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A graph-theoretic approach for assessing the leanness level of supply chains

Luciano Costa Santos (Universidade Federal da Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil)
Lívia Maria Albuquerque Reul (Universidade Federal da Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil)
Cláudia Fabiana Gohr (Universidade Federal da Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 24 August 2021

Issue publication date: 2 January 2023




Developing a lean supply chain is a continuous improvement effort, so it requires tracking the implementation progress by assessing the achieved level of leanness. However, lean supply chain practices depend on firm-to-firm relationships and an assessment method should consider these network interactions. Given the absence of such a method, this study aims to propose an alternative approach for assessing the leanness level of supply chains.


The authors extracted 18 typical lean supply chain practices from the literature, constituting the leanness assessment parameters. Then, the authors developed an assessment method based on the graph-theoretic approach due to its properties of capturing the interdependencies between elements of a system. The authors tested the proposed method in an automotive supply chain, selecting the focal firm and three of its first-tier suppliers.


The authors positioned partial and overall results in a visual classification scale and the supply chain presented a moderate leanness level. After empirical testing, the proposed method demonstrated its practical feasibility.

Research limitations/implications

This paper contributes to the literature with a novel approach for supply chain leanness assessment. However, to increase its generalizability, it would be beneficial to test the method in non-automotive supply chains, extending the assessment scope to downstream firms and second-tier customers and suppliers.

Practical implications

For practitioners, this paper provides a self-assessment tool to monitor the supply chain leanness and set priorities for improvement.


Besides tackling the interrelationships between firms, the proposed method considers the interdependencies between lean practices, providing partial and overall feedback to enable a systemic assessment.



The authors would like to thank the contribution of the anonymous reviewers and the editor for the helpful suggestions that significantly improved the original manuscript.


Santos, L.C., Reul, L.M.A. and Gohr, C.F. (2023), "A graph-theoretic approach for assessing the leanness level of supply chains", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 74-89.



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