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Complementary theories to supply chain management revisited – from borrowing theories to theorizing

Árni Halldórsson (Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.)
Juliana Hsuan (Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark.)
Herbert Kotzab (Department of Logistics Management, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany.)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 14 September 2015




The aim of this paper is to identify ways by which the theorizing of supply chain management (SCM) takes place, with particular attention to complementary theories. SCM suffers as well as benefits from a “conceptual slack”.


The nature of SCM is discussed, and the role and relevance of theorizing is addressed by using key characteristics of “academic scholarship” based on a literature review of SCM and evaluation of application of theory and theory development.


The integrative and multi-layered nature of SCM sets the conditions for “theorizing SCM” that can take place through various forms: theory application, new theoretical combinations and sensitivity to managerial practice. It is pivotal that future research explore further the performative potential of SCM.

Research limitations/implications

Research with focus on theory development or using complementary theories to advancing understanding of SCM can benefit from the five building blocks of theorizing SCM proposed in the paper.

Practical implications

Theoretical principles in SCM are not only used to describe practical problems but also to “produce the world”; supply chains can be seen as organizational units that act or consummate an action that delivers a particular performance.


This paper portrays SCM sensitivity to managerial challenges by moving from borrowing to a more bilateral view on theorizing of SCM, reflecting the nature of SCM.



Halldórsson, Á., Hsuan, J. and Kotzab, H. (2015), "Complementary theories to supply chain management revisited – from borrowing theories to theorizing", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 574-586.



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