Supply-Chain Modeling and Analysis

Supply Chain Management

To remain competitive, industrial organizations are continually faced with challenges to reduce product development time, improve product quality, and reduce production costs and leadtimes. Increasingly, these challenges cannot be effectively met by isolated change to specific organizational units, but instead depend critically on the relationships and interdependencies among different organizations (or organizational units). With the movement toward a global market economy, companies are increasingly inclined toward specific, high-value-adding manufacturing niches. This, in turn, increasingly transforms the above challenges into problems of establishing and maintaining efficient material flows along product supply chains. The ongoing competitiveness of an organization is tied to the dynamics of the supply chain(s) in which it participates, and recognition of this fact is leading to considerable change in the way organizations interact with their supply chain partners.

Research Issues

Our research is concerned broadly with (1) the development of techniques and tools that enable modeling and analysis of emerging supply chain management strategies and practices, and (2) application of these tools to understand critical tradeoffs and alternatives in practical decision-making contexts. Our interests span a range of inter-related supply chain management issues:

Approach and Results

We are developing a modeling and simulation environment for analyzing supply-chain management strategies, policies and decisions. We have adopted a decomposable, "autonomous agents" approach to specifying supply chain models; models are defined in terms of constituent supply chain "agents" (e.g., suppliers, buyers, distributors), their structural relationships, interaction protocols and coordination policies. Our approach thus emphasizes construction of models that capture the locality that typically exists with respect to the purview, operating constraints and objectives of individual supply chain entities, and promotes analyses of supply chain performance from a variety of organizational perspectives (e.g., individual nodes, confederated subchains, overall network). From a system development standpoint, our approach aims at flexible and rapid configuration of alternative scenarios. Our implementation perspective is object-oriented, and one goal is to produce class libraries of common model building blocks (e.g., supplier/buyer agents, reordering policies, contractual agreements, information exchange protocols) that can be adapted and reused in different applications.

Our work to date has focused specifically on analyzing the impact of information exchange between suppliers and manufacturers on supply-chain dynamics. One interesting outcome of our initial study was a characterization of situations where individual suppliers must share information to remain competitive.

Recent Publications


Norman Sadeh, Stephen F. Smith, Jay Swaminathan

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