Untangling the complexity generating material delivery “schedule instability”: insights from automotive OEMs

Hafez Shurrab, Patrik Jonsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Changes frequently made to material delivery schedules (MDSs) accumulate upstream in the supply chain (SC), causing a bullwhip effect. This article seeks to elucidate how dynamic complexity generates MDS instability at OEMs in the automotive industry. Design/methodology/approach: An exploratory multiple-case study methodology involved in-depth semistructured interviews with informants at three automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Findings: Dynamic complexity destabilizes MDSs primarily via internal horizontal interactions between product and process complexities and demand and SC complexities. A network of complexity interactions causes and moderates such instability through complexity absorption and generation and complexity importation and exportation. Research limitations/implications: The multiple-case study contributes to empirical knowledge about the dynamics of MDS instability. Deductive research to validate the identified relationships remains for Future research. Practical implications: In revealing antecedents of complexity’s effect on MDS instability, the findings imply the need to develop strategies, programs, and policies dedicated to improving capacity scalability, supplier flexibility, and the flexibility of material order fulfillment. Originality/value: Building on complexity literature, the authors operationalize complexity transfer and develop a framework for analyzing dynamic complexity in SCs, focusing on complexity interactions. The identification and categorization of interactions provide a granular view of the dynamic complexity that generates MDS instability. The identified and proposed importance of readiness of the SC to absorb complexity challenges the literature focus on external factors for explaining complexity outcomes. The results can be used to operationalize such dynamic interactions by introducing new variables and networks of relationships. Moreover, the work showcases how a complexity perspective could be used to discern the root causes of a complex phenomenon driven by non-linear relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-273
Number of pages39
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 7 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Untangling the complexity generating material delivery “schedule instability”: insights from automotive OEMs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this