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Mapping the Supply Chain: Why, What and How?

Maccarthy, Bart L.; Ahmed, Wafaa A. H.; Demirel, Guven

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Assistant Professor in Information Systems

Guven Demirel


There is now widespread appreciation of the critical role played by supply chains in the global economy. Supply chains are dominant concerns for many organisations, governments, policy makers, and consumers. A primary requirement in addressing many of the contemporary supply challenges is the need to 'map' a supply system. With notable exceptions, much of our supply chain management literature has shied away from providing guidance on the mapping process. In this paper, we stress the reasons for the increased emphasis on mapping. We review the academic literature, highlighting the diversity of mapping exercises conducted by researchers and the lack of clarity about different types of maps developed. Supply chain mapping has been used as an umbrella term for studies at very different aggregation levels. We define the most fundamental elements needed to create a supply chain map and develop a formal hierarchy of supply systems for mapping at different levels of analysis. The hierarchy provides a structured way to consider the diversity of mapping exercises in the literature and helps to define the unit of analysis for a mapping study. We illustrate the hierarchy with a range of examples from the textile and apparel industry. We identify the primary and secondary data sources that underpin mapping studies, highlighting the significant challenges in using them. We discuss the emerging commercial solutions to capture, map, and analyse supply systems for different purposes. In an increasingly data rich world, there are many opportunities to develop the supply chain mapping process further.


Maccarthy, B. L., Ahmed, W. A. H., & Demirel, G. (2022). Mapping the Supply Chain: Why, What and How?. International Journal of Production Economics, 250, Article 108688.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 17, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 21, 2022
Publication Date 2022-08
Deposit Date Feb 6, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 6, 2023
Journal International Journal of Production Economics
Print ISSN 0925-5273
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 250
Article Number 108688
Keywords Mapping; Supply chain; Supply network; Global Value Chain; Visualization
Public URL
Publisher URL


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