You are on page 1of 11

Cost Management in Supply Chains Different Research Approaches

Stefan Seuring
Introduction to: Seuring, S. / Goldbach, M. (eds.): Cost Management in Supply Chains, Physica-Verlag, Heidelberg 2002, ISBN 3-7908-1500-4, 445 pages.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Defining Basic Terms......................................................................................2 Developing Concepts for Cost Management in Supply Chain Management ..5 Applying Cost Management Instruments ........................................................6 Building Cost Management Models................................................................8 Extending the Scope Beyond Cost ..................................................................9 Suggestions for Future Research ...................................................................10 References .....................................................................................................10

Summary: Supply Chain Management and Cost Management are among the top issues on the agenda of business practitioners and academic researchers. Yet, while this proves the importance of these issues, it does not necessarily point towards their integration. Still, the links between the two approaches exist. Cost reduction is among the most cited objectives in supply chain management. Additionally, if costs are to be reduced, companies increasingly turn their attention to their supply chain partners, so both suppliers and customers reach out for new frontiers of competitiveness and profitability. Yet, few approaches exist so far, addressing, how cost management in a supply chain can be carried out. This book charts the journey as it puts together different approaches capturing the extend of existing research and business practice.
Keywords: Supply Chain Management, Cost Management, Supply Chain Costing

S. Seuring

Defining Basic Terms

Among the objectives most frequently stated in supply chain management is the reduction of cost along the supply chain. 1 Active partnering with suppliers and customers enables companies to achieve optimization potential beyond the factory gate. Often, these cost reductions are achieved rather as a side effect to other measures implemented in supply chain management. Yet, the developments in cost management thought in recent years have proven the importance of the issue.2 Therefore, the establishment of a stream of research addressing the management of costs in supply chains forms an important development3 influencing both the future development of cost and supply chain management.


Supply Chain Management

Various defintions of Supply Chain Management have been given. Among the most widely used is the one provided by Handfield and Nichols: The supply chain encompasses all activities associated with the flow and transformation of goods from raw materials stage (extraction), through to the end user, as well as the associated information flows. Material and information flow both up and down the supply chain. Supply chain management (SCM) is the integration of these activities through improved supply chain relationships, to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.4 It is emphazised that this definition brings together the two major issues of supply chain management; the management of material and information flows is combined with the management of relationships. Only the combination of both aspects addresses the full content of supply chain management. Looking at the material and information flows only addresses logistics issues, while covering the relationships only has already been done in other bodies of literature, such as organization, network management or industrial relationships. Still, the term Supply Chain Management is in its infacy and a general lack of concepts is aknowledged. Few concepts such as the product-relationship-matrix5 exist, that specially aim to address both dimensions. Future research will have to improve such concepts and prove their validity. In total, Supply Chain Management is not an issue limited to a certain theory or practice, but a rapidly developing field.

1 2 3 4 5

See e.g. Stevens (1989), p. 3; LaLonde, Pohlen (1996), p. 1; Christoper (1998), p. 25. See e.g. Franz, Kajter (1997a); Fischer (2000); Brinker (2000). See Cooper, Slagmulder (1999); Kajter (2000); Seuring (2001). Handfield, Nichols (1999), p. 2. See Seuring (2001), p. 17.

Cost Management in Supply Chains


Cost Management

What has just been established for Supply Chain Management is also true for Cost Management. In earlier years, both students at universities and practitioners in their companies had a set of instruments that evolved from management accounting. Data was put together and figures were calculated. As the competitive environment of companies changed, it was not sufficient any more, to arrange past data. Instead, accomplished cost information is needed to manage the future. This has led to the introduction of the term cost management, which can be defined in this way: Cost management encompasses all (control) measures, that aim to influence cost structures and cost behavior precociously. Among these tasks the costs within the value chain have to be assessed, planned, controlled, and evaluated.6 The proactive management of costs7 extends much further than management accounting and has lead to the establishment of a full set of new concepts, such as target costing, activity-based costing, life cycle costing and many more.8


Cost Management in Supply Chains

As both cost management and supply chain management are rather platforms for a wide variety of methods, concepts and instruments, it cannot be expected, that looking at the intersection will lead to a single, clear concept. This volume brings together many of the exiting approaches to cost management in supply chains. As given by Seuring, the issue addressed can be defined as methods or concepts allowing analysis and control of all costs within a supply chain.9 While this is a wide definition, originally used for Supply Chain Costing, it covers all approaches taken and does not limit practices used to a certain set. In a particular context, it might be necessary to limit the assessment to a certain set of parameters, i.e. costs, resulting in a meaningful analysis of the model. Taking into account the SCM definition given above, it becomes evident, that costs are not only created by material and information flows along the supply chain, but also by the relationships with the supply chain itself. The papers that are put together in this book aim to illustrate this. The remainder of this chapter will provide an overview of the papers presented in the book. They are arranged according to four tracks, explained subsequently:

6 7 8 9

Dellmann, Franz (1994), p. 17. See Kajter (2000). See e.g. Brinker (2000); Fisher (2000), which cover many of the existing approaches. Seuring (2001), p. 126.

S. Seuring

1. Developing Concepts for Cost Management in Supply Chains, 2. Applying Cost Management Instruments, 3. Building Cost Management Models, 4. Extending the Scope Beyond Cost. Each section contains a set of papers that offer an insightful discussion of recent research. Concerning the practical content of the papers, here too four different approaches can be found in the papers. 1. Descriptive Examples show how the research findings presented have drawn from or can influence business practice. 2. Calculated Examples present data either from real world examples or use model data to exemplify the issues addressed. 3. Case Studies are used to illustrate the concepts or instruments introduced. 4. Survey Data shed light on the issues presented drawing from a wider analysis. Table 1 puts together the two dimensions used to systemize the papers and places each paper in the resulting field. As the table emphasizes, a wide range of different approaches is taken.
Empirical Data Calculated Case Example Study Kajter Hines* Stemmler Seuring II Baharami Rebitzer Bhutta*

Theoretical Basis Developing Concepts Applying Instruments

Descriptive Example Seuring I Slagmulder Goldbach Mehafdi Teich*

Survey Data


Building Models Extending Beyond Cost

Vo* Kaczmarek* Skoromokhov Warschun*

Krger Abdel-Malek* Spinler* Zimmermann



* Indicates that more than one author contributed to the paper. Only the first name is given. Each paper is allocated to one field only, but several cover more than one issue in each dimension. Table 1: Overview to the Papers on Cost Management in Supply Chains

The following sections will use the four theoretical bases to discuss some general issues of the papers. This aims to provide some general insights and point at some links between the papers.

Cost Management in Supply Chains

Developing Concepts for Cost Management in Supply Chain Management

The first section of the book provides insights on how cost management in supply chains can be conceptualized. Common to all papers is the aim to go beyond the limitations of exiting cost management concepts, as they are not capable of considering a supply chain perspective. The papers emphasize that both cost management and supply chain management integrate contributions from other theories such as transaction costs, principal agent theory, or lean management.
Author Seuring Concept Supply Chain Costing Characteristics Three cost levels need to be analyzed: direct, activity-based, and transactions cost to account for all costs in a supply chain and find the right partner to control them. Proactive cost management is a marketoriented, anticipatory system. Specific techniques are used to coordinate activities, as a case study from the car industry shows. Linking strategic and operational levels to understand customers and processes, and thus enhance customer value. A case study from car sales offers details. Managing supplier and customer costs in coordinated cost reduction programs are carried out during product design and manufacturing. Cost Management has a functional and an institutional dimension. Principal-agentrelationships are important in the application of cost management in a supply chain.


Proactive Cost Management

Hines, Silvi, Bartolini, Raschi

Lean Management Accounting


Interorganizational Cost Management


Organizational Settings

Table 2: The Conceptual Papers

Each paper has a specific perspective (see Table 2), and contributes different ideas. Seuring (Chapter 2) shows that traditional cost management is not prepared to take into account the supply chain perspective. Integrating transaction costs would be able to introduce an analytical level to the cost management system. Kajter (Chapter 3) presents a framework that allows capturing how cost management systems can be structured to fulfill specific tasks and coordinate activities. Hines, Silvi, Bartolini, and Raschi (Chapter 4) integrate lean management and strategic cost management to provide a case study how his can be put into action. Slagmulder (Chapter 5) looks at the buyer-supplier-interface and shows how interorganizational cost management is carried out. While the previous papers touch on the issue, Goldbach (Chapter 6) addresses how organization of and cooperation in the supply chains influences costs.

S. Seuring

Two prevailing perspectives form an important part of all papers. The first is addressed in target costing, as this looks at how targets are set and can be achieved. A process perspective as in activity-based costing accompanies this. Looking at cost management objectives can systemize this. Starting with customer needs, products are brought to the market to fulfill these, while various processes (productive and administrative) are carried out using resources. Hence, reference to target costing and activity-based costing is the unifying topic of the conceptual papers. Furthermore, these two cost management instruments play a major role in the next section.

Applying Cost Management Instruments

This section contains papers that provide insights on, how specific cost management instruments or other techniques can be used in a supply chain to reduce costs. As Table 3 summarizes, most papers are based on existing cost management or accounting techniques, e.g. target costing, life-cycle costing, activity-based costing, transfer pricing or finance instruments. Still, other approaches, such as electronic data interchange (EDI) or virtual enterprises help restructure or control costs. A wide range of issues is addressed showing that no one single approach will be able to solve all arising problems. Target Costing is one of the most discussed cost management techniques. Seuring (Chapter 7) builds on target costing methodology and integrates the three cost levels of supply chain costing. A case study from the apparel industry gives evidence how this methodology can help to analyze and reduce costs. Rebitzer (Chapter 8) builds on life-cycle assessment and integrated cost data into this framework to calculate life-cycle costs in two case studies from the automotive and aerospace industry. Transfer pricing plays an important role in internal supply chains. Mehafdi (Chapter 9) shows how this can be used and extended towards the development of a balanced scorecard. Financial issues play an important role in these. Stemmler (Chapter 10) provides evidence, how financial instruments can help improve supply chain performance. Regional production networks can be organized efficiently building on virtual enterprise thought. Information technology assists in fulfilling orders and manage costs, as Teich, Fischer and Kschel (Chapter 11) present. Bhutta, Huq and Maubourguet (Chapter 12) look at the same objectives with the use of electronic data interchange (EDI), which facilitates customer centric approach. Distribution performance and costs play a major role satisfying customers needs. Bahrami (Chapter 13) shows how horizontal cooperation can help reduce such costs in a consumer goods case study. The last paper of the section stays with the topic of

Cost Management in Supply Chains

distribution, as Kotzab and Teller (Chapter 14) conducted a survey on how logistics costs are managed in small and medium sized Austrian retail companies.
Author Seuring Basic Instrument Target Costing Link to Supply Chain Management The paper shows how target costing in a supply chain helps to analyze direct, activity-based and transaction costs. Case study from apparel industry. Life-Cycle Assessment methodology and data are used for costing issues as case studies from car and aerospace Industry portray. The importance of internal supply chains in multinational companies is emphasized and linked to the external chain. A balanced scorecard is integrated. Finance intermediates are used to improve supply chain performance, specially in reducing stock levels. Sample calculation provides evidence. A competence based approach helps nonhierarchical production networks join forces between SMEs for improved order fulfillment and costing. Changing to a customer centric approach, where activity-based costing assists in reducing costs and improve service levels. Horizontal cooperation in a distribution network allows reducing costs by restructuring the distribution network, as sample data emphasizes. A survey on Logistic Cost Data Usage in small and medium sized Austrian retail companies reveals that cost management is a neglected function, still.


Life-Cycle Costing


Transfer Pricing



Teich, Fischer, Kschel

Virtual Enterprise

Bhutta, Huy, Maubourguet Bahrami

Electronic Data Interchange Distribution Costs

Kotzab, Teller

Logistics Costs

Table 3: The Intrumental Papers

While these papers usually report on current practice that is brought together with theoretical or conceptual developments, the next section of the book looks at how models are built, as they often portray an ideal supply chain.

S. Seuring

Building Cost Management Models

Models play an important role in the management of both costs and supply chains. Consequently, this section brings together a total of seven papers that take a modeling approach. Still, the papers do not contain only formula, but emphasize how models can help improve supply chain solutions. The papers show how models can help to generalize problems observed. Reference Models play an important part in such solutions, as Vo and Schneidereit (Chapter 15) as well as Kaczmarek and Stllenberg (Chapter 16) present. While the first paper mentioned integrates this with game theory, the second does with simulation, respectively. While the customer is meant to be the focus of all supply chain activities, it is usually hard to evaluate what effect lost sales have in the supply chain. Perona (Chapter 17) presents a model to do so in a three stage supply chain and compares the results of his model to survey data.
Author Vo, Schneidereit Issue Modeled Characteristics Supply Contracts and Classifying supply contracts and building a Transaction Costs reference model for supply chain planning, where decentralized decisions are modeled with game theory. Kaczmarek, Process Chain and Using simulation to model costs of inventory Stllenberg Cost Model oder policies to evaluate and improve supply chain performance. Perona Calculating Lost Using a three-stage supply chain to model Sales the effects of lost customer sales on all stages. Comparison to survey data from Italian Apparel Industry. Krger Logistics Total Costs Using weight, volume and freight rate to illustrate the influence of transportation costs on global supply chains. Logistic Cost and Reach as evaluation criteria. Abdel-Malek, Inventory Modeling Modeling inventory in a supply chain under Valentini, Zavanella uncertainty to reduce stock levels Comparison of two models. Skoromokhov Job Shop Scheduling The logic of job shop scheduling is applied. In an analogy this allows to balance capacities along the supply chain. Spinler, Options Trading Using game theory to model options for Huchzermeier, logistics services and assessing cost Kleindorfer influences. Sample calculation provided. Table 4: The Modeling Papers

Krger (Chapter 18) calculates the logistics reach as an example of a measure, that can be used to reduce logistics costs and enhance performance in a global supply

Cost Management in Supply Chains

chain. Abdel-Malek, Valentini and Zavanella (Chapter 19) reduce the scope further and look at specific stock keeping models among uncertainty. As a lot of capital still sits in stocks, this will improve supply chain efficiency. Within operations planning, various approaches have been developed. Looking at small and medium sized companies which operate in job shops, it arises that job scheduling and sequencing is an important issue. Skoromokhov (Chapter 20) argues, that the job shop scheduling problem to balance capacities can be used as a model for supply chain optimization, where supply chain partners are treated as the single jobs conducted in a job shop. The last paper of the section by Spinler, Huchzermeier and Kleindorfer (Chapter 21) also uses game theory. Trade options are modeled to help to improve the buyer-supplier interaction in dealing with nonstorable goods such as transport capacities. While the modeling techniques presented help to solve specific problems, the last section of the book contains three papers that even go beyond the scope of cost management.

Extending the Scope Beyond Cost

The final section of the book extends the scope of supply chain management beyond cost. The challenges arising from the developments in information technology form an important part of supply chain management. Warschun and Schneidewind (Chapter 22) address the question, how Internet based purchasing tools can be applied in the retail industry. Therefore, the purchasing process is structured, so to assess in which phase the single tools can be applied.
Author Warschun, Schneidewind Miragliotta, Perona, Portioli-Staudacher Extension Internet Technology in Purchasing Complexity Management Characteristics Internet technology helps to reduce purchasing costs for retailers. The purchasing process is structured. A conceptual model for complexity management in supply chains is developed and tested in a survey in the Italian household appliance industry. A balanced scorecard for a supply chain is developed allowing developing performance measures. A case from the chemical industry portrays first results.


Balanced Scorecard

Table 5: The Papers beyond a Cost Focus

Still, information technology is often only partially able to reduce complexity, so this has to be management in its own regard, as Miragliotta, Perona and Portioli-


S. Seuring

Staudacher (Chapter 23) show. Their conceptual framework and model is evaluated in a survey carried out in the Italian household appliance industry. The link to the management of complexity costs will have to be addressed. Supply chain performance cannot only be measured in terms of cost, so future research must continue and integrating cost issues with other performance measures. The paper by Zimmermann (Chapter 24) looks at how the balanced scorecard can be applied in a supply chain. This addresses the wider issues of performance management in a supply chain, which already forms an important part of supply chain management literature. A case study from the chemical industry portrays the application. The three papers offer some insights into how supply chain management will be developed further. They complement the previous sections of the book and chart the course towards future research.

Suggestions for Future Research

This book brings together a set of different research approaches that address how costs are managed in supply chains. By integrating conceptual work, cost management instruments and models, a great variety of research work is presented. Future work will have to build on the papers presented. Supply chain management is a rapidly developing field, drawing on a multitude of theories, concepts and instruments. This is also the case for cost management in supply chains. Hence, it is of crucial importance to go into further detail of the organizational implications of cost management in supply chains. The need to meet customers needs and create value while reducing costs through supply chain management will provide challenges and opportunities for companies and researches, so issues discussed in this book will remain on the agenda.


Brinker, B. J. (ed.) (2000): Guide to Cost Management, Wiley, New York. Christopher, M. (1998): Logistics and Supply Chain Management Strategies for Reducing Cost and Improving Service, 2nd Edition, Financial Times, London. Cooper, R., Slagmulder, R. (1999): Supply Chain Development for the Lean Enterprise Interorganisational Cost Management, Productivity Press, Portland. Dellmann, K., Franz, K.-P. (1994b): Von der Kostenrechnung zum Kostenmanagement (From Accounting to Cost Management), in: Dellmann, K., Franz, K.-P. (ed.): Neuere

Cost Management in Supply Chains


Entwicklungen im Kostenmanagement (New Developments in Cost Management), Stuttgart, S. 15-30. Fischer, T. M. (ed.) (2000a): Kosten-Controlling Neue Methoden und Inhalte (Controlling Costs New Methods and Contents), Verlag Schffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart. Franz, K.-P., Kajter, P. (eds.) (1997): Kostenmanagement Wettbewerbsvorteile durch systematische Kostensteuerung (Cost Management Competitive Advantages through Systematic Cost Controlling), Verlag Schffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart. Handfield, R. B., Nichols E. L. (1999): Introduction to Supply Chain Management, Prentice Hall, New Jersey. Kajter, P. (2000): Proaktives Kostenmanagement. Konzeption und Realprofile (Proactive Cost Management. Theoretical Concept and Empirical Evidence), Verlag Gabler/DUV, Wiesbaden. LaLonde, B. J., Pohlen, T. L. (1996): Issues in Supply Chain Costing, in: The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1996), p. 1-12. Stevens, G. C. (1989): Integrating the Supply Chain, in: International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 19, No. 8 (1989), p. 3-8.