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Contents of IMP Journal issue 3, volume 4
Distribution network evolution – challenges for practice and theory
The aim of this editorial is to provide a context for the three following papers dealing with distribution networks from an IMP perspective. All three papers are concerned with distribution dynamics and reorientation of established arrangements. In this editorial these current challenges are explained in terms of long-term evolution of distribution leading to increased specialisation and fragmentation in both practice and theory. The conclusion of the paper is that industrial network theory is a relevant framework for regaining the holistic perspectives that once characterised both practice and theory in distribution.
Distribution Network Dynamics: Evolution in the PC Distribution Network
Kajsa Hulthén and Lars-Gunnar Mattsson
The distribution literature has often treated distribution dynamics as either initiated by a producer in the form of a channel captain or by external forces. In this paper we take a network perspective on distribution dynamics. In order to illustrate the evolution of a distribution network, we have chosen the distribution network for the product category personal computers (PCs). The paper shows how changes are initiated from all kinds of actors in the network and in all three network layers: actors, resources and activities. The paper illustrates how activity interdependencies, resource control, and variety in the web of actors interplay with distribution dynamics.
Opportunities and constraints for intermediaries in distribution: The challenge of variety
The variety in contemporary distribution systems is large and reflects complex customer demands and new technological and organizational possibilities. Changes in the distribution system lead to new challenges and constraints for intermediaries trying to establish consistent roles for themselves. The challenge for theory is how to describe these changed and complex roles.
This article is based on a case study of one intermediary (a third-party logistics provider) in the car distribution industry. The article presents a framework of six roles, four of which find parallels in functionalist discussions of roles, and two of which appear more closely tied to new developments in distribution. These are specifically tied to the way intermediaries have increased opportunities to act as resource providers and organizers in contemporary distribution.
The opportunities and constraints for intermediaries in the type of distribution context studied are analyzed using the IMP literature. This proves fruitful in particular through discussing the impact of actor bonds and resource ties. The resources the intermediary controls may be less important in defining its role than the fit with resources possessed by others and the resulting opportunities.
Organizing a network within the network: The case of MC Elettrici
Chiara Cantù, Francesca Montagnini and Roberta Sebastiani
In recent years, new driving forces are significantly affecting intermediation and emphasizing the centrality of its role. From a traditional role of physical interconnection, intermediation has taken on a critical new function – first of all by supporting interaction and facilitating customer participation within a network, and then by creating the conditions for enhancing relationships between different organizations.
We have empirically investigated this evolution by looking at the case of an Italian electrical equipment consortium that revised its intermediation role to better support actors involved in its distribution network and to allow the survival of its partners, which are primarily local SMEs. The main aim of this paper is to analyze the impact of the intermediation evolutionary process on the distribution network by focusing on the organizing of actors, resources, and activities in a “network within the network” perspective.