface management informs that it is divided into three broad management areas, i.e. inter-organizational interface management[10],[11],[12]; informal interface management [13],[14]; and integrated interface management.[15],[16]. Whereas the former two have been identified as underlying managerial activities, the latter is what every firm is trying to achieve today. It is the integration of all the interfaces, hence, that becomes the focal point of extant literature. Useful insights in regards to better and effective interface management have thus been offered and analyzed in this thesis.

First off, it has been discussed and analyzed that integrated interface management is a sum of a number of business processes, activities, and operations. The basic premise lies in the relationship of the parent organization and its supplier/subunits at the interface.[17] Available literature extends that today, this relationship has evolved a great deal and have moved from the primitive standardized relation (in which the two stakeholders were considered more in terms of shopkeeper and customer) up to the interactive one in which both put serious efforts to achieve the mutual business goal: end-user satisfaction.[18]

Second, inter-organizational interface management is a combination of standardized practices as well as components like reciprocal coordination and collaboration [19], where the two stakeholders strive to achieve integration through supplier development and skills and knowledge sharing and transfer activities.[20] Likewise, interface management at this stage is also a matter of planning strategically all the areas from procurement through production to distribution logistics so that supplier development eventually becomes an integrated business practice that benefits both the parties.[21] The third important strand in this area is that of development of interfaces by combined efforts.[22] This entire process is thus cyclic and represents incessantly observed activities and processes from both sides. The model has been discussed that proposes these functions: awareness, exploration, expansion, commitment, and dissolution. Next comes the stage of managing interorganizational interface through exchange and communication of cross-functional beliefs by which the integration becomes well-aligned facilitating a market differentiation strategy for long-terms sustainable competitive advantage.[23]

Last, effective problem solution is highly required to make interface management a successful and integral part of a dynamic supply chain management. The problem, challenges, and their solutions, however, is addressed at three points: in the supplier’s organization, the parent organization, and at the interface.[24] Major problems pointed out in literature are fear of losing cross-functional skills; loss of control over supplier; fear of supplier’s bypassing the buyer; unstable power positions; strategic conflicts.[25] It is only through mutual efforts, trust, communication, and efforts that these problems and issues can be addressed for mutual benefits.

Next area, informal interface management, was also analyzed for its importance and effectiveness. Informally present between the two organizations, this level is necessarily about reciprocal willingness by the parent organization and its supplier(s) to learn from knowledge sources that lie outside their organization. This capacity enables a firm to process knowledge from its surroundings and to make use of it for its long-term competitiveness (absorptive capacity). Most importantly, such knowledge is gained nowhere but at the many interfaces at which the firm communicates with other organizations.[26] In addition, informal interface management can be highly beneficial for both the stakeholders involved if it is geared up with the personal contact,[27] trust,[28] corroboration renting[29] (see above), seamless communication facilitated by internet-based technologies (among others)[30], and informative sharing and exchange,[31],[32]. Such a dynamic, integrated, and reciprocal interface management, eventually, leads firm to perform wonders in today’s business world of ever-increasing complexities and competition. Such an interface, thus, is directed toward the long-sought-for stage: integrated, unified, one-piece, and uninterrupted interface.[33] At this stage, however, buyer-supplier relationship has moved on a great deal as much as interface management has been developed globally;[34] Analysis of overall trends in interface and supply chain management show that the field as a whole is now well-informed.[35]

With all the above synthesis of the critical analysis of interface and supply chain management, it is quite rational to also revisit the contribution of research as posited above in the first chapter. The current research effort aimed to review, synthesize, and analyze extant empirical literature to offer an effective framework or approach within interface management, procurement logistics, production and distribution logistics, the contribution was expected to inform the wider research community of any connections that can be made across the studies to be reviewed here. While making such connections, it was desired that the effort would point to certain directions that can help prospective students, practitioners, and researcher within the management discipline and other relevant disciplines to gain a more effective understanding of this area as a whole. It was also anticipated that the research would open new avenues of research within this area of inquiry.

At this point, it’s appropriate to state that the extensive review, examination, and critical analysis of interface management has lend insights into the whole area with which the current writer feels safe to propose a fresh model of successful interface management: Targeted Interface and Integrated Supply Chain Management Model. This model also answers the research question postulated in the first chapter, i.e. Given the available body of extant literature on interface management, within procurement logistics, production and distribution logistics, how can the internal customer-supplier relationship be more comprehensively interpreted and understood for an effective business approach?

The figure below illustrates the model:


Figure 9: Proposed Model of Targeted Interface and Integrated Supply Chain Management

The model (proposed after the entire critical analysis) suggests that today most successful interfaces are integrated with the overall supply chain where the two work dynamically with visibly blurring boundaries. The lifeblood of both integrated supply chain and seamless interfaces (while permeating each other constantly) is in the 8 critical success factors. Four are within the formal interface management: (i) coordination, (ii) planning, (iii) development, and (iv) management; and the other four fall within the sphere of informal interface management: (i) trust, (ii) communication, (iii) information exchange, and (iv) technological assistance. Where the red color shows a lack of security and instability at different interfaces an organization is involved, these 8 critical success factors, when carried out effectively, can change this uncertainly into an organization’s strength and internal growth and development: green color.

As the customer/end-user has been extensively established as the center of all the business activities, it has been placed in the center, i.e., all of these activates are primarily targeted to the end-user. It is this fresh focus and understanding of integrated interface and supply chain management that is necessary in today’s business environment.

With this analysis, the current thesis meets all of its aims, objectives, and addressed the primary research question as well as proposes a fresh perspective on interface management with reference to procurement, production/manufacturing, and distribution logistics. Since every day new challenges are posed to the businesses of the world, this approach is inevitable. Older approaches, stances, and positions must be abandoned to work out new and fresh ways in which interfaces management takes a whole new meaning (as proposed by the Targeted Interface Model above). It must be kept in view the supply chain is no more a linear process; nor is it something in which heavy inventory and distribution could prove successful. Moreover, interfaces are multiplying by the day and have more and more blurred boundaries. Thus, today’s supply chain management is all about integration, liquidation, and fluidity of strategies, processes, communication, and other business activities.

At the end, it would be equally rational to state that interface management faces quite a few challenges. The most serious challenges lie in the areas of the effect of interface management on the buyer’s and the supplier’s development.[36] Research does not inform us how different interfaces impact on the success of the two stakeholders involved. There are other areas as well, but focusing on this area may be immediately useful.

Overall, it is expected that in the near future with the help of further research, more advances with information and communication technologies, better policy frameworks globally, and with more effective business mechanisms, interface management would move further on. This thesis has made its due contribution.

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[1] cf. Braschel and Posch (2013), p. 36.

[2] cf. Braschel and Posch (2013), p. 36.

[3] cf. Handfield (2006) p. 58.

[4] cf. Fabbe-Costes and Colin (2007), p. 33.

[5] cf. Taylor and Brunt (2002), pp. 21-29.

[6] cf. Schmickl and Kieser (2008).

[7] cf. Taylor and Brunt (2002), pp. 21-29.

[8] cf. Parasuraman, Berry, and Zeithaml (1991).

[9] cf. McIvor, Humphreys, and Huang (2000).

[10] cf. Dowlatshahi (2000).

[11] cf. Nellore, (2012), pp. 21-19.

[12] cf. Gadde, Håkansson, and Persson (2010), pp. 140-155.

[13] cf. Cohen and Levinthal (1990).

[14] cf. Dyer (1996).

[15] cf. Frohlich M. T., Westbrook R (2001), p. 186.

[16] cf. Zailani and Rajagopal (2005).

[17] cf. Gadde, Håkansson, and Persson (2010), pp. 140-155.

[18] cf. Kerber and Dreckshage, (2011), pp. 195-206.

[19] cf. Monczka, et al., (2008), pp. 121-137.

[20] cf. Sanchez and Mahoney (2002), p. 129.

[21] cf. Marík et al. (2002).

[22] cf. Burtonshaw-Gunn, S. (2009), pp. 211-222.

[23] cf. Rogers (2009), p 187.

[24] cf. Marík et al. (2002).

[25] cf. Quinn (1992), pp. 71-95.

[26] cf. Cohen and Levinthal (1990).

[27] cf. Kieser (2001).

[28] cf. Uzzi, B. (1997) 35-67.

[29] cf. Dyer and Singh (1998), p. 668.

[30] cf. Harrison, Lee, and Neale, (2005), pp. 115-122.

[31] cf. Furlan, et al. (2010).

[32] cf. Wagner and Bode (2014), p. 68.

[33] cf. Frohlich M. T., Westbrook R (2001), p. 186.

[34] cf. Cooper et al. (1997).

[35] cf. Bowersox et al. (2000), pp. 1–15, c.

[36] cf. Revilla and Choi (2011).