The development of a lean, agile and leagile supply network taxonomy based on differing types of flexibility
The paper explores the meaning of flexibility in the context of lean, agile and leagile supply networks and articulates a supply network flexibility framework. Two key ‘sources’ of flexibility are investigated: vendor flexibility and sourcing flexibility. The paper introduces an extension of the ‘leagility’ concept beyond the simple material flow decoupling point concept. Two new types of leagility are put forward: (1) leagile with vendor flexibility systems, which combine the use of agile vendors with lean sourcing practices and (2) leagile with sourcing flexibility systems, which combine the use of lean vendors with agile sourcing practices. Case studies of two UK based specialist fashion retailers’ supply networks are presented in order to gain insights into the sourcing strategies used and the sources of flexibility employed by retailers at supply network level. A new taxonomy that dynamically links vendor and sourcing flexibility with lean, agile and leagile supply network strategies is proposed. We suggest that the proposed taxonomy can be used as a guideline for firms designing and managing parallel supply pipelines that match different operating environments. The findings add to the understanding of the ways in which the two sources of supply network flexibility (vendor and sourcing) interact in practice and provide evidence of the ways in which companies can strike balances between these sources, as well as the effects that can be achieved and some of the trade-offs involved.
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