Today, I have been as a member of a doctoral thesis tribunal at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. The thesis proposes new dimensions in the evaluation of  organizational proposals and IT tools. In my opinion, both the PhD candidate and the director have done an excellent research, and I’m sure the results will eventually published in several scientific journals of great impact. I attach the reference of the doctoral thesis:

  • Title: Evaluation of configurations of supply networks supported by it systems
  • PhD Candidate: Herwig Mittermayer
  • Advisors: Carlos Rodríguez Monroy
  • Place and Date: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Wednesday July 22nd, 2015.

Abstract:

Transactional systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have been implemented widely while analytical software like Supply Chain Management (SCM) add-ons are adopted less by manufacturing companies. Although significant benefits are reported stemming from SCM software implementations, companies are reluctant to invest in such systems. On the one hand this is due to the lack of methods that are able to detect benefits from the use of SCM software and on the other hand associated costs are not identified, detailed and quantified sufficiently. Coordination schemes based only on ERP systems are valid alternatives in industrial practice because significant investment in IT can be avoided. Therefore, the evaluation of these coordination procedures, in particular the cost due to iterations, is of high managerial interest and corresponding methods are comprehensive tools for strategic IT decision making. The purpose of this research is to provide evaluation methods that allow the comparison of different organizational forms and software support levels.

The research begins with a comprehensive introduction dealing with the business environment that industrial networks are facing and concludes highlighting the challenges for the supply chain software industry. Afterwards, the central terminology is addressed, focusing on organization theory, IT investment peculiarities and supply chain management software typology. The literature review classifies recent supply chain management research referring to organizational design and its software support. The classification encompasses criteria related to research methodology and content. Empirical studies from management science focus on network types and organizational fit. Novel planning algorithms and innovative coordination schemes are developed mostly in the field of operations research in order to propose new software features. Operations and production management researchers realize cost-benefit analysis of IT software implementations. The literature review reveals that the success of software solutions for network coordination depends strongly on the fit of three dimensions: network configuration, coordination scheme and software functionality. Reviewed literature is mostly centered on the benefits of SCM software implementations. However, ERP system based supply chain coordination is still widespread industrial practice but the associated coordination cost has not been addressed by researchers.

Fundamentals of efficient organizational design are explained in detail as far as required for the understanding of the synthesis of different organizational forms. Several coordination schemes have been shaped through the variation of the following design parameters: organizational structuring, coordination mechanisms and software support.

The different organizational proposals are evaluated using a heuristic approach and a simulation-based method. For both cases, the principles of organization theory are respected. A lack of performance is due to dependencies between activities which are not managed properly. Therefore, within the heuristic method, dependencies are classified and their intensity is measured based on contextual factors. Afterwards the suitability of each organizational design element for the management of a specific dependency is determined. Finally, each organizational form is evaluated based on the contribution of the sum of design elements to coordination benefit and to coordination cost.

Coordination benefit refers to improvement in logistic performance – this is the core concept of most supply chain evaluation models. Unfortunately, coordination cost which must be incurred to achieve benefits is usually not considered in detail. Iterative processes are costly when manually executed. This is the case when SCM software is not implemented and the ERP system is the only available coordination instrument.

The heuristic model provides a simplified procedure for the classification of dependencies, quantification of influence factors and systematic search for adequate organizational forms and IT support. Discrete event simulation is applied in the second evaluation model using the software package ‘Plant Simulation’. On the one hand logistic performance is measured by manufacturing, inventory and transportation cost and penalties for lost sales. On the other hand coordination cost is explicitly considered taking into account iterative coordination cycles. The method is applied to an exemplary supply chain configuration considering various parameter settings. The simulation results confirm that, in most cases, benefit increases when coordination is intensified. However, in some situations when manual, iterative planning cycles are applied, additional coordination cost does not always lead to improved logistic performance. These unexpected results cannot be attributed to any particular parameter.

The research confirms the great importance of up to now disregarded dimensions when evaluating SCM concepts and IT tools. The heuristic method provides a quick, but only approximate comparison of coordination efficiency for different organizational forms. In contrast, the more complex simulation method delivers detailed results taking into consideration specific parameter settings of network context and organizational design.

Keywords: Coordination efficiency, discrete event simulation, heuristic evaluation method, organizational design, supply chain management software.