This study focuses on the Supply Chain process of Central Electricity Board. The core objectives of the Dissertation is to assess the Supply Chain process and practices of the Utility, identify factors hampering the effectiveness of the Company's Supply Chain, appraising the causes of these factors as well as evaluating the extent to which CEB's employees are conversant with the Supply Chain activities.
For the purpose of the Dissertation, data was collected through Survey method (Questionnaire), for it is believed that more concrete information can be gathered using this technique. The response rate for same was rather eminent since 94 out of the 106 Questionnaires (representing 88.7 % of the sample size) were successfully filled in and submitted to the author.
The main findings of the Study is that Supply Chain activities of CEB is fairly efficient, but at the same time, numerous factors like unreliability of suppliers and inadequate training were identified, that mainly obstruct its effectiveness.
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Ultimately, some ideas were suggested for the company to increase efficiency of its Supply Chain in a view to improve and deliver its service in a more competitive and enhanced way.
1.1 Brief Introduction
Supply Chain consists of all the processes involved in fulfilling an order. It starts with customers' request, and ends in the order being successfully delivered. Supply Chain Management involves scrutinising the different events involved in fulfilling the order. Activities in SC include purchasing of raw materials, manufacturing the product, storing and finally delivering it to the end user. For proper SC practices, involvement of people, co-ordination of activities, and effective management of information and resources involved in moving a product from the supplier to its customer is very important.
Similarly, the core activities of SCM consist of transporting raw materials to the organisation, processing them into finished products, and moving same out of the firm to the end user. Nowadays, SCM is considered as an important tool, enabling companies to compete at a national, as well as global level.
1.2 Company Background
The Central Electricity Board (CEB) is a parastatal organisation, which is entirely owned by the Government of Mauritius. It is the sole organization providing reliable, safe and affordable electricity supply to the inhabitants of Mauritius and Rodrigues Island. As such, the company strives to "prepare and carry out development schemes with the general object of promoting, coordinating and improving the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity''.
For smooth operation of the company, CEB is involved in much procurement activities, which include the purchase of cables, transformers, circuit breakers, electrical fittings, and the like. All procurement of CEB is being effected within the provision of the Public Procurement Act 2006 and Regulations 2008. However, the CEB has established its own Procurement Procedures and as such, has issued its Internal Business Manual as regard to Procurement.
1.3 Background of the problem
Understanding the importance and need for good SC practices is fundamental for the survival of companies in today's competitive environment. In this vein, the concept of SCM can be considered as an effective tool, allowing companies to rethink about its overall operation and if needed, restructure it to be in a better position to focus on its core competencies. Applying SCM enables companies create an impact on its market position while helping the organisation take strategic decisions, such as deciding the most appropriate suppliers, and making proper use of available resources and human capital.
Basically, all organisations should aim for effective SCM practices in a view to realise customer's requests in an effective and efficient way while meeting their expectations. It is, therefore, important for CEB to properly chose its suppliers and maintain good relationships with them. Upon issuing an order to a particular supplier, constant follow up need to be carried out by the CEB so as to be updated on the progress of the order. As such, proper knowledge of good SCM becomes essential to operate efficiently. Differences between the CEB and its suppliers might cause disruptions in the production of electricity resulting in a significant impact on the economy.
1.4 Problem Statement
Prior to adopting the concept of SCM, each Department of the CEB was responsible for the procurement of the materials they needed. However, some years back, the company put into place the SC Unit, which is responsible for procurement of required items for all Departments. Since CEB is involved in the purchase of many important items like transformers and cables for production, transmission and distribution of electricity, it is important for the SC process to be very effective so as to ensure continuity in electricity supply. In this light, it is imperative to maintain efficient SC practices and continually improve its procedures to provide enhanced services and acquire customer satisfaction. This triggers the need for a research to assess the effectiveness of SC activities within CEB and to identify any factors affecting its effectiveness.
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Research objectives summarise the purpose of a research (Varkevisser, Pathmanathan & Brownlee, 2003). In this quest, the core objectives of this study are:
To analyse the current SC practices being carried out at CEB
To identify any bottleneck factor that may be obstructing the overall SC process of the company
To identify the causes of factors hindering the efficient flow of SC activities carried out by the Company
To assess the awareness on proper SC practices amongst SC employees at CEB
The research questions that will help design the questionnaire are:
What are the current SC practices carried out at the Central Electricity Board?
What are the factors that obstruct the overall SC process of the company?
What are the causes of factors affecting the efficient flow of SC activities carried out by the company?
What is the level of SC awareness among staff?
1.7 Aim of Study
Since SCM is a new management concept, the basic idea for selecting it for the study is to assess its impact on an organisation. The research also aims at identifying constraints in the SC Process and proposing ways to address these for enhanced performance in the SC.
1.8 Significance of Research
Ensuring that the desired organisational performance is achieved is essential for the Management, mainly the Top Level Management, who set the Company's Mission and Vision. However, the CEB has to rely on its suppliers for required materials used in the production of electricity. As such, it is crucial for the Management to promise proper flow of SC activities so as to ensure smooth operation of the overall organisation. This research being directed towards assessing the SC practices of CEB, an in-depth analysis will be carried out on the SC process applied there. Consequently, factors hindering the smooth flow of such activities will be identified. The CEB may thereon consider the findings of the research for improving the efficiency of its SC activities.
Moreover, improvements made in the SC Unit will enhance performance of the entire Company, for management will cater for factors causing inefficiencies in its SC. The research will benefit the employees as well, in that through the survey they will be better positioned to reflect on the actual SC practices they are involved in and may note areas which require more attention. Ultimately, customers will enjoy the benefits since effective SC practices results in better production and distribution of electricity, hence delivering reliable and continuous power supply to them.
1.9 Phases of the Dissertation
The Dissertation consists of the below listed Chapters:
Chapter 1 relates to the intent of the Study. Likewise, the link between proper SCM practices and the efficient operation of CEB has been enlightened.
This Chapter embodies definitions of all important terms used in the Dissertation, while giving an insight about the importance of SC and SCM, as well as factors hindering its effectiveness.
Chapter 3 focuses on the sampling strategy and the data gathering techniques used in the Study. Problems encountered while gathering data have also been stressed out in this Chapter.
Analysis & Findings
This Chapter appraises the data collected as well as tests the hypotheses to identify relationships between variables.
Discussion of Findings
Chapter 5 focuses on the discussion of the main findings of the survey, while relating it to the Literature Review.
Recommendations & Conclusion
This Chapter highlights the weaknesses identified from the survey and recommend possible solutions. In addition, this Chapter concludes the Study.
The components of this Chapter are very significant in that it highlights the basic idea and importance behind carrying out a research on the SC of an organisation - a concept being adopted by many Companies these days. Hence, this Chapter provides an overview of the Aims and Objectives of the Study, in addition to the importance of SCM in an organisation.
2.1 Historical Perspective
Literature has it that in the future, companies will pertain to supply chain development to gain a competitive edge within the market (Das and Narasimhan, 2000). Indeed, today SCM is viewed as an important concept in production and operations management of an organisation. It refers to the management all the processes involved in completing a customer's request. The term "Supply Chain Management" was initially originated by consultants (Oliver and Webber, 1992) and, consequently gained remarkable recognition (La Londe, 1998). However, the history of SCM can be dated back before the 1960s, when companies did not view their customers and suppliers as partners, but instead, were competing fiercely with them by fear that they would take advantage of the company. In that era, organisations were operating within vertical integration structures, having centralized functional structures. Basically, their aim was to convert customer's needs into final products or service, disregarding proper planning of the various processes.
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It is only in the early 1960s and 1970s that firms realised they were inter-related functions with a common goal - to satisfy their customers. Hence, they decided to re-structure their organisational settings and work closely with each other in a bid to meet market expectations in a better way. It was realised that only by means of tight collaborative linkages in the Supply Chain can help companies enjoy cost reduction benefits, among others (Spekman et al, 14998). In this light, organisations had to understand the flow of activities within their company and analyse how each section depends on the other, as well as how a change in one process would affect the other processes. This represented a real challenge for firms at that period of time. It should be stressed out that during the same era, demand for innovative and better quality products were emerging, new technologies were introduced and also Managing Quality Gurus such as Crosby, Deming and Juran came up with philosophies relating to Total Quality Management. These factors contributed significantly and positively in the relationship between organisations and suppliers in that they started to work mutually to create satisfied customers.
This ultimately gave rise to Supply Chain Management to respond efficiently and effectively to customer needs, while enhancing overall organisational productivity and performance.
2.2 Supply Chain Management Definition
Supply Chain Management relates to the flow of goods from a supplier, through production and distribution channels, to the ultimate consumer (Christopher, 1994). Numerous companies have adopted SCM for it brings numerous benefits in its wave. Supply Chain Management can be described as numerous procedural activities comprising of forecasting, planning, executing and scrutinising the processes of SC on a daily basis (Dubois et al., 2004). SCM has a very important role to play in an organisation, as it is responsible for the good management of available raw materials, as well as its processing into the desired final product, and the distribution of these to the end users (Sandra Maria Stammberger, n.d). According to Persson (1997, p. 58), SCM is a uniform management issue contributing to the improvement of a company.
It is argued by some authors that to be in a better position to understand SCM, an organisation needs to understand the concept of Supply Chain, which basically initiates with a customer request (Fawcett and Magnan, n.d). A Supply Chain consists of at least three entity (organisations and individuals) who are directly concerned in the upstream and downstream flow of products, services and information from a source to the end user (Mentzer et al., 2001). In this line, the upstream flow relates to the transactions between the organisation and suppliers of raw materials, while downstream flow refers to the distribution of the final product to the end consumers. All the activities found in the Supply Chain is mostly termed as Logistics, which according to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, can be defined as that section of SCM which includes the planning, implementing and scrutinizing the flow and storage of products prior to delivering them to end users for consumption.
Mentzer, et al. (2001) identified three categories of Supply Chains:
Direct Supply Chain - It comprises only of an organisation, a supplier, and the ultimate consumer.
Extended Supply Chain - This consists of suppliers of the direct supplier, and customers of the direct customer.
Ultimate Supply Chain - This type of SC encompasses all the elements involved in the upstream and downstream flows.
2.2.1 Supply Chain Process
Organisations view Supply Chain Management as a new and meaningful medium to gain competitive advantage, since it links all the activities involved in the Supply Chain to bring a product / service to the market while meeting end user's expectations (Handfield and Nichols, 1999).
Fig 1 below is an example of the flow of activities in the Supply Chain Process.
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Figure 2-1 (Available at: Platform of Baker Street, 2011)
Thomas Wailgum and Ben Worthen (2008) categorised SC practices into five major steps. These are: Plan, Source, Make, Deliver and Return.
Plans are considered as a strategic part of SCM. To deliver customer demand competently, it is important for organisations to plan their resources efficiently. Several metrics need to be developed and implemented in a quest to scrutinize the activities, thus ensuring good performance. Effective planning measures will ultimately result in the production of low cost and efficient products/services, but not at the detriment of high quality goods.
The sourcing stage involves several steps. Firstly, the organisation needs to select the supplier offering the raw materials at the most competitive price while maintaining good quality and respecting the organisation's specifications, including aspects such as terms of shipping, delivery and payment. This is basically done through launching Quotations where suppliers would quote their prices and may agree/disagree certain conditions. Subsequently the same will be appraised prior to awarding the contract to the most competent supplier. For effective sourcing, it is crucial for organisations to maintain good relationships with their suppliers.
This phase concerns production of the goods/services. At this stage, Supply Chain Executives need to allocate resources and raw materials into the different processes involved in the manufacturing of consumer wants. It involves also inspecting the product, the packaging methodologies and measuring quality levels.
The delivery stage is related to the distribution channels. In SCM, it is generally referred as logistics where the finished goods are delivered to the ultimate users, including warehousing and payment issues.
Returns are mainly concerned with feedback on the quality of the product. Based on this, organisations would plan for improvements. Proper feedback techniques have to be set up for more responsive supply chain and better performance.
Proper Supply Chain Management practices are very crucial for the long term operation of a business. It is equally important for manufacturers to understand clearly the activities of the supply chain process for them to manufacture a product efficiently and effectively, given that SCM helps strategic managers achieve their set goals by reducing the company's Working Capital, increasing inventory turnover, and the like. In addition, Hendricks and Singhal (2003) argue that effective SC ultimately leads to overall effective performance of the Utility.
The Supply Chain process of CEB will be studied in a view to assess its effectiveness.
2.2.2 Supply Chain Principles
Table 2-1: Supply Chain Principles
Supply Chain Principles
Customers should be segmented on the basis of needs
Traditionally, organisations grouped customers based on products, or some companies even delivered same type of service to every customer in a particular segment. However, efficient Supply Chain Management binds customers having similar service needs and offer tailored services to each particular segment.
Customise the Supply Chain Management network
While devising their SCM system, organisations need to pay attention on the profitability level, as well as the service needs of the segment. Focusing on these factors would help develop a very helpful and effective SCM network to a company.
Focus on demand pull signals, and implement strategies consequently
Demand keeps changing in a marker. As such, it is vital for the company to have enough information on the demand patterns of a product and forecast future demand, so as to be able to meet consumer needs and satisfy them. Likewise, customers will not shift suppliers and may become loyal customers.
Differentiate products closer to the customer
It is very important to realise that consumer preferences varies a lot. Therefore, firms need to be constantly in touch with their targeted customers to identify their needs, and consequently customize their products to better satisfy ultimate users expectations.
Strategically manage the sources of supply
For this purpose, the organisation has to work in line with their core suppliers in a view to reduce total costs of materials and services. This activity will benefit both the supply chain executives of a company and the supplier, for profit margins will be enhanced.
Develop a supply-chain-wide technology strategy
For Supply Chain Management to be successful in a company, it is important to implement proper systems to support decision making techniques at different levels of the organisation. For example, Transaction Processing System for the Operational Level, Decision Support System for the Tactical Level, and Executive Support System for the Strategic Level. This will help coordinate the flow of information, products and services in a better way.
Adopt channel-spanning performance measures
To benefit from effective and efficient SCM practices, it is crucial to constantly scrutinize the activities so as not to go off-tract. Here, it should be highlighted that not only internal practices have to be monitored, but also external activities of the supply chain.
2.2.3 Supply Chain Methodology
SCM is an ongoing process and hence has to be constantly reviewed to guarantee proper functioning of each process and sustain efficiency within the company. For this purpose, each organisation needs to set up proper supply chain methodology.
As such, organisations need to identify the suppliers offering low cost, yet good quality products amongst numerous suppliers in a bid to compete with other firms within the same industry. Increased globalization has resulted in increased and more aggressive competition between firms, who have to strive hard to stick in the market (Lockamy, A., and Smith, W.I., 1997). In a similar vein, organisations have to operate very competently and lay much emphasis on inventory management by aiming at minimizing stock.
According to Underdown (1997), prior to implementing SM methodology, a process ought to be developed which may be assessed and developed. This process would be initiated by the identification of customer's requirements. This being done, core processes should be broken down into smaller sub processes to better understand each function. This would help employees' identity their job responsibilities in a better way. Following this, organisations need to assess the performance of the processes by implementing metrics to evaluate the overall performance relating it to quality, cost and time. Eventually, having the actual process, companies need to set their targets for innovations.
2.2.4 Competitive advantage from SCM
It's no longer the era when business competes with business; nowadays Supply Chain competes with Supply Chain (Vickery et al., 1999; Monczka and Morgan, 1996). To enjoy competitive advantage, Porter (1985) introduced the concept of cost leadership and differentiation. Nevertheless in a SC, an organisation would acquire competitive advantage by stressing on cost reduction and increasing responsiveness to customer's requirements (Martin & Grbac, 2003). Cost benefits can be achieved by proper co-ordination of SC activities and collaboration with other actors of the supply chain (Flint, 2004). As far as meeting customer's demand is concerned, collaborative supplier partnerships and proper access to information is required. Moreover, companies worldwide make use of SCM to acquire the benefits of differentiated competitive advantage (Ling et al, 2004).
2.2.5 Information Systems (IS)
Information Systems are the predominant tools for an effective SCM. Organisations require IS to control inventory levels, plan production schedules in a quest to meet expected customer demands and acquire a competitive edge. It is imperative to have virtual links across the organisation to facilitate the flow and accessibility of accurate information within a time limit, which is of utmost importance for a competent supply chain (Handfield, 1999). Indeed, most supply failures or inefficiencies such as materials shortage, underutilized resources, too much inventory and the like, are due to imprecise or even untimely information. For this purpose, IS helps a company enhance the performance of the supply chain activities through better coordination, scheduling and monitoring procurement, manufacturing, managing the inventory and delivery of the products/services.
Below are some benefits that arise due to Information Systems in the supply chain:
Rapid communication of orders
Easy follow up of orders
Better decisions taken as to what to produce, warehouse and move
Plan the production in accordance to actual consumer demand
More easy to tract inventory levels
IS used to share information with suppliers and consumers are essential for a responsive supply chain (Harrison et al, 1999). Such practice will enable employees to better view customer requirements, lower inventory level while anticipating new and distorted demand (Hewitt, 1999). However, Information Systems need to be made available to the right person for it to be used wisely; else it may be misinterpreted and insignificant in the supply chains (Berry et al., 1994). Furthermore, IT enables supply chain activities to be achieved in a much more efficient way (Li, Z., A. Kumar and Y.G. Lim, 2002).
There are many IS tools and software available to facilitate the operation of the supply chain activities of an organisation. It has to be investigated if the CEB uses any such tool and how far is it beneficial for the company.
2.2.6 E-Supply Chain
The way of doing business has changed drastically with the advent of the Internet. With growing importance of the Internet, we are now heading towards E-Supply Chain (Soloner and Spence, 2002). E-supply chain can be viewed as an amalgamation of e-commerce and supply chain and it may as well be considered as a world of change that will replace the traditional way of doing business and bring significant changes in business activities (Poirier and Bauer, 2000). Amongst the myriad facilities offered by the internet, is the E-supply chain, which promises supply chain optimization. The Internet plays a considerable role in removing inefficiencies as well as communication barriers, be available to a greater audience, and fostering collaboration of supply chains of different sizes. A few core SC activities carried out across the Internet are (Christopher, 1998; Hagel and Singer, 1999; Johnson, 2000; The Economist, 2000a; Tyndall et al, 1998):
Product as well as marketing information, including price comparison
Financial dealings amongst the supply chain companies
Re-engineering the processes of the supply chain
The change to E-Supply Chain engrosses the amalgamation of all the business activities starting from the supplier, procurement, production, sales, after sales services and human resources, while using the Internet as a medium. This process will eventually contribute to the efficacy of the value chain. Moreover, the implementation will benefit a company from having real time information which may be shared with other actors of the supply chain in no time thus helping to reduce the bullwhip effect in SC. This phenomenon occurs when companies in a supply chain need to order more raw materials to meet the new demand, upon changes in the consumer demand. Poirier and Bauer (2000) identified the following benefits when implementing e-supply chain:
Success in new product development
Enhanced process effectiveness
Keeping low inventories while having high replenishment rates with no returns
Improved efficiency of Just-in-time practices
Increase in sales, successful advertising and positive impact on pricing
Being a new concept, E-Supply Chain is still evolving and may take some time for firms to understand its importance and the benefits it would bring to the organisation upon its execution. However, it can be considered as a strategic approach enabling firms to remain competitive. In addition, Meaken (2003, p.1) is of the view that the latest technologies are generating new supply-and-demand markets throughout the world. This study will investigate whether the CEB is currently involved in e-supply chain or planning for this change.
2.3 Bottleneck factors that obstruct efficient Supply Chain activities
From earlier research works (Gunasekaran et al., 2004; Kuwaiti & Kay, 2000), it has been underlined that SC performance measurement can represent a useful basis for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the whole Supply Chain. These performance measures may act as a guide to plan for further continuous development in addition to implementing more specific strategies to cope with continual changing business environment. However, it should be acknowledged that there exist many such factors which may hinder the smooth flow of SC activities. Nowadays, companies do not compete as single entities, but rather as supply chains (Fynes et al., 2005). Therefore, it becomes significant for companies to coordinate their supply chain practices properly to gain competitive advantage.
One factor that may interrupt the smooth flow of the supply chain activities is on behalf of the suppliers of raw materials, who sometimes do not deliver the ordered materials on the due date (Alonso and Field and Gregory and Kirchain, n.d). Every company in the supply chain is in fact dependent on each other, but paradoxically, at times they do not cooperate with each other. As a result, production of goods is delayed and customer's request is not delivered at the right time. This represents a demotivating factor for consumers, who might stop buying that particular company's products. Therefore, it is important for companies to maintain good relationship with their suppliers as well as constantly follow up of the orders of raw materials.
Besides, since SC is made up of different stages, it is often difficult to have control over all its activities. Desouza et al., (2003) stress out that there are too many small transactions in the supply chain, which may be difficult to monitor. Supervision of the different processes is, however, essential for effective product flow.
Another factor which can hinder the smooth flow of Supply Chain activities is inter-firm rivalry (Park & Ungson, 2001). This refers to the disarrangement of motives and attitudes amongst partners within a Supply Chain. Inter-firm rivalry may result from poor communication between the suppliers, unwillingness to cooperate or even because of lack of trust on each other. These factors hinder effective operation of management obstruct smooth flow of information among businesses.
Moreover, managerial complexity can act as a bottleneck factor in efficient flow of supply chain activities (Park & Ungson, 2001). This relates to misalignment of company's culture, processes and structure. Managerial complexity would include unwillingness to adopt new technologies to improve business efficacy and flow of information. Also, employees would be reluctant to share their company's information for fear of revealing confidential information or weaknesses to other partners of the supply chain line.
Effective Supply Chain represents a real challenge for organisations in today's competitive environment. There may be such factors which would hinder the effective operations of the supply chain activities within a company, but it is very important for the management to identify these factors and address them so as to improve organisational performance.
In this Study, all bottleneck factors within CEB will be assessed.
2.4 Causes of factors hindering the efficient flow of the Supply Chain process
Surveys carried out by unknown researchers reported that problems which came on behalf of suppliers may occur due to the absence of proper guidelines when alliances are made between companies. Should proper rules regarding delivery dates be made, no such issue would arise for suppliers would be obliged to abide by those rules; else legal actions or penalties may be applied to them.
Others difficulties arise because of the structure of the supply chain and mismanagement within the company (Normann and Ramirez, 1993). The lesser processes involved in the SC process of an organisation, the lesser difficulties in managing the activities, and more efficient monitoring will take place. Also, when there are many small activities in the same process, employees are confused as to what role actually they have to play and which activities should they control. Moreover, management should encourage its employees to adopt new technologies so as to have competitive advantage over others while increasing the efficiency of the business operations. The culture of sharing is very important in the supply chain line. Therefore, employees should be made aware of these and motivate them to cooperate in the new way of operating.
2.5 Importance of the awareness of Supply Chain activities
Since Supply Chain is very different from the traditional way of operating, employees involved in these activities should be familiar with the new approach so as to deliver expected performance. Research from an anonymous author has shown that employees should recognize the fact that in the supply chain of a company, there are only partners, not competitors. Likewise, operating methods and way of perceiving things should be different. Supply Chain managers need to train its employees for the latter to be efficient and in a better position to identify potential obstacles and threats within a supply chain system. Procedures also should be well documented and easily accessible to every employee within the chain.
Learning is very important for achieving competitive advantage. Being close to customers would enable companies design more innovative products and enhance growth as well as profitability of the firm. In this quest, learning processes and knowledge resources represent significant core factors in the adoption of the changing business methodology (Minguzzi, Passaro, 2000). Within the Supply Chain approach, learning has a major role to play: linking consumers with value-added suppliers. For this purpose, a learning environment needs to be created within organisations to educate employees about changes in working conditions and methods. Also, constant training needs to be carried out for employees so that they are at ease with the new way of working and be able to cope with it (Kidd et al, 2003). Job specifications and responsibilities of the employees need to be well defined so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities. Being acquainted to traditional working methods, employees may be reluctant or unwilling to adopt new operating styles. In such cases, the numerous advantages that the company as well as the employees would benefit from need to be communicated to them to motivate them adopt the new methodologies.
During the research, awareness and training of employees in relation to supply chain activities will be assessed.
3.1 Types of research
Research refers to the gathering of data through studies, experiment, observations, and comparison, using systematic methodologies and having well formulated research objectives in a view to find solutions to a particular problem. The research process encompasses the formulation of hypotheses as well. For a research work to be fruitful, it requires a good Research Design, which has been defined by Punch (2003) as being a "basic plan for a piece of empirical research which includes main ideas such as strategy, sample, and the tools and techniques to be used for collecting and analyzing empirical data". Furthermore, research design can be said to be the overall plan linking the problem which has driven the research to significant and experimental research on acquiring the information required to solve the research problem (Ghauri.p, 1995).
Research Methodology can be referred to as a framework for conducting a research. It is a methodical investigation to look for solutions for a specific problem (Burns, 2000). Basically, there are two types of researches: Qualitative and Quantitative research.
Qualitative research method mainly aims at gathering information in a bid to better understand human behavior and the drivers of particular behaviors. This methodology is all about investigating issues, understanding problems, as well as responding to questions. Qualitative Research is a method of a procedural empirical investigation into meaning (Shank, 2000). It concerns the 'why' of a problem. Moreover, it covers historical research and narrative data aiming to gain an insight about problems which may interest many.
Some of the most widely ways of conducting Qualitative Research are:
Observation - Collecting as much natural and unobtrusive data as possible
Interviews - Direct contact with the targeted population
Sampling - A representative of the population is selected from which information is gathered
Quantitative Research is the process of gathering information in a structured way, where all data are normally in numeric form. This method of data collection is principally used to define variables, to determine the relationships between those variables, as well as to describe the cause-effect correlation among those variables (Burns & Grove, 2005).
There are basically four mostly used types of Quantitative Research approaches which are as follows:
Experimental Research - Determines the cause-effect relationship between variables, while influencing the cause
Descriptive or survey Research - Collection of data so as to test hypotheses or respond questions in relation to the study
Cause-Comparative Research - Compares relationships and determines the cause-effect relationship
Correlation Research - Establish whether there exists a relationship between variables, and to which degree that relationship exists
Type of Research Method used
For this Study and taking CEB's culture and structure into consideration, focus has been put on Quantitative Research, for they are more significant and reliable when it comes to represent data numerically. Moreover, numeric data can be analysed more easily since data can be input in statistical tools which will in turn generate diagrams and charts for analysis.
Reasons for preferring Quantitative Research for data collection:
Quantitative techniques represent a meaning way while assisting in the decision making process and provide logical decisions based on factual data.
Information gathered through Quantitative methods can be manipulated into reproducible ways, combining figures and comparing data.
Results can be presented efficiently using tables, graphs and charts, which can be communicated easily and is way more comprehensive.
Research Instrument used to collect data
As a tool to gather the requirements for the dissertation, Questionnaires have been chosen, because of the various advantages that they have. Some of these benefits are:
Questionnaires are relatively quicker method to collect data and while targeting more respondents. Moreover, more information can be gathered in a short time.
Questionnaires are more cost effective for it does not require qualified interviewers.
Questionnaires are simpler to analyse since the data collected can be easily tabulated in software packages prior to analysis.
Furthermore, people are relatively familiar to questionnaires and they can even fill it at their own leisure, unlike face to face interviews which has to be done spontaneously.
In addition to Questionnaires, secondary data from the Internet and Online Articles / Journals will be sought.
n = NThe sample size of the research has been generated by using the following formula:
1 + N (e)2
Where: n = sample size
N = Population size
E = Margin of error
n = 329
The Population size of the Central Electricity Board, (Head Office, Curepipe), is 329. Margin of error, also known as Confidence Interval, is the level of errors that can be accepted - a confidence interval of 8 % has been considered as appropriate. As such, the below result is obtained:
1 + 329 (0.08)2
= 106 (Rounded Figure)
As demonstrated above, the sample size has been calculated as 106. The choice to use an equation for calculating the sample size was preferred over other choices so as not to be biased in any way.
To select 106 respondents out of a population of 329, Probabilistic method of sampling was used, for in this way everyone has an equal chance of being randomly selected. To begin with, stratified sampling had been applied, whereby several strata were defined according to the different departments, such as Supply Chain, Finance, Human Resource and It Department. Subsequently, random sampling was applied within the strata, while distributing a fair number of questionnaires in each of the different strata.
Construction of the Questionnaire
To collect unbiased and precise responses through Questionnaires, they had to be designed with much attention while bearing the Research Objectives in mind. As such, the questionnaire has been segregated into six different sections - Five - sections addressing the objectives and the last Section relating to respondent's profile. The Literature has been a guide to develop questions for each section.
To keep the response rate of questionnaire high, questions have been formulated very briefly and concisely. The length of a questionnaire generally has a negative psychological effect on a participant. Thus, unimportant questions have been avoided.
Moreover, the questionnaire has been formulated using a very straightforward approach so that it is well understood by respondents. Simple wordings have been used to set the questions and avoid confusions at the respondent's end.
Pilot Testing is considered very useful prior to administering the final Questionnaire. This preliminary run provides meaningful feedback on the comprehensiveness of the questions set, the reliability and validity of collected data. In addition, the pilot survey will assist the author in identifying areas where respondents encounter problems in understanding and replying to any question. In this line, this exercise allows clarification and refinement of the questionnaire.
Initially, a sample of 10 respondents was chosen for the pilot survey. Upon responding to the questionnaires, the chosen participants were asked to comment on the overall design of the questionnaire, clarity of questions, time taken, and difficulties they encountered in replying the questions. On the whole, there was positive feedback. Nevertheless, there were some recommendations, following which some questions were added/ rephrased.
Researchers have shown that the approach used to contact respondents and technique of gathering data can influence the quality of data collected. There are several ways to administer Questionnaire, for instance self-administered questionnaire, computer-based survey, amongst others.
The one used by the researcher is Self- administered Questionnaires who administered same individually in the different departments. A week's time were allocated for the respondents to fill in the questionnaires. The main reason for using this technique is that there is contact between the respondent and the author, and the latter can explain participants the main objective for the data collection.
As per Section 3.4 - Sampling Strategy - 106 questionnaires had to be administered evenly in the different departments. However, upon collection of the questionnaires, only 94 of them, representing 88.7 % of the sample size, were successfully collected. Reasons as to why all questionnaires could not be collected are:
Some respondents were on a long vacation
Two of them retired
A few Questionnaires were collected but had to be disregarded in that some sections were vastly incomplete. In other cases, there were multiple answers for individual questions, which was considered as void
There are various ways of testing the reliability of Questionnaires. However the researcher has preferred Cronbach Alpha's Reliability Coefficient to assess the consistency in the responses. This Coefficient normally varies from 0 and 1. The closer the Coefficient is to 1, the more reliable the research is. The Reliability Coefficient for:
Pilot Testing is: 0.828.
Final Questionnaire is: 0.722.
Data collection has always been backed by numerous constraints. Some limitations encountered by the author are:
At the level of the Top Management - who were very reluctant in disclosing confidential information
Time constraint - respondents had very busy schedules, much time had to be allocated to them to fill in the questionnaire
Response rate of employees was considerably low initially
However, these difficulties were addressed in the following way:
The Management had to be assured that the information they are providing would actually be treated in strict confidentiality. In addition, questions which were considered too confidential had to be removed from the questionnaire
To account for time constraint and low response rate, more time had to be given to the respondents
The study elicits identifying relationships between the below variables:
Efficient SC activities and Overall organisation's performance
Reliable information and Efficient flow of SC activities
Knowledge of SC practices and concepts, and good performance of SC
Efficient flow of SC activities and competitive advantage
Reliability of suppliers and Efficient flow of SC activities
Training and the level of awareness of SC activities among the employees