Higher demands for a variety of products add not only to the complexity of coordinating a supply chain, but also to the number of freight movements to support those demands. The increased demand for moving materials and goods contributes to higher levels of congestion and pollution during a time when businesses, customers and governments are increasingly concerned with reducing carbon footprints. To this end, new technologies and data capabilities are emerging that can add integrated visibility (monitoring and tracing), efficiency and even sustainability within the supply chain in order to mitigate these issues and cultivate an ever desired competitive advantage.
Companies continuously look for innovative ways to evolve and compete within their dynamic environments. One untapped area that can provide a significant source of competitive advantage is within the complex supplier network and distribution channels; specifically, within the logistics and transportation functions. In an era of increasingly complex supplier network relationships, there is a growing need to connect and automate the extended supply chain between organizations.
Applications of information technologies (IT) are seen as key enablers to mitigate these issues, yet widespread use is not evident between trade partners and transportation providers. Applications of IT enabled systems (i.e. intelligent transportation systems for freight and transportation management systems) and practices (i.e. integrated information sharing and third party provided supply chain and logistics managers) can be used to improve efficiencies, reliability, and reduce carbon effects of freight movements. Benefits derived from the movement of freight can, in turn, benefit the wider supply chain through faster response times and lower holding costs realized from reduced inventories.
Drawing on contingency theory and organizational information processing theory, this research conceptualizes a model to study the relationships between the major constructs (1) External Environmental Pressures, (2) Internal Organizational Environment, (3) IT Enabled Systems and Practices, (4) Transportation Outcomes, and (5) Competitive Advantage of the Supply Chain.
Examining transportation as the link between enterprises in the supply chain is not well understood. This work is expected to open a new area for examining the interfaces between organizations in order to improve overall performance for supply and distribution networks. The development of a reliable instrument to test these relationships will contribute to research and practice. Hypothesized relationships were tested through a combined statistical analysis of primary data collected from 260 transportation providers. By providing researchers with a better understanding of contextual factors that drive organizational technology adoption, it will become easier to identify factors of success for future innovative technology initiatives, particularly pertaining to the transportation and logistics industry.
Moreover, managers are expected to find results from evaluating specific types of IT enabled systems and practices particularly useful as they provide metrics for evaluating investments in those systems and practices based on performance measures for transportation outcomes in efficiency, reliability, responsiveness, quality, carbon emissions reduction, and equipment utilization.
Results indicate that some IT enabled systems and practices, mainly intelligent transportation systems for freight and integrated information sharing, do positively impact transportation outcomes. Other IT enabled systems and practices were found to have weak impacts (i.e. using a transportation management system) or non-significant relationships (i.e. using a third party provided supply chain and logistics manager). Implications for these findings are discussed.
Finally, results indicate a strong relationship between positive transportation outcomes and the competitive advantage of the supply chain network. Thus indicating the importance of utilizing transportation providers to differentiate service offerings and build a competitive advantage for the supply chain. Contributions to research and implications of these results for practice are discussed.