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International Journal of Operations & Production Management

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New products -- Management, Business logistics, Industrial procurement, Manufacturing industries -- Great Britain -- Qualitative research


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the configurations of supply chain integration.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors use qualitative data from manufacturers shortlisted for the UK’s Manufacturing Excellence awards over three years. Detailed processes and policies of 68 manufacturers are analysed.

Findings – Process structure and product newness require different supply chain configurations, which change as products mature. Supply chain integration is dynamic, and the extent of collaboration between suppliers and customers will be different at different moments in time. The authors define and discuss four key supply chain configurations: customised; ramp-up; recurring; coordinated.

Research limitations/implications – Future studies on supply chain integration should be controlled for the variation in the configurations. A limitation is the use of data which were derived for an award. The paper explains how the authors have mitigated the associated risks.

Practical implications – The configuration of integration will change as the manufacturing plant becomes more familiar with a product. Additionally, different suppliers may provide better support at different stages of a product’s lifecycle. To yield better performance, supply chain integration would need to take different forms. Efforts to integrate with suppliers should not be avoided as, when certain conditions are met, integration can lead to improved performance.

Originality/value – The authors have identified manufacturers’ main process structures and products’ newness as two strategic characteristics that differentiate integration approaches with customers and suppliers, and defined four integration configurations. To the authors’ knowledge this is the first study to argue that these also define the configuration of supply chain integration.


Published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. This is the Author Accepted Manuscript issued with: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC:BY:NC 4.0). The final published version (version of record) is available online at

Note: At the time of writing Carlos Mena was affiliated with Cranfield University.



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