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No. 4 (2019)

Customer-driven supply chains: Trends and practices in leading Italian companies

January 15, 2020


This paper aims at understanding whether and to what extent companies are facing the challenge of improving their supply chains according to a customer-driven approach. Although the most recent supply chain management literature developed theoretical reflections and conceptualizations on the need for customer centricity in supply chain management, companies’ practice does not seem to follow these prescriptions and the empirical research highlighted a frequent misalignment between market strategy and supply chain management processes. The aim of this paper is to bridge these two perspectives by answering two research questions. First, how are companies revising their supply chains, that is, what is the nature of the most recent projects concerning supply chain improvements? Second, to what extent are companies that invest in such projects prioritizing those specific projects that make a concrete alignment between market orientation and supply chain operating conditions possible? The paper reports and discusses the findings of an empirical investigation conducted among leading Italian companies or Italian subsidiaries of multinational companies. In particular, a two-step research was conducted, consisting of ten indepth interviews and a survey. According to our study, Italian companies are revising their supply chains to provide prompt availability of the product in different (but coordinated) distribution channels. This led to the launch of projects related to Demand Forecasting and to Omnichannel strategy adoption. However, in most cases, the managerial and technological readiness of companies is not in line with the relevance of the challenges. Another area of improvement concerns projects aimed at adopting up-to-date technologies, mostly connected to the Industry 4.0 paradigm, to improve operational performance. In this case the major opportunities perceived by the companies relate to the adoption of Big Data Analytics in order to better understand market trends.


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