James Aitken

Professor James Aitken


Professor in Operations Management
+441483684310
Student Feedback & Consultation hours. Please email me to arrange a face-to-face or online meeting

About

Areas of specialism

Operations and supply chain management focusing on resilience, complexity and sustainability

University roles and responsibilities

  • Head of Department for Business Transformation (2015-2022)
  • Head of Department for operations and MIS (2009-2012)
  • Head of Department for Operations, MIS, International Business and Strategy 2012-2014

    My qualifications

    1998
    PhD
    Cranfield University
    1989
    MBA
    Strathclyde University

    Previous roles

    1986 - 1994
    Manufacturing, logistics and purchasing
    Philips Lighting
    1995 - 2003
    Managing Director for three businesses involved in the electronics , construction and lighting sectors
    Interim Barwell Ltd, Celluform and Concord Lighting
    2007 - 2013
    Partner in consultancy firm
    Muradi LLP
    2003 - 2006
    Management consultant
    SAP

    Affiliations and memberships

    Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport
    Member of CILT
    Higher Education Academy (HEA)
    Senior Fellow of HEA
    Fellow
    Foundation for Management Education

    Business, industry and community links

    Surrey County Council
    County council operating in Surrey
    Tilda Limited
    Food sector business

    Research

    Research interests

    Supervision

    Postgraduate research supervision

    Teaching

    Publications

    Zahra Shirgholami, Rosanna Cole, James Aitken (2024)Shifting the perspective on labor exploitation: Non- commercial organizations' contribution toward supply chain governance, In: Journal of Supply Chain Management Wiley

    Labor exploitation persists within global supply chains regardless of governmental legislation, private governance mechanisms, and increasing consumer demands. Notably, non-commercial organizations have been lauded as potential facilitators of improvements in labor standards through their capability to influence supply chain actors. Through an analysis of 45 semi-structured interviews across three cases, this research provides rich evidence of non-commercial organizations' contribution to governance linked to the persistence of labor exploitation. The findings reveal that the constraining factors of change capabilities of non-commercial organizations are (1) recognition of their limitations to enact improvements when their organizations are positioned in a heterogeneous supply chain context, (2) lack of a level playing field that provides a fair competitive environment to improve labor standards, and (3) labor deregulation. Similarly, the complex situation faced by non-commercial organizations created dilemmas that hindered progress in addressing labor exploitation. Governance inertia is an overarching issue that circumscribes the ambitions of non-commercial organizations to enhance labor standards. This research emphasizes the issues and challenges that constrain these uniquely placed organizations in facilitating positive change in global apparel supply chains.

    James Aitken, Eric Deakins, Heather Skipworth, Rosanna Cole (2024)Temporal Perceptions and Tensions in Production Management, In: European management journal Elsevier

    This study, through conducting a micro-level analysis of temporal dimensions, identified divergent temporalities between managers, who establish temporal practices, and operators who work within the established norms. Data collected from three organizations experiencing production-related temporal operating tensions were triangulated across a survey, semi-structured interviews, observations and supported by secondary data. Four temporal operating tensions, that reflect gaps between managerial and operator temporal understandings, were identified; Efficiency versus Effectiveness; Process Standardization versus Process Improvement; Synchronization versus Autonomy; and Control versus Flexibility. This research identifies resulting temporal operating tensions and potential mitigation approaches at the junction of managerial practices and operator activities, illustrating the importance of understanding tensions at the micro-level. 

    Tillmann Boehme, Joshua Fan, Thomas Birtchnell, James Aitken, Neil Turner, Eric Deakins (2023)Social enterprise housing supply chains for resource-constrained communities: a complexity lens approach, In: Supply chain management Emerald

    Purpose Delivering housing to resource-constrained communities (RCCs) is a complex process beset with difficulties. The purpose of this study is to use a complexity lens to examine the approach taken by a social enterprise (SE) in Australia to develop and manage a housebuilding supply chain for RCCs. Design/methodology/approach The research team used a longitudinal case study approach from 2017 to 2022, which used mixed methods to understand the phenomenon and gain an in-depth understanding of the complex issues and problem-solving undertaken by an SE start-up. Findings Balancing mission logic with commercial viability is challenging for an SE. The supply chain solution that evolved accommodated the particulars of geography and the needs of many stakeholders, including the end-user community and government sponsors. Extensive and time-consuming socialisation and customisation led to a successful technical design and sustainable supply chain operation. Practical implications Analysing supply chain intricacies via a complexity framework is valuable for scholars and practitioners, assisting in designing and developing supply chain configurations and understanding their dynamics. Meeting the housing construction needs of RCCs requires the SE to place societal focus at the centre of the supply chain rather than merely being a system output. The developed business model complements the engineering solution to empower a community-led housing construction supply chain. Originality/value This longitudinal case study contributes to knowledge by providing rich insights into the roles of SEs and how they develop and operate supply chains to fit with the needs of RCCs. Adding a contextual response dimension to an established complexity framework helped to explain how hybrid organisations balance commercial viability demands with social mission logic by amending traditional supply chain and governance practices. The case provides insights into supply chain configuration, needed changes and potential impacts when an SE as a focal actor inserts into a traditional for-profit construction supply chain.

    Rosanna Cole, James Aitken (2019)The role of intermediaries in establishing a sustainable supply chain, In: Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management Elsevier Ltd

    In sustainable supply chain management, buyers may use intermediaries to bridge exchanges with suppliers when knowledge of suitable sustainability practices is weak and in need of facilitation. Understanding how supply chain intermediaries perform this role and what happens when intermediation is no longer needed is important in establishing more sustainable supply chains. Two supply chain intermediaries have been investigated with the resulting case study evidence analysed using the Gioia methodology. The findings suggest supply chain intermediaries add value to the buyer-supplier exchange by facilitating sustainability-related information transfer, knowledge development, risk management and improved capabilities. For example, specific practices such as corrective action reports, often managed by the intermediary, underpin the development of a sustainable supply chain. When the intermediary is no longer needed, they become disintermediated from the specific buyer-supplier exchange but may be re-employed in a new triadic relationship in the future with previous parties. This provides positive spill-over effects through intermediation–disintermediation–post-inter-mediation cycles for both the buyer and supplier populations and for broader society. Overall, the findings highlight the value of the transient position of supply chain intermediaries in establishing sustainable supply chains and the intended consequences of their involvement.

    Robert B. Handfield , JAMES AITKEN, Neil Turner, Tillmann Boehme, Cecil Bozarth (2022)Assessing Adoption Factors for Additive Manufacturing: Insights from Case Studies, In: Logistics MDPI6(2)36 MDPI

    Background: Research on Additive Manufacturing [AM] provides few guidelines for successful adoption of the technology in different market environments. This paper seeks to address this gap by developing a framework that suggests market attributes for which the technology will successfully meet a need. We rely on classical technology adoption theory to evaluate the challenges and opportunities proffered by AM. Methods: We apply a framework of technology adoption and assess these parameters using seven case studies of businesses that have successfully adopted AM technology. Results: We find that successful business adoption is highly associated with the relative advantage of AM to rapidly deliver customized products targeted to niche market opportunities. Conclusions: Our findings provide a decision framework for AM equipment manufacturers to employ when evaluating AM technology across various market environments. All five adoption characteristics were found to be important however, the primary decision criterion is based on the relative advantage of AM over other, traditional, technologies. From a practitioner perspective, our research highlights the importance of AM in attaining a competitive advantage through responsive, customized production which can address the needs of niche markets.

    JAMES AITKEN, Tillmann Boehme, Neil Turner, Robert Handfield (2021)Covid-19 response of an additive manufacturing cluster in Australia, In: Supply chain management Emerald

    Purpose – The sudden arrival of Covid-19 severely disrupted the supply chain of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Australia. This research examines the development of a geographical cluster which, through the application of additive manufacturing (AM), responded to the PPE supply crisis. Design/Methodology/approach - This longitudinal case study focuses on an AM cluster which was developed to supply PPE in a responsive and flexible manner from 2019/ 2020. The study gathered data over three stages of cluster evolution: pre, during and post peak Covid-19. Findings – The type and nature of exchanges between organizations involved in the cluster established important insights into success factors for cluster creation and development. Using an established complexity framework, we identified the characteristics of establishing a cluster. The importance of cluster alignment created initially by a common PPE supply goal led to an emerging commercial and relational imperative to address the longer-term configuration after the disruption. Originality/value – Covid-19 has rapidly and unexpectedly disrupted the supply chain for many industries. Responding to challenges, businesses will investigate different pathways to improve their overall resilience including on-/ near-shoring. Our results provide insights into how clusters are formed, grow, and develop, and the differentiating factors that result in successful impacts of clusters on local economies. Practical Implications – Clusters can be a viable option for a technology-driven sector when there is “buzz” that drives and rapidly diffuses knowledge to support cluster formation. This research identifies the structural, socio-political and emergent dimensions, which need to be considered by stakeholders when aiming at improving competitiveness using clusters.

    Wolfgang Garn, James Aitken, Roger Schmenner (2020)Smoothly Pass the Parcel: Implementing the Theory of Swift, Even Flow, In: ResearchGate

    This research examines the application of the Theory of Swift, Even Flow (TSEF) by a distribution company to improve the performance of its processes for parcels. TSEF was deployed by the company after experiencing improvement fatigue and diminishing returns from the time and effort invested. The fatigue was resolved through the deployment of swift, even flow and the adoption of "focused factories". The case study conducted semi-structured interviews, mapped the parcel processes and applied Discrete Event Simulation (DES). From this study we not only documented the value of TSEF as a strategic tool but we also developed insights into the challenges that the firm encountered when utilising the concept. DES confirmed the feasibility of change and its cost savings. This research demonstrates DES as tool for TSEF to stimulate management thinking about productivity

    Purpose: The paper aims to explain the role of supply chain capital (SCC) in developing transformative supply chain resilience (SCRes) to cope with environmental dynamism. Through a panarchy theory lens, this paper holistically examines how supply chains and their resilience are impacted by the multilevel structure in which they are embedded. Method: Contextualised explanation-building case studies are used to examine the transformative SCRes of 10 companies. Data were collected via interviews, documents, archival records and observations. Findings: Studying transformative SCRes leads to generating insights into the application of SCC for managing environmental dynamisms at the organisational and supply chain levels. Furthermore, the linkages between different levels of the panarchy and their impact on the change in SCC to cope with the dynamisms are identified and explained. Theoretical contribution: The paper contributes to the new and timely paradigm of transformative SCRes by studying this phenomenon in a holistic manner (rather than a traditional reductionistic view). Through a panarchy lens, the need to examine and analyse different hierarchy levels simultaneously to interpret SCRes responses to environmental dynamism is highlighted. Practical implications: Valuable insights are provided to practitioners in developing an understanding of structural and relational SCC and their management in the development of transformative SCRes. Originality: This paper is one of the first empirical studies using a multilevel social-ecological-based panarchy framework in the supply chain management context. Applying this novel approach is highly relevant and reveals several new research opportunities.

    P Childerhouse, J Aitken, DR Towill (2002)Analysis and design of focused demand chains, In: JOURNAL OF OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT20(6)PII S0272-pp. 675-689 ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV
    Mattias Thurer, Mark Stevenson, James Aitken, Cristovao Silva (2020)State-Dependent Service Rates in Make-to-Order Shops: An Assessment by Simulation, In: Operations Management Research Springer Verlag

    Most literature on make-to-order shops assumes that service rates are independent of the system state. In practice however, the service rate is often dependent on the workload level experienced by the worker. While a body of knowledge on state-dependent service rates exists, the available literature has not given sufficient attention to make-to-order shops, which are often characterized by complex routings and defined due dates, which means delivery performance becomes a major concern. This study uses simulation to assess the performance impact of state-dependent service rates under different degrees of routing directedness. We show that including information on the load upstream of a station when making service rate adjustments has the potential to improve performance compared to considering the load directly queuing at a station only, as has been the case in previous research on state-dependent service rates. Moreover, using the same threshold to trigger service rate adjustments at each station in shops with directed routings leads to higher service rates at upstream stations. This service rate imbalance can be avoided by using different triggering thresholds for upstream and downstream stations. Further, and most importantly, we show that although speeding up behavior during high load periods significantly improves performance, if worker fatigue leads to a decrease in the service rate in response to the initial increase then performance may in fact deteriorate.

    Rosie Cole, Mark Stevenson, James Aitken (2019)Blockchain Technology: Implications for operations and supply chain management, In: Supply Chain Management : an International Journal24(4)pp. pp 469-483 Emerald

    Purpose: To encourage the study of blockchain technology from an Operations and Supply Chain Management (OSCM) perspective, identifying potential areas of application; and to provide an agenda for future research. Approach: An explanation and analysis of blockchain technology is provided to identify implications for the field of OSCM. Findings: The hype around the opportunities that digital ledger technologies offer is high. For OSCM, a myriad of ways in which blockchain could transform practice are identified, including: enhancing product safety and security; improving quality management; reducing illegal counterfeiting; improving sustainable supply chain management; advancing inventory management and replenishment; reducing the need for intermediaries; impacting new product design and development; and, reducing the cost of supply chain transactions. The immature state of practice and research surrounding blockchain means there is an opportunity for OSCM researchers to study the technology in its early stages and shape its adoption. Research implications: The paper provides a platform for new research that addresses gaps in knowledge and advances the field of OSCM. A research agenda is developed around six key themes. Practical implications: There are many opportunities for organisations to obtain an advantage by making use of blockchain technology ahead of the competition, enabling them to enhance their market position. But it is important that managers examine the characteristics of their products, services and supply chains to determine whether they need or would benefit sufficiently from the adoption of blockchain. Moreover, it is important that organisations build human capital expertise that allows them to develop, implement, and exploit applications of this technology to maximum reward. Originality: The first paper in a leading international OSCM journal to analyse blockchain technology thereby complementing a recent article on digital supply chains that omitted blockchain.

    Rosanna Cole, James Aitken (2019)Selecting suppliers for socially sustainable supply chain management: Post-exchange supplier development activities as pre-selection requirements, In: Production Planning & Control30(14)pp. 1184-1202 Taylor & Francis

    The aim of this paper is to provide an understanding of how the supplier selection process used by buying organisations to establish socially sustainable supply chains has evolved from the traditional purchasing function. Through the application of a socially responsible purchasing (SRP) approach, organisations are attempting to address the challenges of selecting appropriate suppliers to engage with. To achieve SRP, behavioural agency attributes were found to complement traditional agency forms of governance from the start of the process. Through the use of an exploratory case study approach, three focal (purchasing) firms pursuing a strong sustainability agenda, and two supply chain intermediary organisations were investigated. The results show that supplier development activities previously positioned post-selection, are now performed at the pre-selection stage, moving them to the beginning of the process. Suppliers must now demonstrate commitment to sustainability through implementing improvements highlighted in corrective action reports at the pre-selection point before any financial transactions occur. The movement of post-selection supplier development activities to the pre- selection stage, to align sustainability goals and reduce risk, is a significant finding of this paper that purchasing personnel and suppliers should consider in the establishment of a socially sustainable supply chain.

    J Aitken, A Harrison (2013)Supply Governance Structures for Reverse Logistics Systems, In: International Journal of Operations and Production Management33(6)pp. 745-764 Emerald

    Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the changes in governance structures that evolved as reverse logistics systems were developed. The UK car crash repair sector was used as a case study. Design/methodology/approach The value‐chain governance framework proposed by Gereffi et al. was used to assess changes in governance systems as firms developed a reverse logistics flow and three transactional variables were used to determine how supply chains are governed and change. Both forward and reverse product flows for two supply chains were assessed to determine what changes in governance of the supply chain took place as reverse logistics operations developed. Findings The authors' analysis documents how relationships between the focal firm and other supply chain members altered as the new reverse logistic system developed. The modular governance structure that developed through increased supplier capability coupled with higher levels of knowledge and information codifications were shown to be important factors in the establishment of a reverse logistics system. Supplier capability, knowledge codification and transaction complexity were found to be moderating variables which can enrich the traditional models on buyer‐supplier relationships based on trust and ongoing commitment. Practical implications Reverse logistics continues to be a major issue for business. Our findings provide an insight into some of the governance and knowledge management developments as focal firms respond to growing pressures to re‐use materials and parts. In total, six factors were identified which can assist firms in assessing their current governance structures and the development of a pathway for implementation of reverse logistics. Originality/value Little research has been conducted into supply chain governance structures needed to manage the new reverse logistics systems for the re‐use, recycling and repair of products.

    James Aitken, A Esain, S Williams, K Maneesh (2015)Reverse Exchange: Classifications for Public Service SCM, In: Supply Chain Management – an International Journal21(2)pp. 216-227 Emerald Group Publishing

    Purpose: To identify reverse flows and exchanges that support public service provision. Reverse flow literature has focused on manufacturing based supply chains utilising the lens of exchange (Recovery, Reuse, Repair, Recycle) to gain performance improvement in product flows. Limited research is available to support an understanding of customer derived reverse exchange (RE) service processes. We contribute to the service literature through the development of RE antecedents; derive new and revised definitions and the supporting constructs of RE service processes. Design/Methodology/Approach: This paper synthesises literature creating a framework of antecedents for RE. Antecedents reflect differences of service flow (level of service inseparability and ‘acting upon’). These antecedents are empirically tested within an illustrative pre-existing UK healthcare case study against the synthesised antecedents and existing RE definitions. Two teams of researchers reviewed the data generated from public service supply chain processes. Definitions of RE were either revised or derived from the empirical data by each team. Findings: The service concept of ‘acting upon’ for inseparable public service supply chain flows provides a basis for examining the existence of reverse flows and exchanges. Revised and new classifications to the RE model are proposed to stimulate contextual performance improvement and innovation in public service provision. Psychological utility is an additional feature to economic, environmental and social utility in public service RE. RE offers practitioners and academics a strategic operational competence to achieve improvement and innovation in public services and further advance this concept. Originality/Value: Extending the literature beyond the manufacturing derived RE concept to develop an understanding of the customer’s role in preserving and co-creating value in RE and flows in public service. New RE antecedents for public services, including the potential of psychological utility, are presented.

    N Turner, James Aitken, C Bozarth (2018)A framework for understanding managerial responses to supply chain complexity, In: International Journal of Operations & Production Management38(6)pp. 1433-1466 Emerald

    Purpose: In this paper we examine the nature of supply chain complexity and extend this with literature developed within the project domain. We use the lens of ambidexterity (the ability both to exploit and explore) to analyse responses to complexity, since this enables us to understand the application of known solutions in conjunction with innovative ones to resolve difficulties. This research also seeks to investigate how managers respond to supply chain complexities that can either be operationally deleterious or strategically beneficial. Design/Methodology/Approach: We develop a descriptive framework based on the project management literature to understand response options to complexity, and then use interviews with supply chain managers in six organizations to examine the utility of this framework in practice. We ask the research question ‘How do managers in supply chains respond to complexities?’ Findings: The case study data show first that managers faced with structural, socio-political, or emergent supply chain complexities use a wide range of responses. Second, over a third of the instances of complexity coded were actually accommodated, rather than reduced, by the study firms, suggesting that adapting to supply chain complexity in certain instances may be strategically appropriate. Third, the lens of ambidexterity allows a more explicit assessment of whether existing project management solutions can be considered or if novel methods are required to address supply chain complexities. Practical Implications: The descriptive framework can aid managers in conceptualising and addressing supply chain complexity. Through exploiting current knowledge, managers can lessen the impact of complexity while exploring other innovative approaches to solve new problems and challenges that evolve from complexity growth driven by business strategy. Originality/value: This study addresses a gap in the literature through the development of a framework which provides a structure on ways to address supply chain complexity. We evaluate an existing project complexity concept and demonstrate that it is both applicable and valuable in non-project, on-going operations. We then extend it using the lens of ambidexterity, and develop a framework that can support practitioners in analysing and addressing both strategically necessary supply complexities, together with unwanted, negative complexities within the organization and across the supply chain.

    J Aitken, A Murray (2010)Crash repair in the UK: reusing salvaged parts in car repair centres, In: International Journal of Logistics Research and Application13(5)pp. 359-372 Taylor and Francis

    The reuse of salvaged parts from vehicles deemed to be at the end of their life is viewed as an opportunity by insurers and crash repair firms to reduce rectification costs and improve service to policy holders. This research investigates the opportunities and challenges that confront an important but under-researched part of the automotive supply chain in establishing a reverse logistics flow of salvaged parts. The aim of this paper is to explore why the development of a reverse logistics system for the reuse of salvaged parts has not been successful in the UK yet flourishes in North America and Europe. Through answering this question, the paper seeks to provide a framework for managing the development of a partial closed-loop reverse logistics system for salvaged parts. Economic and ecological benefits are identified as potential outcomes. The implications for practice and further research are discussed.

    Wolfgang Garn, James Aitken (2015)Agile factorial production for a single manufacturing line with multiple products, In: L Peccati (eds.), European Journal of Operational Research245(3)pp. 754-766 Elsevier

    Industrial practices and experiences highlight that demand is dynamic and non-stationary. Research however has historically taken the perspective that stochastic demand is stationary therefore limiting its impact for practitioners. Manufacturers require schedules for multiple products that decide the quantity to be produced over a required time span. This work investigated the challenges for production in the framework of a single manufacturing line with multiple products and varying demand. The nature of varying demand of numerous products lends itself naturally to an agile manufacturing approach. We propose a new algorithm that iteratively refines production windows and adds products. This algorithm controls parallel genetic algorithms (pGA) that find production schedules whilst minimizing costs. The configuration of such a pGA was essential in influencing the quality of results. In particular providing initial solutions was an important factor. Two novel methods are proposed that generate initial solutions by transforming a production schedule into one with refined production windows. The first method is called factorial generation and the second one fractional generation method. A case study compares the two methods and shows that the factorial method outperforms the fractional one in terms of costs.

    James Aitken, C Bozarth, Wolfgang Garn (2016)To eliminate or absorb supply chain complexity: A conceptual model and case study, In: Supply Chain Management21(6)pp. 759-774 Emerald Group Publishing Limited

    Existing works in the supply chain complexity area have either focused on the overall behavior of multi-firm complex adaptive systems (CAS) or on listing specific tools and techniques that business units (BUs) can use to manage supply chain complexity, but without providing a thorough discussion about when and why they should be deployed. This research seeks to address this gap by developing a conceptually sound model, based on the literature, regarding how an individual BU should reduce versus absorb supply chain complexity. This research synthesizes the supply chain complexity and organizational design literature to present a conceptual model of how a BU should respond to supply chain complexity. We illustrate the model through a longitudinal case study analysis of a packaged foods manufacturer. Regardless of its type or origin, supply chain complexity can arise due to the strategic business requirements of the BU (strategic) or due to suboptimal business practices (dysfunctional complexity). Consistent with the proposed conceptual model, the illustrative case study showed that a firm must first distinguish between strategic and dysfunctional drivers prior to choosing an organizational response. Furthermore, it was found that efforts to address supply chain complexity can reveal other system weaknesses that lie dormant until the system is stressed. The case study provides empirical support for the literature-derived conceptual model. Nevertheless, any findings derived from a single, in-depth case study require further research to produce generalizable results. The conceptual model presented here provides a more granular view of supply chain complexity, and how an individual BU should respond, than what can be found in the existing literature. The model recognizes that an individual BU can simultaneously face both strategic and dysfunctional complexity drivers, each requiring a different organizational response. We are aware of no other research works that have synthesized the supply chain complexity and organizational design literature to present a conceptual model of how an individual business unit (BU) should respond to supply chain complexity. As such, this paper furthers our understanding of supply chain complexity effects and provides a basis for future research, as well as guidance for BUs facing complexity challenges.

    LA Dennis, M Fisher, JM Aitken, SM Veres, Y Gao, A Shaukat, G Burroughes (2014)Reconfigurable Autonomy, In: KI - Künstliche Intelligenz28(3)pp. 199-207 Springer Berlin Heidelberg

    This position paper describes ongoing work at the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield and Surrey in the UK on developing hybrid agent architectures for controlling autonomous systems, and specifically for ensuring that agent-controlled dynamic reconfiguration is viable. The work outlined here forms part of the Reconfigurable Autonomy research project.

    J Aitken, P Childerhouse, DR Towill (2009)Value Stream Classification, In: Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management20(4)pp. 460-474
    JAMES AITKEN, Ann Esain, Sharon Williams (2020)Management of Complexity in the Care Ecosystem, In: Supply Chain Management

    Purpose - Managing complexity within care ecosystems is an increasing universal challenge. In health this is emphasised by recent calls for greater care integration to achieve service improvement as levels of comorbidity and frailty row within populations. This research takes a service dominant logic (SDL) stance in examining the sources, types and nature of complexity within a care ecosystem in the UK Design. Methodology/approach - This illustrative case research focuses on a community care ecosystem. A multi-method approach is employed combining semi-structured interviews, descriptive statistics and secondary data. The results were independently assessed and validated by participants through a second interview phase. Findings - The findings from this research provide empirical support for the six complexities discussed in the supply chain literature. Identifying these complexities proffers the opportunity of applying manufacturing derived complexity management strategies in care ecosystems. The conceptual model for institutional complexity, derived from the illustrative case study, showed that care professionals face additional complexity challenges in operating care ecosystems. Practical Implications – The management of complexity in care ecosystems requires professionals to be considerate of institutional arrangements when addressing the consequences of increasing levels of complexity. This necessitates the development of a balanced approach between reducing complexity while absorbing institutional arrangements which minimise risk. Originality/value – Drawing on the supply chain complexity literature, the paper has developed a framework which guides care professionals facing increasing levels of complexity within the context of their institutional arrangements. As such, this research furthers our understanding of supply chain complexity effects in care ecosystems and provides a platform for future research.

    Sharon Williams, Zoe Radnor, JAMES AITKEN, Ann Esain, Olga Matthias (2021)Transferring, Translating and Transforming knowledge: The role of brokering in healthcare networks, In: Journal of Health Organisation and Management Emerald

    This research examines how knowledge and information is managed within two care networks. We develop a conceptual framework drawing on the notion of brokering and the 3T framework, which is used to describe the relative complexity of boundaries (referred to in the framework as syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic) as well as capabilities and processes required to exchange information within the network. Previous research on brokering has focused on healthcare managers and professionals this research extends to patients and caregivers. Understanding knowledge exchange and brokering practices in healthcare is critical to the delivery of effective services. For this case research non-participant observation and experienced-based interviews were undertaken with healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers within two care networks. Our findings reveal brokering roles occupied by healthcare professionals, patients and caregivers support the transfer, translation and transformation of knowledge and information across functional and organisational boundaries. Enablers and disablers to brokering and the exchange of knowledge and information are also identified. The study is limited to two care networks for long term conditions within the UK. Further research opportunities exist to examine similar care networks that extend across professional and organisational boundaries. This research informs healthcare professionals of the brokering capabilities that occur within networks and the enabling and disabling factors to managing knowledge across boundaries. This paper provides a conceptual framework that categorises how increased levels of knowledge and information exchange and brokering practices are managed within care networks.

    Claire F. Lindsay , JAMES AITKEN (2022)Using Programme Theory to evaluate Lean interventions in healthcare, In: Production planning & control Taylor and Francis

    Lean in healthcare has continued to attract practitioner and research interest over the past two decades yet lacks evidence of sustained application. This longitudinal case study examines Lean healthcare interventions through the lens of Programme Theory, to provide an understanding of the design and implementation of a Lean programme. Through a qualitative single case study of an NHS organisation implementing Lean, content analysis of 70 reports from a six-year period was undertaken and supported by interview data from 12 respondents involved in Lean initiatives. Through Programme Theory, we identify contextual moderators, internal and external, informing the design and development of Lean efforts. The key to successful and sustained Lean efforts is staff acceptance of the Programme Theory for delivering and maintaining outcomes. This has been identified as a key social determinant for Lean sustainability. Results from the research provide practical implications for designing a programme that accommodates resource challenges while incorporating multiple contextual drivers. The case study highlights an organization’s Lean journey and the best practices that evolved; however, further longitudinal investigations are required to validate the findings.

    J Aitken, E Todeva (2011)Co-Alignment of Supply Chain Strategies and the Knowledge Outcomes for Buyer-Supplier Network Relationships, In: 44th Annual (HICCS) Hawaii International Conference on System Sciencepp. 1-12

    We investigate the relational dynamics in supply chains focused on three questions. The first question relates to the initial strategic choices of suppliers; the second relates to the impact of interactions between buyers and suppliers, or how suppliers manage buyer's initiative; the third relates to the pre-requisites to forming successful supplier networks such as the enablers and inhibitors factors to strategic integration of the supply chain, or other context factors affecting suppliers networks. This paper builds upon business network theory and an extensive empirical research on two cases of supply chain networks. Our theoretical framework for the comparative case research derives from the conceptualisation of relational dynamics and the impact of individual strategies employed by relational partners to manage the evolution of the exchange. Our conclusions confirm that stronger strategic alignment, resource integration and intensive knowledge transfer facilitate more successful supply networks.

    J Aitken, P Childerhouse, E Deakins, D Towill (2012)A Comparative Study of Manufacturing and Service Sector Supply Chain Uncertainty(Abstr.)
    Wolfgang Garn, James Aitken (2015)Splitting hybrid Make-To-Order and Make-To-Stock demand profiles, In: arXiv

    In this paper a demand time series is analysed to support Make-To-Stock (MTS) and Make-To-Order (MTO) production decisions. Using a purely MTS production strategy based on the given demand can lead to unnecessarily high inventory levels thus it is necessary to identify likely MTO episodes. This research proposes a novel outlier detection algorithm based on special density measures. We divide the time series' histogram into three clusters. One with frequent-low volume covers MTS items whilst a second accounts for high volumes which is dedicated to MTO items. The third cluster resides between the previous two with its elements being assigned to either the MTO or MTS class. The algorithm can be applied to a variety of time series such as stationary and non-stationary ones. We use empirical data from manufacturing to study the extent of inventory savings. The percentage of MTO items is reflected in the inventory savings which were shown to be an average of 18.1%.

    J Aitken (1997)Knowledge Transfer within a Supplier Association Network, In: Proceedings of the Logistics Network Conferencepp. 16-17

    Companies have recognised that used products can represent a valuable economic resource as well as an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of the repair process. Realising the value-add inherent in used products requires the establishment and operation of a reverse logistics (RL) system. RL systems are typically characterised as being the return journey within a closed-loop supply chain from the consumer back to the original product producer. The objective of the research was to develop an evaluation model of introducing an RL system without involving the producer.

    J Aitken, M Christopher, DR Towill (2002)Understanding, implementing and exploiting agility and leanness, In: International Journal of Logistics, Research & Applications5(3)pp. 59-74
    J Aitken (1999)Supplier Associations, a Methodological Opportunity in Supply Chain Research, In: Proceedings of the 8th International IPSERA Conferencepp. 13-21
    George Kireulishvili, Wolfgang Garn, James Aitken, Jane Hemsley-Brown (2018)Prediction methods improve bus services profitability, In: Proceedings of Euro 2018 - 29th European Conference on Operational Research EURO 2018

    Since the bus deregulation (Transport Act 1985) the patronage for bus services has been decreasing in a county in South of England. Hence, methods that increase patronage, focus subsidies and stimulate the bus industry are required. Our surveys and market research identified and quantified essential factors. The top three factors are price, frequency, and dependability. The model was further enhanced by taking into account real time passenger information (RTPI), socio-demographics and ticket machine data along targeted bus routes. These allowed the design of predictive models. Here, feature engineering was essential to boost the solution quality. We compared several models such as regression, decision tress and random forest. Additionally, traditional price elasticity formulas have been confirmed. Our results indicate that more accuracy can be gained using prediction methods based on the engineered features. This allows to identify routes that have the potential to increase in profitability - allowing a more focused subsidy strategy.

    Lean and Swift-Even-Flow (SEF) operations are compared in the context of sorting facilities. Lean approaches tend to attack parts of their processes for improvement and waste reduction, sometimes overlooking the impact this will have on their overall pipeline. A SEF approach on the other hand is driven by a desire to reduce variations by enabling the practitioner to visualise himself as the material that flows through the system thus unearthing all the problems that occur in the process as a whole. This study integrates Discrete Event Simulations (DES) into the lean and SEF framework. A real world case study with high levels of variations is used to gain insights and to derive relevant simulation models. The models were used to find the optimal configuration of machines and labour such that the operational costs are minimised. It was found that DES and SEF have a common basis. Lean processes as well as SEF processes both converge to similar solutions. However, SEF arrives faster at a near optimum solution. DES is a valuable tool to model, support and implement the lean and SEF approach. The SEF approach is superior to lean processes in the initial phases of a business process optimisation. The primary novelty of this study is the usage of DES to compare the lean and SEF approach. This study presents a systematic approach of how DES and optimisation can be applied to lean and SEF operations.

    The purpose of this paper is to investigate the use of business analytics as a method for developing an understanding of the environment that delivery service organisations operate within and how this comprehension can support the implementation of lean thinking. Mapping complex and dynamic environments in a manner which provides sufficient insight and clarity is a challenge when utilising traditional value stream mapping tools. Typically the maps generated are static diagrams ranging from high level learning to see (Rother and Shook, 1998) to detailed process maps (Bicheno, 2008). These maps are instructive in highlighting areas to remove muda but are limited in developing visualisations of scenarios and options, to manage uncertain demand, that are possible through business analytics. Through modelling and experimentation organisations and individuals can reshape their cognitive maps to develop and recognise new opportunities to improve their processes. Improvement in the presentation and dynamic use of information can also support people in developing double-loop learning abilities (Argyris, 1999) therefore having the potential to increase performance.

    In this paper we study the optimality of production schedules in the food industry. Specifically we are interested whether stochastic economic lot scheduling based on aggregated forecasts outperforms other lot sizing approaches. Empirical data on the operation’s customer side such as product variety, demand and inventory is used. Hybrid demand profiles are split into make-to-order (MTO) and make-to-stock (MTS) time series. We find that the MTS demand aggregation stabilizes, minimizes change-overs, and optimizes manufacturing.

    J Aitken, P Childerhouse, D Towill (2003)The impact of product life cycle on supply chain strategy, In: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PRODUCTION ECONOMICS85(2)pp. 127-140
    J Aitken, P Childerhouse, M Christopher, DR Towill (2005)Designing and Managing Multiple Pipelines, In: Journal of Business Logistics26pp. 73-96
    J Aitken (2000)Agility and Leanness – a successful and complimentary partnership in the lighting industry, Cardiff, pp 1-, In: Proceedings of the Logistics Research Network 2000 Conferencepp. 1-7
    J Aitken, S Gullander (1998)Proceedings of the 7th International IPSERA Conference, In: Proceedings of the 7th International IPSERA Conferencepp. 1-8
    M Gannon, S Male, J Aitken (2014)Tied supply chains in construction projects: Lessons from london underground's public-private-partnership, In: Proceedings 29th Annual Association of Researchers in Construction Management Conference, ARCOM 2013pp. 819-826

    This paper addresses the lessons learnt by London Underground (LU), the public sector contracting authority, when a tied supply chain arrangement, namely where shareholders are also commercial beneficiaries from sub-contracted delivery, was utilised by a consortium to upgrade its system under an innovative Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model. Research on tied supply chains and their application in PPP agreements is significantly under reported. The paper sets out insights from industry using secondary sources, which include parliamentary reports and reviews. The paper postulates that different models of tied supply chains might exist, from those that rely on some form of equity structure to those that rely only on the collective reputation of the supply network. Five lessons learnt from the contracting authority's perspective are highlighted on the use of tied supply chains in PPP contractual arrangements. Whilst tied supply chains can be effective, they are better utilised in PPP contractual arrangements where there is certainty with the scope of works and required resources. During the bid evaluation stage the contracting authority must evaluate whether prospective bidding consortiums have satisfactory governance arrangements at Board level and across its tied supply chain. Furthermore, the contracting authority must include governance safeguards within the contractual documents and strictly regulate the tied supply chain to prevent failure. This paper provides a new insight into tied supply chains and their governance with respect to Public-Private-Partnership models, and other forms of procurement.

    J Aitken, P Childerhouse, E Deakins, D Towill (2015)A Comparative Study of Manufacturing and Service Sector Supply Chain Integration via the Uncertainty Circle Model, In: The International Journal of Logistics Management70(4)pp. 246-258 Emerald

    Purpose – The purpose of this research is to contrast manufacturing and service sector supply chains in order to develop an audit methodology capable of providing objective, cross-sector comparisons of supply chain integration performance. Design/Methodology/approach – A robust, site-based multi-method supply chain diagnostic for detecting manufacturing supply chain system uncertainty (QSAM) was modified for the service sector so as to yield the (normalised) supply chain integration performances of 109 separate organisations. Findings – Service supply chains do not always exhibit the unique attributes that effectively bar manufacturing supply chain best practice from being adopted (and vice versa). The research confirms the value of utilising an uncertainty circle model lens, which makes objective cross-sector comparisons of supply chain performance possible. Originality/value – Combining the uncertainty circle model with the QSAM approach yields performance vectors that can be used to align estimates of value stream ‘health’ irrespective of the organisational setting. This can assist identification and transfer of appropriate best practice even between firms located in dissimilar industry sectors and settings. Key words: service, manufacturing, uncertainty circle, supply chain integration Paper Type Research paper

    The purpose of this paper is to understand how applying environmental CSR objectives in a service setting impacts on the actors and the operation of the supply chain. Research was conducted into the car crash repair supply chains of two insurers as they developed a reverse logistics flow to reduce the environmental consequences of their service provision. The findings highlight the environmental drivers for establishing a reverse logistics flow were common across the supply chain actors however technical challenges, customer acceptance and governance issues were found to barriers to implementation. Altering the governance structure across the supply chain was shown to be pivotal to the successful implementation of reverse flow and reducing the environmental impact of the service.

    J Aitken, A Esain, S williams (2015)Understanding the Nature of Demand Variation of Patient Arrival for Emergency Healthcare Services - The First Challenge, In: Z Radnor, N Bateman, A esain, S williams, M Kumar, D upton (eds.), Public services operations management(21)

    The paper investigates how corporate social sustainability objectives are utilised in the supplier selection process and the role of third party tools and services in managing the risk associated with engaging in a relationship with a new supplier. The driver for using the self-assessment tools of third party service providers (3PSPs) is to facilitate the information gathering and ensuring that useful information is being collected. The self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs) assist in the process element of the decision making, and as supply chain relationships become more collaborative, the 3PSPs are attempting to facilitate in the development of trust, collaboration, coordination, commitment, communication, transparency and education of suppliers. Keywords: social sustainability, responsible purchasing, supplier development Topics: Sustainability in operations and logistics (including social and environmental aspects), purchasing and procurement, global operations and strategic sourcing. Purpose Sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) is based on accountable partnerships (Teuscher et al., 2006) which are expected to support the management of risk and uphold firm’s reputations. It is clear that sustainability objectives are growing in importance for large organisations (Carter and Jennings, 2002; Carter and Rogers, 2008; Hutchins and Sutherland, 2008; Carter and Easton, 2011) and that sustainability performance is influenced by supply chain actions (Seuring and Gold, 2013). More specifically, sustainability performance can be driven by supplier relationships (Leppelt et al., 2013) whereby supplier selection decisions are of key importance. Thus, organisations now need to be more responsible for the actions of their suppliers (Neef, 2004) due to stakeholder pressures and longevity of business survival. Incorporating sustainability objectives into supplier selection decisions is one way to minimize risk in the supply chain, which has increased due to the inter-global nature of the networks (Finch 2004). He found that large companies’ exposure to risk increased by inter-organisational networking, particularly with SMEs. This is relevant as in the context of large purchasing organisations, their suppliers are often smaller in size by the very nature of the supply chain. Christopher and Peck (2006) highlighted the risks to business continuity that lie in the wider supply chain due to the creation of increasingly complex networks of interdependent organisations. Outsourcing and globalisation have heightened some of these risks. Ensuring supply chain