Developing a Consensus Definition of Supply Chain Management: A Qualitative Study

Document Type



Published by Emerald Group Publishing Ltd. in the International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, volume 39 issue 8, 2009. Bryant users may access this article here.


Qualitative research; Supply chain management; Research work


Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.

Publication Source

International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management


Purpose – Without the adoption of a uniform agreed upon definition of supply chain management (SCM), researchers and practitioners will not be able to “advance the theory and practice” of the discipline. An integrated definition of SCM would greatly benefit researchers’ efforts to study the phenomenon of SCM and those practitioners attempting to implement SCM. This paper aims to address these issues.

Design/methodology/approach – Using the qualitative analysis software NVivo, this study examines 166 definitions of SCM that have appeared in the literature to determine important components of an integrated definition of SCM.

Findings – Three broad themes of SCM are identified, including: activities; benefits; and constituents/components. An encompassing definition of SCM is developed from the qualitative analysis of these definitions.

Research limitations/implications – While a large number of SCM definitions have been included in the research design, there may be additional definitions that are excluded given the very large number of SCM publications.

Practical implications – A consensus definition of SCM will allow researchers to more precisely develop theory and practitioners to identify the scope and boundaries of SCM.

Originality/value – This paper is the first attempt to include a large number of SCM definitions for the purpose of developing a consensus definition of the concept. Previous literature has included only a subset of published SCM definitions