Supply Chain Management – Coordination

Supply Chain Management Revision Article Series

Supply Chain Management – Coordination – Topics

1. Lack of Supply Chain Coordination and the Bullwhip Effect
2. Other Effects of Lack of Supply Chain Coordination on Supply Chain Performance
3. Obstacles to Coordination in a Supply Chain
4. Managerial Levers to Achieve Coordination
5. Building Strategic Partnerships and Trust Within a Supply Chain
6. Achieving Coordination in Practice

Coordination implies actions by various agents in the supply chain that are aimed at increase in total supply chain profits. It also implies that supply chain agents avoid actions that improve their local profits but hurt total profits. Hence supply chain coordination principles requires each stage of the supply chain to take into account the impact its actions have on other stages.

Lack of Supply Chain Coordination and the Bullwhip Effect

A lack of coordination creates “bullwhip effect” in the supply chain. Due to this effect, fluctuations in sales become larger and larger fluctuations in orders at higher stages in the supply chain. This leads to situations wherein large shortages or large surplus capacities are felt in the supply chain cyclically.

Bullwhip effect reduces the profit of a supply chain by making it more expensive to provide a given level of product availability.

In what way bullwhip effect increases costs for the supply chain?

1. In increases manufacturing cost.
2. It increases inventory cost.
3. It increases replenishment lead times.
4. Increases transportation cost.
5. Increases labor cost in shipping and receiving.
    All items of cost increase because excess capacity has to be installed to take care of unnecessary peaks in demand.
6. It reduces product availability due to some orders not getting filled when demand peaks. So some retail outlets may go out of stock.
7. Leads to problems of relationships – every body claims that they have done right. But still there is problem in the supply chain either as unfilled orders or excess inventory not having the order from down stream side.

The main reasons for coordination problems in supply chain are distributed owners of various stages of production & distribution, and product variety.

The fundamental challenge is for supply chains to achieve coordination in spite of multiple ownership and increased product variety.

Obstacles to Coordination in a Supply Chain

What are Obstacles to Coordination in a Supply Chain?

Incentive obstacles
      If a transport manager’s incentive compensation is based on average transport cost, he tries to optimize his incentive objective without considering its effect on other supply chain stages.

      If sales force has incentive for selling to dealers, they push sales to dealers even though there is no sale in the period to customers. This will reduce orders from the dealers in the subsequent periods.

Information processing obstacles

       If each supply stage depends on orders from its previous stage without considering the ultimate sales to the consumer bull whip effect will appear.
Operational obstacles

        Economic batch quantities result in large lot sizes which are released periodically.

Pricing obstacles

        Quantity discounts and sales promotion discounts to dealers create distortions in orders.

Behavioral obstacles

         Each stage of the supply chain thinks locally and it unable to see the effect on the total supply chain and other supply chain stages.

Managerial Levers to Improve Coordination in Supply Chains

Aligning goals and incentives
Improving information accuracy
Improving operational accuracy
Designing pricing strategies to stabilize orders
Building Partnerships and trust
(Source: Chopra and Meindl)

Building Strategic Partnerships and Trust within a Supply Chain

Mutual Trust is a belief that each agent or party is interested in the other’s welfare and would not take actions without considering their impact on the other stage.

Cooperation and trust in a supply chain relationship leads to the following benefits:

1. They are more likely to take  the other party’s objectives into consideration when making decisions.
2. Sharing of information is natural between  parties that trust each other.
3. Operational improvements are easier to implement.
4. Pricing schemes are easier to design if both parties are aiming for common good.
5. Supply chain productivity increases because inspection can be avoided at many steps.

The key steps to be taken in the design of partnership are:

1. Assessing the mutual benefit of the partnership.
2. Identifying operations roles for each party in the partnership.
3. Creating effective contracts
4. Designing effective conflict resolution mechanism

Achieving Coordination in Practice

1. Quantify the bullwhip effect
2. Get top management commitment for coordination
3. Devote resources to coordination
4. Focus on communication with others stages
5. Try to achieve coordination in the entire supply chain network
6. Use technology to improve connectivity in the supply chain
7. Share the benefits of coordination equitably.

Supply Chain Management – Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR)


Sunil Chopra and Peter Meindl, Supply Chain Management: Strategy, Planning and Operations, Prentice Hall, 2001.

Supply Chain Management: Chopra and Meindl – Book Information and Review

What Drives Supply Chain Behavior? HBS Working Knowledge article June 2004

Articles for Further Study – Coordination in Supply Chain

Ring, P.S., and A.H. Van de Ven, “Developmental Processes of Cooperative Interorganizational Relationships,” Academy of Management Review, 19 (1994).

Kumar, N., “The Power of Trust in Manufacturer-Retailer Relationships,” Harvard Business Review (November-Dec 1996), 92-106

Child, John, and David Faulkner, Strategies of Cooperation, Oxford, England, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Mariotti, John L., “The Trust Factor in Supply Chain Management,” Supply Chain Management Review (Spring 1999), 70-77.

Bowersox, Donald J., David J. Closs, and Theodore P. Stank, “21st Century Logistics: Making Supply Chain Integration a Reality,” Supply Chain Management Review (Fall 1999); 44-49.

Balakrishnan, Anantaram, and Geunes, Joseph, “Collaboration and Coordination in Supply Chain Management and E-Commerce,” Production and Operations Management, Spring 2004.

Crum, Colleen, and George E. Palmatier, “Demand Collaboration: What is Holding Us Back?” Supply Chain Management Review (Jan-Feb 2004); 54-61.

Supply Chain Coordination with Revenue-Sharing Contracts: A Missed Opportunity?

Fugate, Brian, Sahin, Funda,and Mentzer, John T., “SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT COORDINATION MECHANISMS,” Journal of Business Logistics, 2006

Qing Zhang, Essentials for Information Coordination in Supply Chain Systems, Asian Social Science, October 2008.
Presentation Slides

Partnerships in the Supply Chain

Links to be given to above two references

Supply Chain Management – Revision Notes of All Chapters based on Chopra and Meindl’s Book

Knol Number – 1381

Updated 28 July 2019,  2 May 2019. 11 April 2015, 21 March 2013