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Digital manufacturing-driven transformations of service supply chains for complex products

Jan Holmström (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Aalto University, Aalto, Finland)
Jouni Partanen (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Aalto University, Aalto, Finland)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 3 June 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore the forms that combinations of digital manufacturing, logistics and equipment use are likely to take and how these novel combinations may affect the relationship among logistics service providers (LSPs), users and manufacturers of equipment.


Brian Arthur’s theory of combinatorial technological evolution is applied to examine possible digital manufacturing-driven transformations. The F-18 Super Hornet is used as an illustrative example of a service supply chain for a complex product.


The introduction of digital manufacturing will likely result in hybrid solutions, combining conventional logistics, digital manufacturing and user operations. Direct benefits can be identified in the forms of life cycle extension and the increased availability of parts in challenging locations. Furthermore, there are also opportunities for both equipment manufacturers and LSPs to adopt new roles, thereby supporting the efficient and sustainable use of digital manufacturing.

Research limitations/implications

The phenomenon of digital manufacturing-driven transformations of service supply chains for complex product does not yet fully exist in the real world, and its study requires cross-disciplinary collaboration. Thus, the implication for research is to use a design science approach for early-stage explorative research on the form and function of novel combinations.

Practical implications

Digital manufacturing as a general-purpose technology gives LSPs an opportunity to consolidate demand from initial users and incrementally deploy capacity closer to new users. Reengineering the products that a manufacture currently uses is needed to increase the utilization of digital manufacturing.


The authors outline a typology of digital manufacturing-driven transformations and identify propositions to be explored in further research and practice.



Holmström, J. and Partanen, J. (2014), "Digital manufacturing-driven transformations of service supply chains for complex products", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 421-430.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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