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The role of digitalized information sharing for flexibility capability utilization: lessons from Germany and Japan

Mathias Doetzer (University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany) (Keio University, Tokyo, Japan) (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA)
Alexander Pflaum (University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany) (Fraunhofer SCS, Nuremberg, Germany)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 25 February 2021

Issue publication date: 6 March 2021




Information-sharing and flexibility are considered to be major tools for risk mitigation and supply chain resiliency. However, less light has been shed on the role of information-sharing as an enabler to utilize flexibility capabilities before and after supply chain disruptions. The aim of this paper is to provide indications on how digitalized information-sharing (DIS) enhances flexibility capability utilization.


The methodology follows a qualitative approach, including 31 transcribed semi-structured interviews with supply chain experts in Germany and Japan.


The findings indicate that DIS supports flexibility capability utilization in pre- and post-disruptive supply chain management. First, the enhancement of estimated transport time accuracy supports rapid supplier and transport mode adjustment. Second, while the effects of DIS in manufacturing are limited without pre-existing flexibility capabilities, steady internal and external DIS utilizes exciting manufacturing flexibility to cope with disruptions beyond production. Third, track and trace technologies enhance the value of shared data and allow flexibility in the form of demand-oriented distribution, but companies unable to adopt technologies can still enhance flexibility capabilities with DIS using the existing infrastructure.


This paper highlights the essential role of digital information-sharing for flexibility utilization in supply chain risk management. While existing studies engaged with flexibility and information-sharing in supply chain risk management, this study contributes by emphasizing digital information-sharing as a key triggering enabler for flexibility in pre- and post-disruptive phases.



The authors would like to sincerely thank Masaru Nakano for his great support during the field research in Japan, as well as Sunil Chopra for his insightful feedback. The authors further thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments, which have greatly aided to the improvement of the manuscript.


Doetzer, M. and Pflaum, A. (2021), "The role of digitalized information sharing for flexibility capability utilization: lessons from Germany and Japan", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 51 No. 2, pp. 181-203.



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