Engineering supply chains as systems



In recent years companies in various fields form supply chains to support them manage their products and services during their life-cycles. A supply chain usually extends from the source of raw material to end customers, consists of many components, and performs many functions. The components and functions have to be integrated in order to manage the flow of material, information, and finances from the source of raw material to end customers efficiently and at minimum cost. Further, a supply chain has a life-cycle that is associated with the life-cycle of the product(s) it supports, exists in an environment that impacts it, is dynamic, and has a purpose and objectives. With such aspects, a supply chain might better realize its potentials if it is viewed and treated as a system. This paper demonstrates the characteristics of systems inherent in supply chains and their implications on their design, and the ability of the systems engineering approach to the design of systems to benefit their formation. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Syst Eng 9: 73–89, 2006