A network perspective on supply chain management in the structural reshaping of globalisation


Open Date: 19/09/2022     Close Date: 19/02/2023

Guest Editors: Simone Guercini, Andrea Perna, Andrea Runfola, Annalisa Tunisini

The relation between globalization and value chains has certainly attracted attention among scholars from a multitude of perspectives (Harland et al., 2003). Especially in the 1990s and 2000s we have witnessed the emergence and development of global value chains, with phenomena of increasing "outsourcing" and "offshoring" by companies from advanced countries (Gereffi, 1998). In this context, extended relationships have developed over geographically diverse contexts, often characterizing customer-driven supply chains (Martinelli et al., 2017).

Recently, the evolution of the international landscape, also from a geopolitical point of view, has highlighted a change, at first gradual, then more accelerated, in the context of supply chains. This evolution is partly linked to the exhaustion of decades-long cycles of increasing geographic diversification of supply chains and partly to new and unexpected events such as the pandemic crisis. In addition, the same geopolitical situation, characterized by threats of decoupling between the economies of the United States and China, plays a role in producing tensions. This situation of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in the international context has been summarized in the acronym "VUCA" (Bennett, 2014). We are in a phase also characterized for this reason by the exhaustion of a long cycle of increasing offshoring and global outsourcing to new countries by companies based in advanced countries (Petriecevic and Teece, 2019). Moreover, even digital networks experience difficulties as physical supply networks; the online dimension shows cultural, political, and structural barriers (Guercini and Runfola, 2015).

For years now, the international business literature has recognized the validity of models from the IMP tradition in studying the liabilities encountered by firms in the internationalization process. Consequently, the IMP approach has a role in investigating phenomena connected to outsidership from key relationships for firms in the global market (Johansson and Vahlne, 2009). Moreover, in recent years, scholars have considered liability of outsidership superior to the traditional liability of foreignness in explaining the problems currently experienced by firms in the context of internationalization (Vahlne and Johanson, 2020).

Today, there is the reconfiguration of activities and actors in supply networks among the most topical and relevant issues in the context of BtoB relations on an international scale (Tunisini and Bocconcelli, 2009). This issue regards the geographical dimension, in terms of reshoring or nearsourcing strategies (Fratocchi et al., 2014) and the organizational dimension, in terms of outsourcing failures (Cabral et al., 2014) and insourcing. At same time, the evolving role of suppliers from emerging countries appears more evident in some cases (Lechner et al., 2020), challenging the role of firms from advanced countries that have invested in past decades mainly in brand and stores (Guercini and Runfola, 2016). The reconfiguration of supply networks is also a factor capable of mitigating the difficulties posed by the conditions of the context and sensitivity of the market and other stakeholders, with respect, for example, to the management of sustainability in its three meanings, ecological, social, and economical. Furthermore, the international health situation related to the pandemic has accentuated and added other elements to the management of international supply chains (Gereffi, 2020).

The analytical-interpretative tools of the IMP tradition prove to be effective lenses to interpreting the changes taking place at international level by adopting the business network lenses. They can provide a methodological basis for reading the evolution of international issues experienced in this phase of change that some define as de-globalization (Witt, 2019). The objective of this special issue is to explore the current trends in international supply chains through the tools offered by the IMP approach, marked by a change in the international context characterized by conditions of uncertainty, volatility, complexity and ambiguity, and in some cases of real crisis in global supply chains. 

This special issue of JBIM, therefore, intends to examine the following themes, although not limiting to them:

  • Cross-border buyer-supplier relationships and the evolution of international scenarios;
  • Dark and bright side of interaction processes in the presence of increasing conditions of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in international scenarios;
  • De-globalization, geopolitical issues and the IMP approach;
  • Effects of the context on the networks of supply and distribution relationships;
  • Reshoring, backshoring, and network approach;
  • Return to insourcing with impact on companies' business networks;
  • Dark side of outsourcing in supply networks;
  • Supply chain management, global distribution and the interaction and network approach in contexts VUCA;
  • Sustainability issues and the reconfiguration of international supply networks;
  • Liability of outsidership in contexts VUCA and new liabilities.

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