Translating Knowledge Management Practices into the Boundaries of Supply Chain

Translating Knowledge Management Practices into the Boundaries of Supply Chain

Ozlem Bak (University of Brighton, UK)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-348-7.ch018
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This chapter aims to evaluate the application of knowledge management (KM) literature in supply chains. The underlying understanding derived from this evaluation can be used to devise a valid business strategy to encourage knowledge management practices in supply chains. The concept of a supply chain encompasses businesses organised around a common goal of delivering a product or service from the initial supplier to the end customers. In this respect, the importance of knowledge management within the boundaries of supply chain management has been iterated by many authors; some underline the strategic and tactical importance of knowledge management, whereas others focus on the advantages and tools used to create knowledge in supply chains. The difficulty of assessing knowledge management is twofold when considering supply chains–first, the underlying difficulty of locating the trail of knowledge creation in supply chains and secondly how this can be utilised to devise a business strategy. On close examination of the literature in this field, we can identify a salient need for the theoretical categorisation of existing theoretical frameworks of supply chain management (SCM) on KM-related practices. This chapter explicitly looks into three supply chains, namely learning chains, virtual chains and build-to-order supply chains, and the specific challenges that these create for knowledge management and devising a valid business strategy.
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The Use Of Knowledge Management Within Supply Chain Boundaries

Knowledge management has been referred to as the backbone – and in some cases the lifeblood – of the supply chain (Desouza et al., 2003). This notion stems from the boundaries of supply chain which encompass several (sometimes globally dispersed) organisations gathered around delivering a common goal, a product or service. It becomes difficult to assess at what stage, or by which supply chain member, knowledge is generated and how this knowledge can be shared throughout the boundaries of the supply chain because knowledge management caters not only for creating knowledge, but also preserving, using and sharing it (Warkentin et al., 2001). Desouza et al. (2003) argue that a disruption in knowledge in any areas, or in one or more entities of supply chain members, will lead to disruption within the supply chain as a whole. As a result, knowledge management at a tactical and strategic level will increase its importance for a supply chain’s competitiveness.

In a supply chain, the dissemination of knowledge throughout requires knowledge flow from the initial supplier to the end customer. Hence, knowledge management resides within the boundaries of individuals, teams and sometimes in strategic business units of supply chains. The integration – or in other words, synchronisation – of knowledge becomes a difficult task to accomplish. In order to overcome the overstretching boundaries of supply chains (in some cases across different continents) to allow knowledge sharing, supply chains have invested in e-business applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP), Intranet and Extranet tools and others. Although the use of such tools in the literature has been found to be beneficial for knowledge dissemination, there seem to be several underlying challenges despite the use of the aforementioned systems. The challenges associated with knowledge management in the literature can be summed briefly as:

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