Judged by its currency, the supply chain is one of the more successful metaphors in economics. The metaphor borrows from mechanics the idea of the chain, that is something that consists of elements that are linked to each of their two immediate neighbors and which jointly provide a strong but flexible connection. The metaphor transplants the chain-idea into the sphere of economics where, before the introduction of supply chains, chains were, for most economists, things best left in the care of ironmongers. More than twenty years after its introduction the "supply chain"-metaphor appears to be losing its luster and a competition is underway in the literature where authors forge complicated arguments in support of metaphors which recognize that supply chains are not really linear chains but most often expansive networks (e.g. Lazzarini et al. 2001). For this reason the chief contenders for the pride of place seem to be neologisms such as "supply networks" or "net chains". It is not obvious to us that much will be gained by replacing chain-metaphors with network-metaphors. Few practitioners of procurement, logistics and marketing will have failed to notice that not all business arrangements are strictly chain-like and only the most unperceiving will be enlightened by the new network-metaphors. Because supply chains obviously are networks, chances are that network-metaphors will win many converts, at least for some time.


Downloads Statistics

Download Full History