Supply Chain Collaboration - Investigating Motives, Drivers and Success Factors

Research output: Types of ThesesDoctoral Thesis


Collaboration along the supply chain has evolved as a decisive factor for business success and is an intensively studied field of research in management literature. Indeed, situations for companies to engage in close collaborations with other supply chain organizations are becoming increasingly difficult to assess. It is challenging to clearly indicate motives, drivers and success factors for specific multi-partner collaborations on a case-by-case basis (Ralston et al. 2017; Cui et al. 2020). This aspect is exacerbated by the increasing complexity of collaboration between companies, which has evolved from dyadic or triadic constellations to an often-complex network level with many actors from different industries and SC levels or tiers (Huang et al. 2020; Zhao et al. 2020). Current knowledge calls for further research regarding the understanding of the factors that determine the initiation and success of forms of supply chain collaboration (Leeuw and Fransoo 2009; Ho et al. 2020). Existing research calls for the investigation of additional or novel collaboration situations, in different industry contexts, characterized by multi-partner perspectives and by the form of collaboration related to the position in the supply chain – vertical or horizontal (Richey et al. 2010; Soosay and Hyland 2015; Cui et al. 2020).

This cumulative dissertation was guided by a central research question, "What motives and drivers prompt organizations to supply chain collaboration and what factors entail success in specific forms of supply chain collaboration?" To answer the overarching question, four individual publications with a specific research focus, context and form of supply chain collaboration were examined from defined theoretical perspectives. The research settings included supply chain innovation, competitor collaboration, the Physical Internet approach, and the orchestrated collaboration of companies from multiple industries across multiple supply chain levels for the benefit of efficiency and success in inter-firm relationships.

Results in the context of innovation collaboration highlight that collaboration and teamwork between internal functions represent a starting point for innovation collaboration. Since organizations learn and innovate from and with other firms along the SC, innovation success is increasingly dependent on inter-firm collaboration among multiple members. The results from investigating interviews and innovation project reports revealed the deliberate involvement of selected internal and external partners in innovation processes within a designated innovation network. The network served as a strategic and operational boundary for the focal company and proved to be dependent on cross-functional collaboration among members to share and leverage resources. The interaction resulting from structured exchanges affects suppliers and customers alike. The development of effective dialogues with external partners saves time, energy and resources. Dialogues facilitate the joint investigation of needs, problems and decisions with respect to the innovation process (Yazdanparast et al. 2020).

The context of coopetition that entails the external collaboration with competitors revealed three drivers for competitor collaboration: ‘Customer requirements’, ‘environmental uncertainty’ and ‘organizational interconnectedness’. First, customer requirements as a driver evolved as respondents referred to specific indicators in terms of fulfilling demands. Second, environmental uncertainty resulted from risks in market environments and dynamics in course of adopting new technologies, and appropriate actions through relevant forms of collaboration on the horizontal level. Third, organizational interconnectedness refers to firms’ ability to access resources they do not have by partnering with competitors, reinforced through capacity and capability sharing and strong relationship building. From a supply chain perspective, the results inform that customers are increasingly utilizing their supply chain as an instrument to manage their outcomes: Therefore, on the upstream portion of the supply chain, competing members aim to pool resources, etc., and seek to benefit in some manner from a relationship with the competitor (Zacharia et al. 2019).

Results in the context of the Physical Internet (PI) – a future-oriented, highly advanced form of collaboration in a supply chain network aimed at integrated logistics processes for best possible optimization of freight transport – evolved based on companies’ expectations towards their potential future involvement in a PI network. First, results manifested in the form of motives to enter a PI and referred to as ‘competitive advantage’, ‘access to network resources’ and ‘efficient processes’. Second, success factors to continuously collaborate in a PI revealed ‘alignment of resources’ and a ‘central or neutral orchestrator’ – as relevant. The research results contribute to claims for existing research on multi-tier/-partner relationships and multi-industry contexts in specific forms of SCC – which can be found in a PI setting. Contributions manifested in the form of insights into companies’ readiness for PI involvement, their ability to going beyond collaboration agreements, and their capabilities and access to meet requirements needed by an advanced network governance structure in a future PI (Plasch et al. 2020).

In an orchestrated collaboration context, results embraced orchestration as an approach to developing supply chain collaboration and revealed drivers and success factors for orchestration in the supply chain. Compared to results from competitor collaboration and PI contexts, the drivers – ‘efficiency’ and ‘customer demands’ – also emerged in orchestrated collaboration research. Results especially contribute to the scientific discourse on the role of the orchestrator.

Overall, the results demonstrate the interconnectedness of companies in supply chains in meeting customer needs and in achieving value realization to an ever-increasing extent. In the course of describing which aspects can shape the initiation and success of corporate relationships to manage this interconnectedness, the study of specific forms of collaboration along the supply chain has produced insights into the primary context-bound motives, drivers, and success factors in supply chain collaboration forms. Additionally, discussions regarding resources and relationships have helped identify the most relevant aspects to achieve success in collaborations: In the case of considering similar and complementary resources - even among competing partners - certain collaboration forms can generate and develop resources in a meaningful way through joint efforts by network partners. In terms of relationships, the results show that multi-partner constellations specifically bring external partners into play and strengthen the importance of additional roles such as that of a network orchestrator. The orchestrator role evolved as a success factor and its discussion in respective research settings serves as a central contribution and avenue for future research.

Implications for management practices show that managers should be aware of the given circumstances and factors that are crucial for the initiation of a supply chain collaboration. In this way, the process of establishing the collaboration can be more specific and appropriate in terms of complementarity, strategic alignment and common goals.
Translated title of the contributionSupply Chain Kollaboration - Untersuchung von Motiven, Treibern und Erfolgsfaktoren
Original languageEnglish (American)
QualificationDr. rer. soc. oec.
Awarding Institution
  • Johannes Kepler University Linz
  • Gattringer, Regina, Supervisor, External person
  • Zacharia, Zach, Supervisor, External person
Award date16 Nov 2021
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Oct 2021

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