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Keywords:

  • social network analysis;
  • supply chain management

The network perspective is rapidly becoming a lingua franca across virtually all of the sciences from anthropology to physics. In this paper, we provide supply chain researchers with an overview of social network analysis, covering both specific concepts (such as structural holes or betweenness centrality) and the generic explanatory mechanisms that network theorists often invoke to relate network variables to outcomes of interest. One reason for discussing mechanisms is to facilitate appropriate translation and context-specific modification of concepts rather than blind copying. We have also taken care to apply network concepts to both “hard” types of ties (e.g., materials and money flows) and “soft” types of ties (e.g., friendships and sharing-of-information), as both are crucial (and mutually embedded) in the supply chain context. Another aim of the review is to point to areas in other fields that we think are particularly suitable for supply chain management (SCM) to draw network concepts from, such as sociology, ecology, input–output research and even the study of romantic networks. We believe the portability of many network concepts provides a potential for unifying many fields, and a consequence of this for SCM may be to decrease the distance between SCM and other branches of management science.