Supply chain visibility and sustainable competitive advantage: An integrated model

  • Shereen Nassar

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Lack of visibility of the assets in a product supply chain compromises attempts to optimise supply chain management. Increasing the visibility of these assets presents a relatively unexplored frontier in operations and supply where organisations can create competitive advantage through the opportunities asset visibility offer. This research aims at investigating the key capabilities of asset visibility specifically those associated with returnable transport assets that travel across supply chains carrying material and products e.g. cages, boxes, trays, trolleys and pallet bins. In addition, how these capabilities may influence supply chain visibility and firm performance in a way that might lead to sustainable competitive advantage is examined. To achieve these objectives, the research develops a two-stage model that is theoretically grounded in the extended resource-based view. Philosophically, the research adopts a critical realist approach using abductive logic. Methodologically, a sequential exploratory strategy for data collection is implemented. A qualitative, indepth site-based case study supported by field expert interviews was conducted as a pilot study. The pilot study findings refined the initial conceptual model derived from literature and informed the next stage of the research. The quantitative phase focused on refining the factors constituting asset visibility capabilities and then testing the relationship between these capabilities and supply chain visibility, performance and sustainable competitive advantage. Key findings are that asset visibility capabilities are shaped through three key capabilities: (1) an asset management capability formed by both core technological aspects related to tracking and tracing technology, and non-technological ones focusing on logistic-related capability; (2) a complementary technological capability comprising of IT infrastructure for supply chain integration; and (3) a complementary nontechnological capability represented through three sub-capabilities: (a) supply chain process integration; (b) focal firm-3PL relational orientation; and (c) internal firm integration. The research findings prove a positive relationship between asset visibility capabilities and supply chain visibility. In addition, a positive relationship between these capabilities and sustainable competitive advantage through the mediated effect of supply chain visibility and firm performance, is confirmed.
Date of Award30 Nov 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorNigel Caldwell (Supervisor), Alistair Brandon-Jones (Supervisor) & Michael Lewis (Supervisor)


  • supply chain visibility
  • RFID
  • sustainable competitive advantage

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