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A graph-theoretic approach for assessing the leanness level of supply chains
Supply Chain Management  (IF9.012),  Pub Date : 2021-08-24, DOI: 10.1108/scm-02-2021-0079
Luciano Costa Santos, Lívia Maria Albuquerque Reul, Cláudia Fabiana Gohr

Purpose

Developing a lean supply chain is a continuous improvement effort, so it requires tracking the implementation progress by assessing the achieved level of leanness. However, lean supply chain practices depend on firm-to-firm relationships and an assessment method should consider these network interactions. Given the absence of such a method, this study aims to propose an alternative approach for assessing the leanness level of supply chains.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors extracted 18 typical lean supply chain practices from the literature, constituting the leanness assessment parameters. Then, the authors developed an assessment method based on the graph-theoretic approach due to its properties of capturing the interdependencies between elements of a system. The authors tested the proposed method in an automotive supply chain, selecting the focal firm and three of its first-tier suppliers.

Findings

The authors positioned partial and overall results in a visual classification scale and the supply chain presented a moderate leanness level. After empirical testing, the proposed method demonstrated its practical feasibility.

Research limitations/implications

This paper contributes to the literature with a novel approach for supply chain leanness assessment. However, to increase its generalizability, it would be beneficial to test the method in non-automotive supply chains, extending the assessment scope to downstream firms and second-tier customers and suppliers.

Practical implications

For practitioners, this paper provides a self-assessment tool to monitor the supply chain leanness and set priorities for improvement.

Originality/value

Besides tackling the interrelationships between firms, the proposed method considers the interdependencies between lean practices, providing partial and overall feedback to enable a systemic assessment.