Taylor, A. and Taylor, M. (2008), "Editorial", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijopm.2008.02428caa.001Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
We value empirical studies which examine the interfaces of operations management with other disciplines and we acknowledge the contributions that better understanding of these inter-relationships can bring. One such area is human resource management where we welcome a steady stream of submissions to IJOPM. Studying HR aspects of operations management is important but challenging, nevertheless the results are often stimulating and extremely valuable. For example, Conti et al.'s (2006) study of the relationship of job stress to a range of lean manufacturing practices demonstrated the importance of managerial choices in the design and implementation of such systems.
In this current issue, human resources come to the fore in Bamford and Griffin's examination of operational team working in a UK hospital. The motivation for their research was the interest within the UK National Health Service in promoting multi-professional team-working as a contribution to improving operational health care delivery and in particular the demonstration by recent research of a link between the proportion of staff working in teams within a hospital and hospital mortality rates. Bamford and Griffin draw upon a rich data set to conclude that team-working should not be regarded as a superficial panacea in the important healthcare sector and that policies to promote such organisational arrangements should note the nuances inherent in their findings.
Questions about buyer-supplier relationships are a recurring theme in IJOPM and here too we can see the growing recognition of the relevance of HR knowledge and expertise to address vital issues concerning, for example, why it is that some firms are more successful at managing supply relationships than others? Recently, Koulikoff-Souviron and Harrison (2007) illustrated the importance of HR issues in supplier relationship management and especially in reciprocally interdependent contexts, while other papers have explored several dimensions of this complex and multi-faceted issue. For example, Vereecke and Muylle (2006) empirically tested the relationship between supply chain collaboration and performance improvement in 374 firms over 11 European countries. Essentially they focussed on two forms of collaboration:
(1) exchange of information on forecasts, planning, inventory and delivery; and
(2) structural collaboration, such as installing Kanban systems, initiating VMI or co-locating plants.
Their findings showed that increased collaboration goes hand in hand with higher performance improvement but, intriguingly, that the improvements were minor and not always significant. Their conclusion was that, at best, supply chain collaboration had no adverse effect on operational performance improvement, yet their study perhaps raised as many questions as it answered.
The work of Wasti et al. (2006) hinted at possible explanations for the absence of a strong link between SC collaboration and performance by exploring some “softer” aspects of buyer-supplier relationships such as the social climate and the level of mutual understanding achieved through communication and information exchange, while Sheu et al. (2006) also shed some light on the successful management of supply networks by demonstrating the importance of considering social factors (such as trust, interdependence and commitment) at the same time as technical factors such as inventory systems, information sharing channels and IT capabilities. As further recognition of the importance of supply chain management we also published a special issue devoted to the topic in 2006; among the six papers was one by Storey et al. (2006) which examined the barriers and enablers to supply management, chief among which were supply chain relationship behaviours, supply chain performance measurement and the transparency of information and knowledge.
According to one school of thought, the way to manage supply relationships is through the evaluation and monitoring of supplier performance, following the somewhat trite dictum that what you measure is what you get. However, a more recent viewpoint, again emanating from the HR domain, promotes the importance of socialisation when studying such inter-firm relationships. Socialisation mechanisms in a supply chain context are the means by which individuals in a buyer-supplier engagement acquire knowledge of the other's social values, or the expected patterns of behaviour.
Against this backdrop, in this issue, Cousins et al. examine global supply chains to identify the ways in which socialisation mechanisms affect the development of close links between buyers and suppliers. They then proceed to test the role of these mechanisms in mediating the effects of supplier performance measures on firm performance. For purchasing managers who are intent on improving their relationships with strategic suppliers, their message is that monitoring supplier performance is not of itself sufficient. There must be greater focus on the inter-organisational socialisation mechanisms that underlie the flow of learning and information within supply chains.
That is not to suggest for a moment that performance measurement should be downplayed or ignored entirely. On the contrary, Cousins et al. assert that the use of performance measures in evaluating supplier performance serves to improve firm performance primarily because they stimulate greater socialisation activities, i.e. the socialisation mechanisms provide the conduit through which buyers and suppliers can begin to understand the peculiarities and barriers that stand in the way of gaining operational efficiencies. In their words, the mediating role of socialisation means that, what you measure is, in fact, not necessarily what you get.
Information systems have become an intrinsic strand in operations management research and practice. While we recognise that it is not the only manifestation of IS in operations management, we are pleased to have published some innovative work on B2B e-commerce in the last three years. Cullen and Webster (2007), for example, have developed a classification model for B2B e-commerce transactions, which categorises transaction types according to the number of actors involved and to the primary purpose (i.e. buying or selling). Reverse auctions, for instance, can be classified using these dimensions; with one buyer and many potential sellers and its primary purpose being for buying. Bearing in mind our earlier discussion, the increasing use of on-line reverse auctions argues for study of their effect on buyer-supplier relationships. Contributing to this, Tassabehji et al. (2006) explored suppliers' perspectives on this phenomenon, highlighting, inter alia, some examples of unethical behaviour and underlining the concerns of many suppliers that such mechanisms damage supplier-buyer relationships.
The paper by Schoenherr in this current issue makes a further contribution to this research stream and responds directly to the call by Hartley et al. (2006) for research comparing auction adopters with different degrees of experience. Schoenherr investigates the diffusion of on-line reverse auctions by exploring potential differences between early and late adopters. While his data shows that larger firms have tended to be the early adopters, there is also encouragement for smaller firms who are becoming increasingly involved in greater numbers, especially since reverse auction providers have started to adapt their commercial offerings to this market segment. Both early and late adopters were found to accrue similar magnitudes of savings through their use of on-line reverse auctions, and in both cases these savings were much greater than firms in the sample who continued to use off-line auctions administered by traditional sourcing mechanisms.
Finally, the paper by Nonthaleerak and Hendry examines a topic that appears to have gained widespread acceptance in industry but has been rather neglected by academics, namely Six Sigma. Nonthaleerak and Hendry argue that the existing weaknesses in Six Sigma implementation are not well understood, and they underline the need to explore differences between manufacturing and service settings in particular to consider whether the approach may need to be adapted for different contexts. Their data suggest that the application of Six Sigma in non-manufacturing or service settings is feasible, however, the key challenge is to overcome the typical problems experienced in a service setting, such as lack of data availability, difficulties of data collection and data analysis, where employees often do not have an engineering background and lack mathematics skills.
Andrew Taylor and Margaret Taylor
Conti, R., Angelis, J., Cooper, C., Faragher, B. and Gill, C. (2006), “The effects of lean production on worker job stress”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 9, pp. 1013-38.
Cullen, A. and Webster, M. (2007), “A model of B2B e-commerce, based on connectivity and purpose”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 205-25.
Hartley, J.L., Lane, M.D. and Duplaga, E.A. (2006), “Exploring the barriers to the adoption of e-auctions for sourcing”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 202-21.
Koulikoff-Souviron, M. and Harrison, A. (2007), “The pervasive human resource picture in interdependent supply relationships”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 8-27.
Sheu, C., Yen, H.R. and Chae, B. (2006), “Determinants of supplier-retailer collaboration: evidence from an international study”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 24-49.
Storey, J., Emberson, C., Godsell, J. and Harrison, A. (2006), “Supply chain management: theory, practice and future challenges”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 7, pp. 754-74.
Tassabehji, R., Taylor, W.A., Beach, R. and Wood, A. (2006), “Reverse e-auctions and supplier-buyer relationships: an exploratory study”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 166-84.
Vereecke, A. and Muylle, S. (2006), “Performance improvement through supply chain collaboration in Europe”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 11, pp. 1176-98.
Wasti, S.N., Kamil Kozan, M. and Kuman, A. (2006), “Buyer-supplier relationships in the Turkish automotive industry”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 9, pp. 947-70.