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The impact of product design on supply chain risk: a case study

Omera Khan (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)
Martin Christopher (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)
Bernard Burnes (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 13 June 2008




The purpose of this paper is to address the increasingly important issue of the impact of product design on supply chain risk management in an era of global supply arrangements. The need to include product design considerations in the development of global supply chain strategies is highlighted.


The research methodology is based on an in‐depth longitudinal case study of a major UK retailer. Data collection tools included observation of supplier meetings/workshops, semi‐structured interviews and access to key company documentation and archives.


This paper provides a framework for design‐led supply chain risk management and thus presents a case for recognising design as more than a creative function but as a platform to manage risk in supply chains.

Research limitations/implications

The empirical research reported in this paper is specific to the clothing manufacturing and fashion retail industry. Though the findings will most likely apply to all industries and supply chains where design has an integral role and plays an important part in the competitiveness of the final product, there would be benefit in extending the research into other sectors.

Practical implications

The increased trends to outsourcing and offshore sourcing and the elimination of trade barriers have added to the competitive pressures faced by clothing retailers, hence frameworks to manage supply chain risks are significant to the survival of companies from this sector.


Whilst there is a growing literature in the field of supply chain risk there is less empirical evidence providing practical examples of the impact of product design on risk. Design‐led risk management offers a novel approach to mitigating supply chain risk.



Khan, O., Christopher, M. and Burnes, B. (2008), "The impact of product design on supply chain risk: a case study", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 38 No. 5, pp. 412-432.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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