Understanding What is Supply Chain Management

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A business to succeed in present day fierce competition has to possess a customer oriented approach, irrespective of the size of the firm. The main focus should be satisfying customer needs (Kotler, 1965). Immense competition has led to greater options and expectations of customers or clients have reached sky high. To cope with the growing demands, firms started to emphasize more on the supply chain management aspect.

Supply Chain Management is the key process of any organisation now (Quinn 1999). SCM came into existence since the early 1980s and ever since grew in popularity with fierce rivalry amongst competitors increasing.

According to Steven Supply chain can be defined as "the connected series of activities which is concerned with planning, coordinating and controlling material, parts and finished goods from suppliers to the customer" (Stevens 1989, p.3). With the advent of more and more technology such as internet, mobile, etc. to assist, supply chain has started developing in leaps and bounds. Ideally in a supply chain firms purchase raw materials and then production starts, after stage two, the finished products are being stored in a suitable place and finally distributed or rather shipped.

1.2 Supply Chain Integration Strategies

According to Porter a firm's competitive advantage over the other firm depends on how well the firm's value chain and the supplier's value chain are linked (Porter 1998). What supply chain management does is to integrate both the internal and external functions of the concerned firm. External operations consists of suppliers, customers and other channels (Kim 2006a). Gunasekaran also emphasized the importance of supply chain management for gaining a competitive advantage on the rival firms (Gunasekaran et al. 2008).

The supply chain not only takes care of the inventory management and logistics, it also performs the function of coordinating demand and supply (Fisher 1997)

Fig. 1 integrated supply chain

Supply chains individually, without integration are not able to ameliorate its efficiency and potency (Dawe 1994, Kim 2006a). Integration of customers and suppliers have been thought about for long, but for the advent of technologies such as internet and more advanced technologies, such integration would have been a distant reality. This sort of supplier and customer integration helps a firm to great deal in forecasting demand. According to Frohlic and Westerbook companies which are able to integrate and create a link between its customers and suppliers are the ones who sustain profitability and market share in the long run (Frohlic and Westerbrook 2001). They also proposed four integration strategies namely, internal integration, integrated with suppliers, integrated with customers and fully integrated.

1.4 Competition Capabilities

Competition is becoming fierce everyday with the advent of newer technologies and is the most important factor why manufacturing industries are looking for a paradigm shift in their operations. Automated systems are being introduced so as to meet the demand of the customers at a more rapid pace. Customisation would increase as well and quality would not be compromised on. Consistency, Just-In-Time production, providing more and more customer service is possible due to the automated systems. Almost all companies around the globe have a customer service department which provides 24/7 help. Most of customer's problems are dealt with instantly. The advent of technology and improvement of telecommunication has made that possible. We can now order any product on internet from anywhere in the world and receive full-time customer service as well. Logistics companies like DHL, FEDEX, UPS makes the world even a smaller place to live in. They deliver any product from any part of the globe to the other in just a matter of days.

According to Tracey "Competition capabilities are potential points of differentiation between [a] firm and its competitors.'' (Tracey et al. 1999, p.414). Now the reason why firms engage in CC is to get a competitive advantage over cost leadership, product and service differentiation, flexibility, agility and leagility, product quality and on time inventories in coherence with the structure and nature of the business and supply chain it employs.

1.5 Drivers of Enterprise system

Firms continuously adopt newer technologies or enterprise systems not only to enhance their overall efficiency but also due to growing needs. When more and more companies start to employ technology in their operations, other companies have no other choice but to follow their footsteps so as to keep themselves in competition (Frohlic and Westerbrook 2002).

For many industries enterprise systems act as the driving force to explore newer zones or markets. It in turn keeps the customers and clients satisfied and ultimately the business is benefitted as a result. Adopting enterprise systems increases more coordination within networks and as result variability is reduced so is the non-value adding activities. HP's cost reduction in printer inventory is due to enterprise system (Billington 1994; Frohlich 2002).

Bandwagon effect is another reason why driver enterprise systems are employed. Small and mid-sized companies adopt driver enterprise system due to peer pressure to cope with the increasing demands and to make an impression on the customers and clients. Fewer technologies lead to fewer clients (Abrahamason and Rosenkopf 1993; Frohlich and Westbrook 2002).

1.6 Enterprise Systems:

An enterprise system comprises of both software and hardware aimed to evaluate data by comparing with a standard and enables an organisation to run smoothly (Davenport 1998). Enterprise system enhances supply chain integration of an organisation and has a positive effect on the performance of it.

1.6.1 Enterprise Resource Planning and RFID:

ERP is a software that and acts as an integrated system in firms and helps in data storage. ERP integrates operational area of a firm and helps in concentrating on its processes. RFID or Radio Frequency Identification- helps in identifying a product or a unique user in which it is installed through radio waves. Use of RFID in Supply Chain Management would enhance the firm's process and would directly imply to the stocks in warehouses- tracking would become so much easier.

Chapter3: Research Methodology

In this section, the research methodology worn furthermore the conceptual framework employed in discussing the case study is presented. The conceptual framework was drawn up based on the literature survey plus on a number of reported case experiences.

3.1 Research Philosophy

Research methodology is extremely vital if the tools available to carry out the research are utilized properly there is no doubt the study can be fruitful in addition to relevant for the readers. Methodology plays the role of back bone in the success of the research that is carried out in order to complete the study in a professional manner.

3.2 Research Approach

The research project will involve the employment of theory. That theory might or might not be explicit in the design of the research. The context to which the researcher is clear regarding the theory at the beginning of the research project; this is whether the researcher has to employ the deductive approach or the inductive approach; the inductive approach is applied in accordance by means of the research philosophy. Inductive approach deals with empirical data and hence a model is being formulated by the researcher through the different set of events that take place in real life situation while if the researcher uses existent theories and investigates them using empirical evidences to come to a conclusion, the researcher is then set to have applied deductive approach. (Strauss and Corbin, 1998 , Sullivan 2001). The researcher does not set up hypothesis in this research and uses the deductive approach.

3.3 Research Design

A research design for any research is very important as it directly bears an impact on research actions. (Churchill and Iacobucci 2006). Bearing in mind the needs and objectives of the present study a suitable research design was adopted. Causal research design which establishes or studies the relations between causes and symptoms were selected for the present study (Cooper and Shindler 2003, Hair et.al. 2003). It was highly imperative that a more detailed and explanatory design is chosen for the study.

3.4 Data Sources

Any mode of research involving empirical evidence can employ either primary or secondary sources for collection of data. Primary data is the set of data that is collected from a population face to face. This is a lengthy time consuming process but provides a more realistic approach to the study. Direct contact plays a vital role here. Secondary data is the source of data that pre -exists in a literature. It is less time consuming and monetarily beneficial as well, as it involves less amount of expenditure. The researcher uses secondary data for the current study.

3.3 Primary Research

Due to time constraint as well as the lack of cooperation of the target participants the researcher decided not to carry out a primary research. Hence no survey was carried out. A questionnaire was prepared though, but the response of the participants lacked conviction.

3.4 Secondary Research

The entire focus was based on electronic journals, researcher's articles, discussion forums. The researcher, in addition took the assistance of social networking sites, like ORKUT, FACEBOOK, and FLICKR etc. in order to discuss the topic by means of colleagues in addition to friends as this enables the researcher to gather information related to the topic and making it fruitful for the reader.

3.5 Limitations of Research

Limitations of research might occur for various reasons. Lee, (1997) have suggested a number of possible limitations in research: Reliability, validity in addition to generalization. First of all, the reliability of the research findings might be questioned. This suggests four threats to reliability: subject error, subject bias, observer error, plus observer bias. A research finding is reliable when dissimilar researchers make the similar observations on dissimilar occasions. Second, validity is concerned by means of whether findings are really acceptable in terms of what they appear to be. Possible threats to validity are history, testing, instrumentation, morality, maturation in addition to ambiguity regarding casual direction. Thirdly, Generalization is concerned by means of external validity. Research results might not be used for generalization, for the simple reason that samples are not sufficient to simply conclude all populations have the same opinion. (Lee, 1997)

In the secondary research, data are collected as of journalist's interview, newspaper, and trade documents as well as or public domain websites. The data as of journalist's interview are written as of a personal point of view. This means that these data is further likely to be useful as the source of the writer's perceptions along by means of views than as an objective account of reality. The data as of newspaper is unlikely that there would be a formal methodology describing how the data was collected. The data, as of trade public domain websites do not comprise all variables the researcher has identified as necessary for study, in addition a number of data are not up to date. The data such as of trade documents are mostly written keeping in mind a subjective point of view of members of the trade, which means that data might not be objective. There still exists this possibility while conducting a primary research. (Bettis, 1992)

The researcher's main aim was to be just to the topic as well as make sure to try best to make it easier for the reader so that whoever reads the piece of work finds it fruitful and relevant to the topic. As mentioned earlier, that time was one of the major constraint and due to this constraint it was a little bit hard for the researcher to cope up by means of the deadlines given by the research supervisor, however the researcher tried his best to pay sufficient attention towards this task at the same time made sure that the other subjects and or courses are not effected by concentrating to this dissertation. This in addition enable the researcher to understand how to manage time along by means of what is the significance of time supervision in situation like these in addition to how to deal by means of these hurdles when they are floating around. The researcher learnt that if not dealt by means of professionally these hazards can seriously affect the over all presentation as well as accuracy of the work carried out. Therefore the researcher was extra active plus keen to make sure that he finishes all the tasks assigned to him well prior to the given deadlines as this will not just avoid the chances of marks reductions or failing to submit however at the same time will assist the researcher to avoid the work as of piling up.

The task in addition enabled the researcher furthermore made it clear regarding the fact that what have to be done along by means of how to carry out tasks if the time is less plus how to make sure that the excellence and validity of work is not affected due to this time constraint fact. The researcher believes strongly that the study would have been further fruitful and interesting for the reader have to the researcher have succeeded in order to obtain attention of the participant which was not the case as well as due to extremely busy schedules despite quite a few efforts and or attempts the researcher was refused to be entertained due to busy schedule of the targeted participants along by means of tough routines. This encouraged the researcher to think as well as come up by means of an alternative manner so that the study does not totally lack in relevant facts. This resulted in researcher coming up by means of the idea of using social networking sites like FACEBOOK, ORKUT etc. this was immense experience the response as of the friends and colleagues was extremely positive in addition to the topic was discussed in depth by means of them through these social networking sites.

3.6 Research Questionnaire:

In order to carry out an in-depth research, the researcher designed a questionnaire for the purpose of carrying out primary research. The researcher tried to contact participants so as to carry out survey but there was a considerable lack of interest due to their busy schedules. Therefore the researcher did not carryout primary research, however the researcher used alternative resources like electronic journals and different articles to answer the designed questionnaire. A set of eight questions were prepared by the researcher. The questionnaire designed is mentioned below:

What are the common issues most companies face regarding inventory management to maintain high level of customer satisfaction?

How useful are the techniques of supply chain management in order solve the issues of inventory management?

What was the initial impact of using this approach the success and failure ratios?

How can Supply Chain management techniques help in reducing the costs related to the purchase of raw materials?

To what extent do these techniques help in improving the quality of products or services in any organization?

How do supply chain management techniques help in increasing competition in the market Place?

Are there any problems that companies faces during the implementation of Supply chain management techniques?

What can be the room for improvement or is there any further room for improvement in this approach?

The overall study will float around the answers of the questionnaire. The researcher worked hard in order to make sure that this piece of work is relevant to the topic and proves to be a fruitful resource for the reader.

Chapter 6: Self Reflection

The scope of growth is aplenty in life just that we need to choose the right path. MBA degree is a very essential, not only in terms of professional fronts, but also it instills discipline and raises our capacity to take decisions faster in a more accurate way. Decision making is a trait that helps in every walk of life irrespective of being at work or home. MBA degree, I am sure, would give me the right impetus for a brighter future ahead and the whole experience of studying in Cardiff University under the guidance of scholars was indeed a privilege. The course curriculum is of very high standard and encourages innovative thoughts. As a result, it becomes even more imperative to think, and dare to think beyond the norms sometimes.

The MBA Business Project has been one of the most intriguing phases in my MBA tenure. The whole MBA programme was designed to teach us the different traits of management. The Business Plan module gave the impetus while the dissertation extended our knowledge in a particular field where I specialised in. The theories of Operations management, Lean Operations and Strategic Operations Management taught in first semester and the specialisation phase of MBA helped a lot in conducting the deductive case study based research. I was working as a Project Co-ordinator in Hewlett- Packard prior to opting for MBA in Cardiff University. Supply chain management always played a very important role in the performance of the firm. Linking supply chain management to customer relationship is indeed fascinating. The concepts and the principles taught in Lean Operations and Strategic Operations Management helped me understand the importance of value added services provided to a customer and Total Quality Management. Process mapping and network diagrams theories taught during the Operations Management module made me equipped with the task of streamlining.

My supervisor Prof Gilbert Aryee guided me through each and every step of the present study. It has been an enjoyable experience working under him. He also took the trouble of making corrections wherever required. I got a hands-on experience on supply chain techniques under him. All these days, I was aware of the benefits of supply chain management in a firm's successful running and performance but this study has given me an entirely different perspective towards supply chain management and how inevitable it is to any firm's overall growth. The MBA course and for that matter the research study has helped me to comprehensively understand how a business is run successfully and with sustainability.

During the course of the study I also realized how competitive the market place of today is. There is a continuous urge of technological advances in every aspect of a business to cope up with pace of the competitors. The managers of future have to more demanding in taking right decisions and developing business models according to the need of the market keeping the satisfaction of the customers as the utmost priority. With newer and more advanced technologies coming in the field of supply chain management has got a major boost. Supply chain management has become that definitive tool which deals with the aspects of material flow, financial and information exchange within the market place and among the partners. The study has taught me that in future the supremacy of any firm would be decided by the supply chain management it practices. It would take the centre stage of all competition.

Whatever knowledge and experience that I achieved during the course and dissertation, I would like to pass to the place I work and also hope that someday would be able to run a successful business of my own.

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