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A design science approach to manage spare parts distribution: combining design logic and Goldratt’s thinking processes

Mahesh Gupta (Department of Information Systems, Analytics and Operations, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
Harshal Lowalekar (Operations Management and Quantitative Techniques, Indian Institute of Management Indore, Indore, India)
Chandrashekhar V. Chaudhari (Goldratt Consulting, Mumbai, India)
Johan Groop (Department of Operations and Supply Chain Management, Nordic Healthcare Group Oy, Helsinki, Finland)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 21 May 2024




Design Science (DS) is a relatively new paradigm for addressing complex real-world problems through the design and evaluation of artifacts. Its constituent methodologies are currently being discussed and established in numerous related research fields, such as information systems and management (Hevner et al., 2004). However, a DS methodology that describes the “how to” is largely lacking, not only in the field of OM but in general. The Theory of Constraints (TOC) and its underlying thinking processes (TP) have produced several novel artifacts for addressing ill-structured real-world operations problems (Dettmer, 1997; Goldratt, 1994), but they have not been analyzed from a DS research standpoint. The purpose of this research is to demonstrate how TOC’s thinking process methodology can be used for conducting exploratory DS research in Operations and Supply Chain Management (OSCM).


A case study of spare parts replenishment illustrates the use of TOC’s thinking processes in DS to structure an initially unstructured problem context and to facilitate the design of a novel solution.


TOC’s thinking processes are an effective methodology for problem-solving DS research, enabling the development of novel solutions in initially unstructured and wicked problem situations. Combined with structured CIMO design logic TOC’s thinking process offers a systematic method for exploring wicked problems, designing novel solutions, and demonstrating theoretical contributions.

Research limitations/implications

The implication for research is that TOC’s thinking process methodology can provide important elements of the lacking “how to” methodology for DS research, not only for the field of OM but in general for the field of management.

Practical implications

The practical outcome of the research is a novel design for dynamic buffer-based replenishment that extends beyond organizational boundaries.


This work shows how the thinking processes can be used in DS research to develop rigorous design propositions for ill-structured problems.



We extend our deepest thanks to the special issue editors and anonymous reviewers for their critical insights and expert guidance, which were crucial in steering the direction and refining the methods of this study. Their commitment to excellence and support were indispensable for the successful completion of our work, leaving a lasting impact on our academic development.


Gupta, M., Lowalekar, H., Chaudhari, C.V. and Groop, J. (2024), "A design science approach to manage spare parts distribution: combining design logic and Goldratt’s thinking processes", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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