Supply chain management in construction: three developments in search of a theory

Stuart Tennant, Scott Fernie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This research engages with recent calls within the supply chain management community to advance conceptual theory development. Theory development arguably defines a scientific discipline, provides operational legitimacy and formulates systematic frameworks for further analysis and critical evaluation. Over the past two decades supply chain management in a construction context has largely borrowed ideas and concepts from other industries, most notability the automotive and manufacturing sectors. Whilst this may be convenient for casual comparison, others argue that close assimilation with other industries only serves to confuse and confound the conceptual comprehension of supply chain management in a construction context. Three areas of development arguably dominate the supply chain management debate; conceptual immaturity, post-positivist models of research and editorial gatekeepers. First, given the lack of conceptual maturity, especially within supply chain management and construction it is logical to explore and exploit established academic disciplines such as economics and management. However, inter-disciplinary synthesis with supply chain management and construction requires careful and incremental refinement to accommodate inherent and contextual limitations. Secondly, to engage meaningfully with conceptual theory development requires alternative methodological models of enquiry. In construction management literature the positivist models of hypothesis testing need to be complemented with post-positivist iterative models of research. A methodological correction in construction management research would arguably inform and stimulate critical debate. Thirdly, searching for a theory requires encouragement and sponsorship. In this respect, academic journals, their editorial boards and reviewers all have a key role to play. Without the support of enthusiastic journals and reviewers sympathetic to largely qualitative approaches, the search for a theory of supply chain management in a construction context is likely to remain vague. Despite considerable construction industry interest, the theoretical understanding of supply chain management continues to reflect concepts and practices rooted elsewhere. This paper identifies and discusses three key developments in search of a theory of supply chain management in a construction context. Individually, the developments represent important milestones in theory building; in concert these developments would arguably spark an intellectual curiosity that would further advance the conceptual development of supply chain management and construction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings CIBW65 Montreal, Canada
PublisherInternational Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Supply chain management in construction: three developments in search of a theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this