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On data and connectivity in complete supply chains

Per Engelseth (Hogskolen i Molde, Molde, Norway)
Judith Molka-Danielsen (Hogskolen i Molde, Molde, Norway)
Brian E. White (Complexity Are Us Systems Engineering Strategies, Sudbury, Massachusetts, USA)

Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 22 November 2018

Issue publication date: 19 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to question the applicability of recent industry-derived terms such as “Big Data” (BD) and the “Internet of things” (IoT) in a supply chain managerial context. Is this labeling useful in managing the operations found in supply chains?


BD and IoT are critically discussed in the context of a complete supply chain organization. A case study of banana supply from Costa Rica to Norway is provided to empirically ground this research. Thompson’s contingency theory, Alderson’s functionalistic end-to-end “marketing channels” model, Penrose’s view of supply purpose associated with service provision, and particularities of banana supply reveal how end-to-end supply chains are complex systems, even though the product distributed is fairly simple.


Results indicate that the usefulness of BD in supply chain management discourse is limited. Instead its connectivity is facilitated by what is now becoming commonly labeled as IoT, people, devices and documents that are useful when taking an end-to-end supply chain perspective. Connectivity is critical to efficient contemporary supply chain management.


BD and IoT have emerged as a part of contemporary supply chain management discourse. This study directs attention to the importance of scrutinizing emergent and actual discourse in managing supply chains, that it is not irrelevant which words are applied, e.g., in research on information-enabled supply process development. Often the old words of professional terminology may be sufficient or even better to help manage supply.



Engelseth, P., Molka-Danielsen, J. and White, B.E. (2019), "On data and connectivity in complete supply chains", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 1145-1163.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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