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Modelling information flow and sharing matrix for fresh food supply chains

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DOI: 10.1108/BPMJ-09-2015-0130

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Business Process Management Journal
Modelling information flow and sharing matrix for fresh food supply chains
Dilupa Nakandala Premaratne Samaranayake Henry Lau Krishnamurthy Ramanathan
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Dilupa Nakandala Premaratne Samaranayake Henry Lau Krishnamurthy Ramanathan , (2017),"
Modelling information flow and sharing matrix for fresh food supply chains ", Business Process
Management Journal, Vol. 23 Iss 1 pp. 108 - 129
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BPMJ
23,1 Modelling information flow and
sharing matrix for fresh food
supply chains
108 Dilupa Nakandala, Premaratne Samaranayake, Henry Lau and
Received 18 September 2015
Krishnamurthy Ramanathan
Revised 18 April 2016 School of Business, Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia
Accepted 9 June 2016

Abstract
Purpose – Despite much research on supply chain (SC) integration and the growing emphasis on recent
information technology advancements as an enabler of improved performance, there has been limited
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research focussed specifically on information integration in supply chains (SCs). The purpose of this paper is
to systematically review the literature on information integration in the fresh food supply chain (FFSC) from a
holistic perspective.
Design/methodology/approach – Literature review is done by systematically collecting and analysing the
recent literature to identify various participant entities of the FFSC information network and their specific
information needs.
Findings – The information needs of FFSC entities are diverse but the needs are common across multiple entities.
Research limitations/implications – This study only reviewed the FFSC-related literature; an extended
study of the food industry may reveal a more comprehensive view.
Practical implications – These findings are useful for practitioners in understanding the participant
entities in the information network and their information needs and for policymakers in formulating FFSC
development initiatives.
Originality/value – The authors are not aware of another study that investigates the FFSC in a holistic
approach, one that identifies the actors, their interactions and information needs.
Keywords Integration, Supply chain, Information, Food industry
Paper type Research paper

1. Introduction
Information integration has emerged as one of the key dimensions of supply chain
integration (SCI) and plays a significant role in the effectiveness and efficiency of overall
supply chain (SC) practices of various industries, in particular with agri-food SCs
involving a large number of stakeholders that includes logistics partners and regulatory
bodies. At the same time, there is a growing need for information integration in agri-food
SC practices in direct proportion to the increasing demand for agri-food products and the
increasingly global nature of agri-food SC practices. Major reasons for rising world
demand for agri-food products include the increasing growth of population and
expanding middle classes in emerging economies as well as the global trend towards
healthy eating habits. Projected forecasts suggest the average annual increase in world
demand for agri-food will be 1.3 per cent during 2007-2050 (Linehan et al., 2012). Many
governments are responsive to the need to position food security as a major item in their
agendas. For example, the Australian Government has made extensive efforts as spelled
out in its “National Food Plan”, an initiative to develop an overarching framework to
identify the role of government in the food SC (Australian Government, 2013), and plans
to make Australia a sustainable and productive supplier of nutritious and affordable food
for its people and the world (Australian Government, 2012). There is general consensus
Business Process Management
Journal on the need for an emphasis on the importance of improving food SC management;
Vol. 23 No. 1, 2017
pp. 108-129
challenges are compounded by the short shelf life and time sensitive prices of agri-food
© Emerald Publishing Limited
1463-7154
products, presence of decentralized small to medium producers in the upstream and
DOI 10.1108/BPMJ-09-2015-0130 major retailers in the downstream and potential vulnerability from natural disasters on
longer SCs of fresh food supplies including the concerns about the food safety, security Fresh food
and quality (Delforce et al., 2005). supply chains
The role of information integration and its strategic importance for competitiveness have
been identified in the context of SC management. The core of SC management is integration
that involves the dimensions of supplier, customer and internal integration (Schoenherr and
Swink, 2012). From a broad perspective, a SC consists of firms that are directly involved in
flows of products, services, finances and information to customers (Mentzer et al., 2001); the 109
SC is therefore considered to be an extended enterprise that spans all the related activities of
the firms involved in these flows (Coyle et al., 2008). SC management involves the planning
and management of all logistics management activities and the literature emphasizes the
significance of coordination and collaboration among all firms in the SC.
From an overall network perspective, a SC network can be analysed in three stages: supply
network, manufacturing network and distribution network (Erengüç et al., 1999). Some have
considered integrated processes as the basis for research, including investigating overall SC
performance and improvement (Arif-Uz-Zaman et al., 2012) and also modelling of current
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practices and comparison with best practices using the supply chain operations reference
(SCOR) model (Gulledge and Chavusholu, 2008). SC configuration is considered for global SC
management (Caniato et al., 2013) and involves a combination of networks represented by
components across strategic and operational levels (e.g. plants, warehouses at strategic level,
materials, activities, resources at operational level) and associated relationships between
components (Fahimnia et al., 2013; Samaranayake and Toncich, 2007). Overall, integration is a
common theme in SC practice/management and is considered critical for the effective and
efficient operation of SCs, in particular for managing various flows across SCs, including
information, materials and financial flows (Alfalla-Luque et al., 2013).
The literature has demonstrated a particular focus on SCI itself but information integration
has received limited attention, being treated as simply one of the constituents of SCI.
We, however, advocate for information integration being a critical constituent of SCI along with
coordination, resource sharing and organizational relationship linkages (Lee et al., 2000).
Information integration requires information to be visible, accessible and shared in all stages.
Value chains, as proposed by Porter (1985), have members who deliberately align and integrate
themselves to perform activities more effectively vis-à-vis other competing value chains to
enhance their competitive advantage ( Jraisat et al., 2013; Christopher, 2005). This enables more
coordinated flows of products, services and information in a value chain. Along with physical
tasks required for value activities, the role of information processing and information
technology has been crucial for the competitiveness of value chains (Porter and Millar, 1985).
Nevertheless, firms in a SC may operate in isolation thereby making the alignment and
integration of the activities of the members more challenging. For instance, the fresh
agricultural SC is in general fragmented (Shukla and Jharkharia, 2013) and producers often
tend to operate in isolation meaning their activities are not necessarily coordinated with those
of other members in the fresh agri-food SC ( Jraisat et al., 2013). Food products have unique
characteristics and that food SC actors work in a specific context (Fredriksson and Liljestrand,
2014). These difficulties are further compounded because contemporary SCs can have very
complex configurations; they can range from dyadic chains to multichannel networks (Perçin,
2008). Complexity and consequent issues related to limited information integration have also
been identified in industry publications. For example, Department of Agricultural Fisheries and
Forestry identified the challenges related to poor information flows in the fresh food SC in
Australia (DAFF, 2012).
This paper presents an extensive literature review on information integration in fresh
food supply chain (FFSC) management. It develops a model of the information needs of
FFSC and explicitly identifies the parallel presence of multiple partner groups along with
their specific requirements in a form of a comprehensive information sharing matrix and
BPMJ develops a set of associated hypotheses for testing. This study has implications for
23,1 practitioners in food industry and relevant policymakers. Effective decision making is
enabled by the availability of information with strategic, tactical and operational benefits
(Perçin, 2008), a better understanding of information needs of the participant entities of
FFSCs while explicitly identifying primary and secondary entities is very useful for the
entities attempting to minimize information disconnects within FFSCs. Key performance
110 measures at SC and business levels differ from one another; performance targets and
optimization objectives of different entities participating in FFSCs are also different.
For example, product availability, reliability and variety are important at the SC level
whereas business focus stays with more micro aspects including inventory optimization,
lead time minimization (van der Vorst, 2000). A comprehensive mapping of information flow
and needs provides a basis for further understanding on how existing information sharing
mechanisms can be improved to meet the information requirements of diverse entities of
FFSCs and what characteristics should be possessed by future information system designs
for better integrated FFSCs.
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Section 2 presents the literature review methodology used in this study. Section 3 defines
information integration in SC management and identifies the rationale for and the benefits
of information integration. Specific information needs of FFSC entities are discussed in
Section 4. Section 5 develops a model of FFSC information flow supplemented with a
detailed information matrix and a set of theoretical hypotheses. Section 6 concludes with
a discussion of the model and the matrix along with identification of the barriers for
effective implementation and suggestions for further research.

2. Review method
A systematic literature review is a process of synthesizing research to enhance the
knowledge base and inform policymakers and practitioners (Tranfield et al., 2003). A staged
approach of planning, conducting the review and then reporting and disseminating the
findings was used for this literature review process in order for it to be systematic,
transparent and reproducible. Several limiting conditions were identified in the planning
stage. Our search was limited to the peer reviewed journal articles published from 2003 to
2014 in order to capture and present the dynamics of research considering the recent
developments in information and communication technologies, consumer requirements and
regulatory requirements. Databases of ScienceDirect, Emerald and ProQuest were selected
to represent the popular outlets for SC research findings. Multiple keywords and their
combinations were designed to provide a wider coverage and completeness of the search.
After a pilot run, the terms “enabler”, “information”, “information visibility”, “information
sharing”, “transparency” and “information flow” were selected as keywords to be used in
combination with the term of SC to generate search results that aligned appropriately with
the scope of search. This search resulted in a total of 131 articles. In the beginning of the
review process, duplicate records were eliminated and then a cleaned set of articles was
screened through a careful analysis of the abstracts of all journal articles. In the subsequent
stage all the selected articles were content checked and only the relevant articles
(information integration in fresh food SC) were considered for further review. This reduced
set had a total of 37 articles. Since objectivity is as important as systematization and
quantification in a systematic content analysis (Kassarjian, 1977), an independent analysis
was carried out by four researchers whose backgrounds are in SC-related research.
This step enabled a rigorous review of articles for relevance to the scope followed by
categorization of search results for further review. Documentation of the search and review
process and outcomes was maintained throughout the review process.
It was observed that search results related to information integration in FFSC was
limited. Consequently, the search criteria were relaxed and the span was broadened to locate
research publications specific to the intended scope of this study. In addition to the search Fresh food
criteria using a number of databases, key terms, publication types and years of publications supply chains
outlined above for the main literature review on information integration in the broader
FFSC, the literature search was extended to include relevant articles from other online
sources(e.g. Taylor & Francis Online and Springerlink), using the selection criteria that are
specific to FFSC. Scholarly articles published across a range of other databases are selected
with specified keywords such as agri-food SCs, food SC, food and agricultural SC, vegetable 111
SC, fruit industry, fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable SC, agri-food export SC and
agri-fresh produce SC. The final list of research articles from the above search was selected
using a qualitative assessment of relevance to the broader information integration in FFSC.
As a result, a number of articles (21 articles) were selected and included for the subsequent
literature review process. Thus, a total of 58 articles including (37 from the initial search and
21 from the subsequent search) were used in the extensive literature review of information
integration in FFSC management.
In the initial stage of the review process, four key elements emerged: information
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sharing; direct and real-time information accessibility; collaborative planning and


forecasting; and integrated decision making. It is also noted from the review process that
information sharing and direct and real-time information accessibility are recognized as
significant dimensions/components of information integration among many FFSC
management practices. Thus, Table I presents the key studies (a subset of those 58
articles selected for comprehensive literature review) related to those significant dimensions
of information integration. Despite the fact that the food SC differs from other SCs, making
the direct adoption of general SC management knowledge difficult in practice, there seem to
be very limited holistic approach-based studies on information sharing in the food SC. For
example, Jraisat et al. (2013) explored the drivers of information sharing between two key
members of an agri-food SC (producers and exporters) in Jordan and find that producers and
exporters are sharing logistics-related information with a short-term perspective.
Furthermore, using value analysis of material and information flow and relationships,
Bonney et al. (2007) revealed the importance of strategy and robust processes in key areas
for co-innovation in R&D and new product development and related to a selected food SC
case. None of these studies have investigated the information flow and the needs of FFSC
entities from a holistic viewpoint.
It can be noted from Table I that two key dimensions (information sharing and direct and
real-time accessibility) associated with information integration have been considered across a
range of areas including strategic impacts/importance; framework of modelling relationships
and traceability; and analysis of various applications of FFSCs. This suggests the need for a
broader review of information integration in SCs that can lead to identifying current level of
information integration, the information needs and the research gaps, in particular in FFSCs.

3. Information integration in SCs


While there is plethora of reported research literature on broader SCI there remains no
universally accepted definition of information integration in SCs (Sun and Ni, 2012). With
regard to the various dimensions/factors studied and reported, information integration is
identified/categorized as a key dimension of SCI framework (Alfalla-Luque et al., 2013),
a scope of integration (Narasimhan and Das, 2001) and one of the areas of broader SCI
(Sun and Ni, 2012). In addition to the clear connection between information integration and
scope of integration and SCI more broadly defined, a better understanding of
information integration is vital for making clear the relevance and significance
of information integration to overall SC performance (measurement, monitoring and
improvement). In this regard, our review of the literature will reveal that definitions and
descriptions of information integration that have been studied and reported, followed by an
BPMJ Key dimension Main focussed areas under investigation Authors
23,1
Information Influence of information sharing practices on inter-firm Byrne and Power (2014)
sharing relationships
Drivers of information sharing in agri-food export SC Jraisat et al. (2013)
Framework for the assessment of food SC Manzini and Accorsi
(2013)
112 Trust and communication in agri-food SCs Fischer (2013)
Framework for transparency analysis in food SCs Trienekens et al. (2012)
Managing fresh food quality, value chain innovation Rong et al. (2011)
Planning the harvest and distribution of perishable agricultural Ahumada and Villalobos
products (2011)
Designing business processes in demand-driven fruit SCs Verdouw et al. (2010)
Addressing increased demand for food safety from export Narrod et al. (2009)
market
Problems with demand management and framework for Taylor and Fearne (2009)
improved demand management
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Value chain innovation using information sharing Bonney et al. (2007)


Investigation of food safety breakdowns using a generic model Stringer and Hall (2007)
A conceptual framework for SC collaboration Matopoulos et al. (2007)
Direct and The strategic impacts from the technological evolution of food Epelbaum and Martinez
real-time traceability systems (2014)
accessibility Traceability in food SC management – definitions, issues, Dabbene et al. (2014),
benefits, traceability system (TS), linkages, framework, Bosona and Gebresenbet
implementation, etc. (2013), Hu et al. (2013),
Olsen and Borit (2013) and
Mainetti et al. (2013)
Evaluation of Taiwan Agriculture and Food Traceability Liao et al. (2011)
(TAFT) program
Modelling of traceability system, incorporating seed production Bevilacqua et al. (2009)
and delivery processes
Analysis of legal and regulatory aspects of food traceability and Regattieri et al. (2007)
a framework for an effective traceability system
Factors of buyer-supplier relationships and their influence on Rábade and Alfaro (2006)
Table I. the traceability of raw materials
Key dimensions and A generic framework of traceability data management as Folinas et al. (2006)
main areas of research guideline for food business operators
associated with Application of failure mode effect and criticality analysis Bertolini et al. (2006)
information (FMECA) approach to traceability
integration based on Legislation on traceability and the technologies needed to Schwägele (2005)
literature review implement traceability system for meat and meat products

overview of related aspects, including a rationale for information sharing and the benefits of
information sharing. This approach forms the basis for developing a comprehensive model
to represent information needs among participant entities, consequences and barriers
associated with information integration.

3.1 Defining information integration


SCI has been defined in a number of different, albeit interrelated ways. Pagell (2004) defines
integration as, “a process of interaction and collaboration in which manufacturing, purchasing
and logistics work together in a cooperative manner to arrive at mutually acceptable outcomes
for their organization”. Extending this definition across organizations, SCI is defined as a
mechanism to support business processes across the supply network to overcome intra-and
inter-organizational boundaries (Romano, 2003) while some have confined the scope only to
coordination mechanisms (Cagliano et al., 2006). The scope of SCI comprises of comprehensive
collaboration between SC network members in strategic, tactical operational decision Fresh food
making (Bagchi et al., 2005) and it has been analysed from a number of perspectives: customer supply chains
integration, information integration, logistics integration and supplier integration
(Narasimhan and Das, 2001); external and internal integration, process integration and
information/data and physical/materials flows integration (Alfalla-Luque et al., 2013); the scope
of SCI (upstream and downstream) and the areas of SCI (material integration and information
integration) (Sun and Ni, 2012), and also areas of SCI (customer/market integration, 113
information integration, logistics and distribution integration, supplier integration and
purchasing integration) (Das et al., 2006).
In the domain of SCI, information integration has been identified as a dimension/factor,
scope and area of broader SCI. However, most research studies lack an agreed definition of
information integration. Information integration has been viewed as information sharing
and collaborative planning where the former refers to exchange of critical information
between SC entities (Mohr and Spekman, 1994) and the latter refers to collaborations among
them to develop plans on production, innovations, inventory and marketing, etc. (Claro et al.,
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2004). Jhingran et al. (2002) found that information integration is a technology-based


approach that assimilates relevant data from internal and external sources in order to
develop a valuable application for the firm. However, both technical and social aspects of
information integration have been emphasized; technical aspects focus on the importance of
adopting information and communication technology as means of information integration
and social aspects relate to the importance of information sharing and trust between SC
entities (Cai et al., 2010). From an outcome-based perspective, the flow of information from
the upstream to the downstream must also be supported by the reverse information flow
from the downstream to the upstream (Frohlich and Westbrook, 2001). Williams and
Moore (2007) consider information integration to be a powerful tool for enhancing
relationships throughout the SC. Yin and Khoo (2007) have a different perspective on
information integration, they consider the integration of e-business and the SC enables a
seamless information flow from supplier to customer. Our literature review focusses on
the information sharing of the key participants and their interactions along with the
information needs they have that will create mutual benefit for competitiveness.

3.2 The rationale for information sharing


The rationale for information sharing in SCs has been examined from multiple perspectives.
Perçin (2008) adopted a “benefit of information sharing” approach to studying the information
sharing problem, while Williams and Moore (2007) used “information as power” framework to
study information exchanges within a SC. Jraisat et al. (2013) analysed the benefits of
information sharing from three theoretical perspectives. Based on the transactional cost
analysis perspective, which provides a means of gaining insights into, and analysing the
various costs of an exchange between a buyer and a seller, information sharing can help to
reduce business costs and risks. In the fresh agri-food SC, transaction costs due to assets such
as plant and equipment can be high since they cannot be easily put to alternative uses.
Transaction costs due to uncertainty can also be high due to factors such as unpredictable
weather changes, water shortages, perishability of the produce, price volatility and isolation of
producers from markets. Furthermore, size imbalance between producers and buyers
(large retailers) and lack of formal contracts can lead to opportunistic behaviour. From the
relationship marketing theory perspective that focusses on the need for fostering trust,
commitment, cooperation, collaboration and communication between members of a SC,
information sharing is seen as promoting relationship marketing and mutually reinforcing.
Tai (2011) underlines this by showing that information sharing services can be seen as a
relationship marketing solution that create customer value and establish close relationships
with enterprise customers. The network theory examines three dimensions in business
BPMJ networks: actors, resources and activities in the SC network. The attributes of the informational
23,1 resources will influence the scope and extent of information exchange and sharing. For Jraisat
et al. (2013), if information sharing is motivated by integration-focussed transaction cost
reduction, a wider range of information is likely to be shared than when information sharing is
motivated by individualistic transaction cost reduction. In their study of fresh
agri-food export SCs, higher export performance is seen when information sharing is
114 motivated by integration-focussed transaction cost reduction.
Benefits arising from information sharing can be classified into strategic, managerial and
operational levels (Perçin, 2008). Strategic benefits include: facilitation of SC collaboration;
increased market share; enhanced potential for conflict resolution; and increased new
product introduction. Managerial benefits include: increased communication; improved
capacity allocation decisions; and more effective collaborative planning, forecasting, and
resource control. Operational benefits refer to reduced inventory levels, lead times, and SC
costs and improved production/distribution scheduling. In the context of these three
benefits, important information categories that are relevant include operational, planning,
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customer requirement and financial information. Operational information refers to


production-related information such as determination of production schedules, order
status for tracking/tracing, return status, inventory levels and volume of operations.
Planning information, as the name implies, refers to sales forecasts, demand information,
and plans related to promotion and production. Customer requirements deal with customer
relationship aspects such as desired product attributes, service requirements, product
availability, delivery status and customer satisfaction. Common financial information
includes sales growth, profitability and return on investment. While managers tend to
consider that planning and financial information were of equal importance, the sharing of
operational and customer requirement information is more important than the sharing
of planning and financial information. However, Jonsson and Mattsson (2013) argue that the
value of sharing planning information will be influenced by the attributes of the SC.
They show that in a situation with medium to high customer order frequency and two-tier
SCs with relatively short lead times the following observations are of relevance. These
findings appear to confirm that information should be shared and deployed based on a
sophisticated understanding of all the SC attributes rather than relying on generalizations.

3.3 Information integration and SC performance


Among various aspects of SC management widely studied and reported, information
integration and performance have received significant attention in recent times. It is evident
from comprehensive review/analysis of various dimensions and the proposed SCI
framework (Alfalla-Luque et al., 2013) that information integration is a key dimension right
across the SC and connected through key variables such as information sharing,
information technology integration and collaborative planning. Pålsson and Johansson
(2009) show that the level of integration achieved is directly proportional to drivers behind
the adoption of required technology such as RFID.
Although the relationship between information integration and SC performance is not
explicitly investigated, most of the research has recognized the existence of the relationship
implicitly. This concept of implicit connection is confirmed by Pagell’s (2004) work on the
identification of the key drivers of integration, suggesting the possible link between the two.
Very recently, Alfalla-Luque et al. (2013) proposed a framework for measuring SCI with
information integration as a key element/dimension, thus enabling any organization to
identify critical success factors for integrating their SC. While their framework provides a
basis for measuring levels of integration through the scope of information integration and
key variables, based on empirical research the framework stops short of identifying the
linkages between key variables and SC performance measures. Furthermore, while
investigating the drivers behind the adoption of RFID technology for improving the SC Fresh food
performance, Pålsson and Johansson (2009) noted that information sharing based on supply chains
information integration is vital for obtaining certain SC improvements.
The importance of SC performance measurement is exacerbated in recent times, with
increasing level of SC practices as well as competitive pressures and collaborative relationships
among SC partners. This is evident from increased level of research activity on SC performance
measurement, in particular various research work on current practices through comprehensive 115
literature review studies (Shepherd and Gunter, 2006; Gunasekaran and Kobu, 2007; Akyuz
and Erkan, 2010). Key approaches for SC performance measurement, extensively studied by
Neely et al. (1995) and later reported by Shepherd and Gunter (2006, p. 106) include
“the balanced scorecard (Kaplan and Norton, 1996); the performance matrix (Keegan et al.,
1989); performance measurement questionnaire (Dixon, 1990); and criteria for measurement
system design (Globerson, 1985)”. In addition to various studies focussing on SC performance
measurement from individual organizational level, the need for broader SC performance
measurement systems is recognized, due to number of factors such as increasing demand for
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supporting strategy development and performance improvement (Chan and Qi, 2003),
measuring and managing economic and ecological performance measures across the SC
(Bai et al., 2012), and measuring overall SC performance under closed-loop operations
(Mondragon et al., 2011). Mondragon et al. (2011), through a case study involving a major
European mobile phone network operator, provide overall picture of the performance of a
closed-loop SC. In another study on broader SC performance measurement, Wickramatillake
et al. (2007) identify key areas of concern when measuring large scale project involving in-house
production, resale of materials and third party logistics.
Apart from very specific frameworks and/or models of SC performance measurement
approaches/systems, various studies (Chan, 2003; Karim and Arif-Uz-Zaman, 2013) have used
measures identified through SCOR model, including the methodology to evaluate the ecological
sustainable performance measures as the basis for developing an integrated performance
management system (Bai et al., 2012) and performance evaluation method for lean SC using the
linkages between SCOR framework and effects of different lean tools (Arif-Uz-Zaman et al.,
2012). In recent times, the triple bottom line (TBL) approach has been used as the key approach
for measuring various SC practices, including supplier selection operations (Govindan et al.,
2013), increasing competitive advantage through the creation of a sustainable SCs (Markley
and Davis, 2007). While TBL approach has been adopted in measuring sustainable SC
performance in recent times, focussing mainly on individual levels, there is very limited work
on interactions among those dimensions (Carter and Rogers, 2008).
Furthermore, the research on SC performance measurement and improvement lacks
sufficient depth and clarity regarding the linkages that exist between various elements/
dimensions of information integration across a range of scope and areas of broader SC
practices. This is particularly true for relationships between information integration and
SC performance under dynamic and uncertain conditions, and influence of various factors
such as information needs of different industries and SC partners on SC performance.

4. Specific information needs of FFSC entities


Information needs of FFSC are diverse and include needs across SC entities, tracing and tracking
needs of products of FFSC, specific needs associated with product, information
and financial flows as well as needs on operationalization of various planning, control and
execution methods. Specific needs of information across the partners have been considered,
including information needs of planters and brokers (Bao et al., 2012), information needs for
supporting transparency to consumers, the government and food companies (Trienekens et al.,
2012), information sharing between producers and exporters ( Jraisat et al., 2013).
Other areas of information needs include tracing and tracking of products (Bosona and
BPMJ Gebresenbet, 2013; Hu et al., 2013) and information needs in operationalization of FFSC,
23,1 in particular planning the harvest and distribution of perishable agricultural products (Ahumada
and Villalobos, 2011), process modelling in demand-driven FFSCs (Verdouw et al., 2010).
Information needs of operationalization of various planning, control and execution methods are
considered from a range of models, including information needs for operating under SCOR model
(Gunasekaran and Kobu, 2007) and information needs for managing quality and optimizing
116 FFSC under dynamic conditions (Rong et al., 2011). Since the SCOR model of the Supply Chain
Council (Version 10, 2010) provides a framework that links performance metrics, processes, best
practices and people into a unified structure (SCC, 2010), it can be used as a basis for generating
an information architecture which can be used to promote information sharing in FFSC.

4.1 Tracing and tracking needs of products in the FFSC


Given the increasing attention being paid in today’s global business setting to preventing the
contamination of food products and the multidimensional impacts of the incidence of food
borne illnesses, tracking and traceability have become important components of the food SC
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(Bosona and Gebresenbet, 2013; Hu et al., 2013). Table II provides some examples of the
information that needs to be collected and exchanged in fresh food and vegetable SCs to
promote tracking and traceability. The technological interventions required are also indicated.

4.2 Specific information needs for promoting product flow


Verdouw et al. (2010), in their work on developing a reference process model for the fruit
industry, state that information on products will be needed at different levels of aggregation to
enable close coordination between producers, processors, traders, retailers and specialized
service providers (packaging, warehousing, transportation and transshipment).
The aggregation levels at which information can be collected as shipping units, logistics
units, trade units and consumer units. While these types of information requirements can be
incorporated into a normative framework for identifying information needs, an examination of
the literature on agri-fresh produce SCs by Shukla and Jharkharia (2013) highlights the fact that
information sharing among the different SC entities continues to be poor, and even where it does

Technological
Purpose Examples of information needed interventions required

Product Manufacturer identification number; product name, item Bar codes, RFID tags,
identification number, packed date, batch/lot number, price, origin, EID, etc.
and conditions of handling and storage
Quality and safety Firmness of fleshy products; presence of hazardous Penetrometer, firmometer,
measurements microbial contaminants; presence of hazardous physical twists tester, infrared and
objects inside food products; growth of bacteria, magnetic resonance
presence of pathogens; gases, spoilage, changing imaging, pH indicators,
temperature and moisture, chemicals and toxins, chemical bar codes, nano
standards on food safety and quality specificationsa sensors, etc.
Genetic analysis GMOs and other transgenic materials DNA tests
Environmental Temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric Temperature, gas and
monitoring composition of the air (including pollutants) freshness indicators,
biosensors, etc.
Geospatial data Site-specific data of plants on the farm; isotopic and GIS, GPS RS, etc.
capturing elemental fingerprints
Table II. Data exchange Exchange of standardized and structured data EDI, EXL
Traceability Software Traceability system EQM, FoodTrak,
information needs in QualTrace, etc.
a FFSC Source: Adapted from Bosona and Gebresenbet (2013) and aNarrod et al. (2009)
exist, several weaknesses lead to overall poor performance. Some of the weaknesses in the Fresh food
information sharing and information generating infrastructure that contribute to poor supply chains
performance are as follows:
• Lack of accurate demand forecasts leads to unavailability of information and a large
lag between consumer demand and farmers’ reaction to that demand resulting in
considerable waste of goods and resources being generated. The tendency of the
entities involved (farmers, agents of consolidators and retailers) to focus on their own 117
revenue maximization by concealing information leads to high post-harvest losses.
• Demand forecasting in wholesale and spot markets is more complex than demand
forecasting at the level of the supermarket or organized retail sector. Agri-fresh
products are seasonal and perishable, and need to be understood at a disaggregated
level, making the forecasting more difficult. Other weaknesses in demand forecasting
such as complexity of procedures for handling demand information, data
inaccuracies and inconsistencies, difficulties in accessing consumer demand data,
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and timeliness of order transmission also add to the complexity of generating and
sharing quality demand forecasts (Taylor and Fearne, 2006).
• While production planning decisions are based on considerations such as the use of
land and allocation of resources, there has been very little assistance provided to
producers through information on how to schedule harvesting to optimize yield and
revenue while minimizing waste.
• Agri-fresh produce SC management has not adequately incorporated deteriorating
product inventory models when generating information for production planning and
inventory management.
• Transportation models used in the agri-fresh produce SC do not utilize information
related to agri-fresh product characteristics, distance travelled and related attributes,
thereby contributing to high post-harvest waste.

5. Modelling information flow in the FFSC


Information sharing can foster inter-firm coordination, mobilize better strategic decision
making that will improve export performance Jraisat et al. (2013). In agri-food SCs that are
export oriented, information sharing can help the members of the chain to better manage
unanticipated weather changes, water shortages, product perishability, price volatility, and
isolation of producers from markets and therefore need to be treated by SC members as a
matter of strategic priority. Speaking more generally, Perçin (2008) believes that information
sharing within a SC can lead to opportunities to reduce inventory levels, improve the flow of
goods and services, provide better customer service, and reduce overall SC costs all of which
can benefit the overall network. Williams and Moore (2007, p. 469) further emphasizing the
importance of information sharing argue that, while firm-to-firm relationships in a SC are
important, “power derived from information still serves as a critical success factor, and
firms who have it or are suited to obtain it, are well positioned for competitive advantage”.

5.1 Information flow model and information sharing matrix


An information flow model is here developed for fresh food sector-specific SC participants
and their needs for key information. Logistics flow identifies the key members of
agro-suppliers, producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and warehousing and
transportation partners as well as import and export houses. An extended view
presented in Figure 1 takes a holistic approach and concerns the key information needs of
FFSC members and explicitly identifies enabling partners that include knowledge partners
BPMJ Material Flow

23,1 Information Flow

Material and Resource Flows


RETAILERS
Material and Resource Flow • Independents
Information and Financial Flows • Grocery
• Specialty
Material and Resource Flow buyers
Material Flow

ARGO-SUPPLIERS HOTELS/

118 Seeds, Fertiliser,


Pesticide, Weedicides,
etc.
PRODUCERS PROCESSORS WHOLESALERS RESTAURANTS/
OTHER
• Independent
• Quick service
• Institutional
Information Flow Information Flow Information Flow

EXPORT HOUSES/
Information Flow
Information Flow IMPORT HOUSES/
Information Flow Information Flow Material Flow INTERNATIONAL
Material Flow
BUYERS

Material Flow
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Information Flow

LOGISTICS PARTNERS (Warehousing, 3PL, Freighting and shipping)

Information Flow Information and Financial Flows Information Flow

Figure 1.
KNOWLEDGE PARTNERS REGULATORY BODIES
Generic fresh food and • Agricultural extension services
FINANCIAL PARTNERS
• Process compliance
vegetable supply • R&D Institutes
• Banks
• Specialized funding agencies
• Content specification

chain flows • Engineering/equipment firms


• Trade consultants
• Insurance firms
• Traceability
• Labelling

from public research institutes and industry associations, financial partners including
banks, funding agencies and insurance companies as well as regulatory bodies.
In addition to logistics and information flows investigated by various research work
including a simple logistics flow of information, material and resource flows (Stefansson,
2002) and coordination of material flows using a generic SC model (De Boeck and Vandaele,
2008), financial flow is identified as another flow among SC partners (Rai et al., 2006). The
proposed holistic approach to logistics and information flows, as the basis of information
flow model of FFSC not only incorporates information flow but also material, resource and
financial flows among SC partners. It is evident from the proposed framework, based on the
literature review on FFSC, that information flow is a very common flow among most of SC
partners. In addition, the proposed framework of information flow model with other flows
among SC partners, can be used as the basis for investigating current levels of information
sharing among members, challenges and barriers to information sharing and their
importance and relevance for overall SC performance.

5.2 Development of hypotheses on information sharing in FFSC


From a holistic perspective, FFSC partner entities consist of two layers of entities and four
different types of flows including materials, information, finance and resources among these
entities as shown in Figure 1. Information flow which connects enabling partners and
extends beyond the core entities that are connected through the material and resource flow
structure of the SC has been investigated on various aspects, including information
integration and associated information sharing scopes as part of SCI framework
(Alfalla-Luque et al., 2013) and information sharing as a key SC practice within a conceptual
framework of SC practices and food quality performance (Ding et al., 2014), relative effects of
SC information sharing on SC performance (Sezen, 2008). The information sharing matrix
presented in Table III identifies the information needs of FFSC entities. Interestingly, it is
Fresh food
supply chains

119

Table III.
Information needs of
FFSC core entities
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revealed that the same type of information is needed by multiple entities which supports the
viability of a holistic approach to make such information is available and accessible. Three
propositions are developed further testing for the purpose of understanding sustainable
information sharing capabilities.
Understanding specific legal requirements concerning product safety, quality and other
aspects and responding to those requirements by SC entities has been fundamental for
product assurance in the market in the recent times. For fresh food, Regattieri et al. (2007)
identified the presence of several regulatory guidelines including the United Nations
guidelines for consumer protection, US National Institute of Standards and Technology,
Policy on Traceability and EU General Food Law Regulation, etc. for traceability and
quality assurance of food products. While the information flow is mainly uni-directional
from regulatory bodies to firms, the strength of that information flow is vital for operational
sustenance (Delforce et al., 2005). Strong information sharing and the utilization of
information technology are important for an effective traceability system (Regattieri et al.,
2007). Process compliance, content specification, traceability and labelling information
through regulatory bodies can be used as key variables for testing their influence on
decision making for efficient SC practices identified by key elements such as strategic
alliance, customer focus and information quality (Ding et al., 2014). The following
hypothesis: H1 is developed on the effects of information sharing between firms and the
relevant regulatory bodies on effective decision making:
H1. Understanding of the information needs of other FFSC entities positively affects
efficient decision making.
Many previous studies have focussed on SCI (Bagchi et al., 2005; Sun and Ni, 2012) rather
than specific information integration dimension of SCI or the relationships between
individual dimensions/elements of integration that include information integration and the
SC performance. The research on SC performance measurement and improvement lacks
sufficient depth and clarity regarding the linkages that exist between information
integration and SC performance. Thus, further research is needed to answer how linkages
that exist between factors/dimensions (e.g. information sharing, real-time accessibility) of
information integration influence SC performance. Sezen (2008) found that SCI and
information sharing are correlated with SC performance measures; however real-time
accessibility of specific information needs of entities and its effects on SC performance have
not been investigated empirically. Hence, the following hypothesis, H2 is developed:
H2. Real-time availability and accessibility of needed information positively affects SC
performance.
BPMJ Information sharing leads to many operational benefits including reduced lead times
23,1 (Perçin, 2008). If information sharing is motivated by integration-focussed transaction cost
reduction, a wider range of information is likely to be shared where information sharing is
motivated by individualistic transaction cost reduction ( Jraisat et al., 2013). They observed
that higher export performance is seen when information sharing is motivated by
integration-focussed transaction cost reduction (one of the organizational-centric
120 performance measures), leading to accurate estimation of all lead times (procurement,
manufacturing, distribution). This argument leads to the formulation of H3 on the effects of
information sharing on lead-time improvements:
H3. Effective information flow with FFSC entities connected through the material flow
positively affects the overall SC lead-time.
These hypotheses form the basis of testing of the proposed framework of information flow
with other flows in FFSC, in particular relevance of information flows among SC partners
for overall SC performance including the efficient decision-making process, and lead-time
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improvements. Although testing of these hypotheses is beyond the scope of this research,
a comprehensive set of indicators and metrics to evaluate the efficiency of information flows
in SCs include accessibility, interpretability, consistency and timeliness among 13 indicators
presented by Badenhorst et al. (2013) could be useful in a subsequent study.

6. Discussion and conclusion


The objective of this study is to review the current literature on information sharing in FFSC
in order to identify key entities, model the information flow, develop an information matrix
to identify the information needs and synthesize hypotheses for theoretical advancement.
The classification of existing literature revealed the common piecemeal approach with the
focus on limited numbers of echelons of the FFSC. This study takes a holistic approach and
presents an integrated view of the FFSC. The authors have not encountered any other study
that has attempted explicitly to identify the partners of the FFSC, modelling the information
flow among them and their specific information needs.
From a holistic perspective, all key entities of the FFSC have been identified. Primary
actors of agro-suppliers, producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, hotels, restaurants,
export house, import houses and logistics partners have been identified with three main
secondary actors of knowledge partners, financial partners and regulatory bodies. To our
knowledge, no other previous study has explicitly identified these entities. Knowledge
partners contribute with the introduction of new technologies, technology transfer, process
developments, skill development and consultancy services for review and development projects;
they also engage with primary SC actors for the collaborative development of new knowledge.
Financial institutions act as fund sources as well as insurers. It is important to recognize the
presence of regulatory bodies and their influence on the FFSC as concerns about food safety and
quality are clear in the literature (Delforce et al., 2005). Governments have independent agencies
with the focus of formulating standards for the food sector. For example, Food Standards
Australia New Zealand identifies two mandatory standards related to practices, general
requirements, premises and equipment used in order to ensure food safety (FSANZ, 2013).
The information matrix in Table IV provides a detailed view of the relevant information needs
based on the interactions among FFSC core and enabling entities. It is evident that information
needs among FFSC entities are diverse, but are common across multiple entities.
Among the key dimensions of information integration identified in this comprehensive
literature review, information sharing is very prominent in various studies on information
integration in FFSC as summarized in Table I. The value of information sharing depends on the
nature of the SC and the demand characteristics ( Jonsson and Mattsson, 2013). Based
on the typology proposed by Raz (2009), fresh food could be identified as a functional product
Fresh food
From
To Knowledge partners Logistics partners Financial partners Regulatory bodies supply chains
Agro- New and improved Warehousing Subsidies, loan Environmental
suppliers inputs (seeds, fertilizer, facilities available arrangements available regulations
pesticides, etc.) Transportation for producers OHS, HACCP,
options traceability, etc.,
Tracking and regulations 121
traceability
arrangements
Producers New plant varieties Warehousing Subsidies, loan Environmental
Improved crop facilities available arrangements available regulations
husbandry practices Transportation for producers OHS, HACCP,
Improved post- options Currency fluctuations labelling,
harvest storage and Tracking and and exchange risk traceability, etc.,
related technologies traceability management options regulations
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Improved arrangements Insurance options for Government


agricultural plant risk transfer support that can be
and equipment availed of
Improved packaging Export regulations
technologies
Local and
international prices
and future trends
Market information
Processors New processing Warehousing Subsidies, loan Environmental
technologies facilities available arrangements available regulations
Energy saving Transportation for processors OHS, HACCP,
technologies options Currency fluctuations labelling,
New manufacturing Tracking and and exchange risk traceability, etc.,
practices traceability management options regulations
Improved packaging arrangements Insurance options for Government
technologies risk transfer support that can be
Local and availed of
international prices Export regulations
and future trends Import regulations
Market information
Wholesalers Improved packaging Warehousing Currency fluctuations Environmental
technologies facilities available and exchange risk regulations
Improved storage Transportation management options OHS, HACCP,
technologies options Insurance options for labelling,
Local and Tracking and risk transfer traceability, etc.,
international prices traceability regulations
and future trends arrangements Export regulations
Market information Import regulations
Export Improved packaging Warehousing Currency fluctuations Environmental
houses technologies facilities available and exchange risk regulations
Improved storage Transportation management options OHS, HACCP,
technologies options including Insurance options for labelling,
Local and international shipping risk transfer traceability, etc.,
international prices Tracking and regulations
and future trends traceability Export regulations
Market information arrangements Table IV.
Information sharing
between FFSC core
(continued ) and enabling entities
BPMJ
From
23,1 To Knowledge partners Logistics partners Financial partners Regulatory bodies

Retailers Improved packaging Warehousing Subsidies, loan Environmental


technologies facilities available arrangements available regulations
Improved storage Transportation for the retail sector
technologies options Currency fluctuations OHS, HACCP,
122 Local and Tracking and and exchange risk labelling,
international prices traceability management options traceability, etc.,
and future trends arrangements Insurance options for regulations
Market information risk transfer
Restaurants Improved processing Warehousing Subsidies, loan Environmental
technologies facilities available arrangements available regulations
Improved storage Transportation for the hospitality sector OHS, HACCP,
technologies options Currency fluctuations traceability, etc.,
Energy saving Tracking and and exchange risk regulations
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technologies traceability management options


Sanitizing arrangements Insurance options for
technologies risk transfer
Market information
Import Improved packaging Warehousing Currency fluctuations Environmental
houses technologies facilities available and exchange risk regulations
Improved storage Transportation management options OHS, HACCP,
technologies options including Insurance options for labelling,
Local and international risk transfer traceability, etc.,
international prices shipping regulations
and future trends Tracking and Import regulations
Market information traceability
arrangements
International Improved packaging Warehousing Currency fluctuations Environmental
buyers technologies facilities available and exchange risk regulations
Improved storage Transportation management options OHS, HACCP,
technologies options including Insurance options for labelling,
Local and international risk transfer traceability, etc.,
international prices shipping regulations
and future trends Tracking and Export regulations
Market information traceability
Table IV. arrangements

whose SC is either evolving or stable. Beyond uncertainty related to common factors across all
sectors, dealing with global supply of foods under uncertain and dynamic conditions is a
recognized challenge. Global dispersion of FFSC partners and the high interdependence among
them create complex issues. Hence the value of specific type of information could change with the
characteristics of the SC and the information flow model, the information matrix proposed in this
study could be sufficiently flexible and can therefore be tailored to fit with specific conditions.
The availability of advanced applications such as enterprise resource planning,
warehouse management systems, advanced planning and scheduling systems,
transportation management systems, database management and mining, satellite
tracking systems, inter-organizational information technology such as electronic data
interchange, extranets and electronic marketplaces provide the ability to easily share
information (Perçin, 2008; Fawcett et al., 2011). The concept of SCI rests upon the
assumption that collaboration and synchronous decision making takes place within the SC
through the bidirectional flow of voluminous, rich information especially operations and
planning data (Sanders et al., 2011).
The information sharing behaviour of SC entities driven by their own business-level Fresh food
performance objectives raises concerns related to security, privacy, intellectual property, and supply chains
costs and this gives rise to strong disincentives to share information unless the members
in the SC accept that shared information is equally beneficial to them (Perçin, 2008). Some of
the most common barriers to sharing information include high cost and complexity of
information system implementations, systems incompatibility due to lack of industry
standards or inadequate resources among some members of the SC, inefficiencies that arise 123
due to different levels of connectivity along the SC and lack of understanding among managers
of the willingness dimension of information sharing (Fawcett et al., 2007a, b): These barriers
lead to a situation where potentially useful information that could lead to improved SC decision
making, either remains unavailable or not shared. As van der Vorst (2000) observed,
information sharing infrastructure and the reliance on decision makers at organization level
have become major barriers for the FFSC performance improvement through information
sharing. Therefore, a holistic view of information integration with a special focus on
information requirement of FFSC entities has the potential to reveal the current information
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disconnects and misfits that hinder the effective use of information for improved performance.
This paper has implications for the FFSC design. While all SC entities are important for
SCI downstream actors are found to be commonly more dominant than those in the
upstream (Olhager and Selldin, 2004). For FFSC, larger retailers or warehouses in
the downstream are thought of as more influential in the SC design. For example, SC
initiatives by major retailers have been identified as key influences on the food SC in Australia
(Kneebone and Spencer, 2012). The information flow model and the information matrix
developed in this study are useful tools for practitioners in designing efficient and effective
information flow in the FFSC. The SCOR model of the Supply Chain Council (Version 10, 2010)
that provides a framework that links performance metrics, processes, best practices and
people into a unified structure (SCC, 2010) can be used as a basis for generating an information
architecture that can be used to promote information sharing in a FFSC.
To enhance profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of the agriculture and food
sector, dealing with land and water degradation as natural resource challenges, challenges
related to consumer market, international competitiveness, bio-security, SC dynamics,
infrastructure, skills supply, research and development, public perceptions, and sustainability
(DAFF, 2005) are all critical. SC management is important for development and international
competitiveness in agricultural industries (Hobbs et al., 1998); management of information
sharing among the key entities of the SC is essential for efficient and effective integration of
FFSC. The success of government initiatives driven by food security objectives requires an
understanding of the fresh food sector from the holistic perspective. The outcomes of this
study have implications for policymakers on fresh food sector development initiatives.
While the main focus of this study is the generic FFSC more applicable to agri-food
sector, the application of the proposed information flow model and information matrix can
be extended as a guide for the analysis of meat, poultry and fish product SCs in order to
identify the key actors and their specific information needs. The design of a SC needs to be
aligned with the nature of the product it is supporting and the uncertainties associated with
the demand for and the supply of the product (Raz, 2009; Jonsson and Mattsson, 2013).
The nature of the information to be shared therefore depends to a great extent on the generic
SC strategy to be adopted. Jonsson and Mattsson (2013) note that the value of information
sharing depends on whether demand is stationary or non-stationary. For instance, based on
a simulation study they point out that sharing stock-on-hand data is valuable when demand
is stationary while sharing customer forecast and planned order information is valuable
when demand is non-stationary. They also add that with stationary demand, the value of
information sharing is more marked when there are fewer customers, with a larger
proportion of all customers involved in information sharing, and larger order batch sizes
BPMJ (i.e. when the bullwhip effect is significant). While the proposed information flow matrix
23,1 provides an illustration of the types of information flow that could be useful, the specific
information to be shared should be decided based on a sophisticated understanding of the
SC strategy that is being adopted.
Further research should empirically evaluate, analyse and validate the specific
information needs of FFSC entities and the mechanisms available for enabling such
124 information sharing interactions including the role of information technology as an enabler
to facilitate information integration among FFSC entities.

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Further reading
Fawcett, S.E., Wallin, C., Allred, C. and Magnan, G. (2009), “Supply chain information-sharing:
benchmarking a proven path”, Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 16, pp. 222-246.
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measurement”, International Journal of Production Economics, Vol. 87 No. 3, pp. 333-347.
Gunasekaran, A., Patel, C. and Tirtiroglu, E. (2001), “Performance measures and metrics in a supply
chain environment”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 21
Nos 1/2, pp. 71-87.
Kennerley, M. and Neely, A. (2002), “A framework of the factors affecting the evolution of performance
measurement systems”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 22,
pp. 1222-1245.
Kumar, P. and Singh, R.K. (2012), “A fuzzy AHP and TOPSIS methodology to evaluate 3PL in a supply
chain”, Journal of Modelling in Management, Vol. 7, pp. 287-303.
Lee, J., Palekar, U.S. and Qualls, W. (2011), “Supply chain efficiency and security: coordination for
collaborative investment in technology”, European Journal of Operational Research, Vol. 210,
pp. 568-578.
Malhotra, A., Gosain, S. and El Sawy, O.A. (2005), “Absorptive capacity configurations in supply
chains: gearing for partner-enabled market knowledge creation”, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 29 No. 1,
pp. 145-187.
Mondragon, A.E.C., Lyons, A.C., Michaelides, Z. and Kehoe, D.F. (2006), “Automotive supply chain
models and technologies: a review of some latest developments”, Journal of Enterprise
Information Management, Vol. 19, pp. 551-562.

Corresponding author
Dilupa Nakandala can be contacted at: d.nakandala@uws.edu.au

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