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Agile Supply Chain Management in the UK Fashion Sector

Purvis, Laura


Laura Purvis


More demanding customers and the globalisation of both markets and production have led to companies nowadays facing a highly volatile and uncertain environment. In this environment, the ability to react to environmental uncertainty is key for competitiveness. Long lead times and high levels of stock have higher and higher risks associated with and, as a result, producing just-in-time to customer specifications has become the key to succeeding in the market place. Efficient supply chains often become uncompetitive because they don’t adapt to changes in the structures of markets. In this context, the area of agile supply chain management has gained increasing attention over the past few decades. It focuses on increasing the speed and flexibility of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision of product and service packages required by end customers.

If extensive research has been previously conducted on various aspects of agility, the majority of previous studies focus on consumer acceptance of the strategy and not on operational issues. Building on this weakness, this thesis aims to construct a framework of agile supply chain management practices and, through two case studies, investigate the interactions between its components. The UK fashion sector was chosen as the focus of this research, due to its high levels of demand volatility. It also presents a set of challenges, as the high levels of globalization that characterises the sector and the complexity of the supply networks operated by fashion retailers, have previously been identified as barriers to responsiveness.

The thesis’ main findings are threefold. First, due to the fact that traditional supply chains are either too complex and cost-laden to distribute low-cost products effectively or too asset-intensive and inflexible to quickly harness and deploy innovation, companies need to build ‘fit-for-purpose’ supply chain networks. This involves configuring supply networks in a tailored fashion to deliver innovation and responsiveness for premium brands and high efficiency for mass value products. Second, through high levels of process integration companies should accelerate the innovation process so that new products and promotions can be introduced into stores more cheaply and quickly. They should also reinvent the value chain by reconfiguring operations to radically cut costs and proactively meet customer demands. Third, to enable high levels of agility in a global sourcing context through rapid supply systems reconfiguration, new supply chain structures and actors, such as trade agents / intermediaries, need to be involved.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Sep 28, 2010
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Public URL
Contract Date Sep 28, 2010
Award Date 2010-03


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