Service firms and their supply chains

We’re familiar with supply chains for products, but what about services?

Should supply chains for the latter be responsive or efficient?

Does the fit between these intangible resources and supply chain characteristics have performance implications?

These are some of the questions that Raveen Menon, a research scholar with the IITB-Monash Research Academy, is seeking to answer as part of his PhD project: Strategic Fit of Service Supply Chains.

“Service firms can deploy several resources like people, machines and tools. However, in order to give themselves a competitive advantage, they have to acquire other sets of intangible resources like knowledge and skills,” says Raveen. “My research uses insights from Strategic Fit concept to identify sources of competitive advantage for service firms. Service Dominant Logic (SDL) views operant resources (knowledge, skills) rather than operand resources (physical resources) as the prime source of competitive advantage for service supply chains. We define supply chain fit as a match between firms’ operant resources and service supply chain characteristics (viz. innovative, efficient and innovative-efficient) that lead to superior firm performance. We hope to validate this framework using survey research, and, with the help of lean management principles, examine the impact of excess operant resources on firm performance.”

Services contribute a significant share to a nation’s economic output. However, research to create a comprehensive framework for the understanding and managing of service supply chains, has been scarce. The strategic management of a service supply chain is largely underdeveloped even though they are considered as the next frontier of competitive advantage.

The theoretical model depicting the relationships of interest

“When you buy a product, it is not just the product you are buying; instead, you buy the services that the product offers. The service dominant logic (SDL) views goods as transmitters of service as opposed to being end products. Goods are mechanisms for service provision,” emphasises Raveen. “The theoretical framework developed in my study has several objectives. Firstly, to develop the concept of strategic fit of service supply chains based on operant resources. Next, to assess its impact on firm performance, and, finally, to identify the sources of competitive advantage for service firms. Our concept of service supply chain fit will aid service firm managers to understand the significance of intangible operant resources for their firm and identify, and explore, these resources to extract their maximum potential for achieving competitive advantage in their market.”

The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a collaboration between India and Australia that endeavours to strengthen scientific relationships between the two countries. Graduate research scholars like Raveen study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay and Monash University, spending time at both institutions to enrich their research experience.

Says Prof Murali Sastry, CEO, IITB-Monash Research Academy, “Once service firms start investing resources to identify sources that can significantly provide a strategic advantage, competition will increase and the ultimate beneficiary will be the consumer. The expected outcomes from Raveen’s research are:
• A framework to classify service supply chains
• A toolkit to assess whether a service firm/supply chain should have a design aimed at agility, efficiency, or some other strategic objective.

We wish him well!

Raveen Menon

Research scholar: Raveen Menon, IITB-Monash Research Academy
Project title: Strategic Fit of Service Supply Chains Based on Operant Resources: A Latent Source of Competitive Advantage
Supervisors: Prof. Tarikere T. Niranjan and Prof. Dayna Simpson
Contact details:



The above story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student, his supervisors, and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.