Resilient supply management systems in times of crisis
Journal article, 2023

This study investigated how organizations can maintain their supply chain (SC) resilience in situations where high-impact shocks cannot be absorbed and what capabilities are needed. The article is an empirical exploration of a socio-ecological view of resilience in the SC context. Design/methodology/approach:
The case under study in this article is that of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and MSF's reconfiguration of its supply management processes in response to the supply shocks during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In total, 503 internal documents and ERP extractions from six databases from late 2019 to September 2020, 43 semi-structured interviews and a 3-round policy Delphi process were used to investigate this phenomenon.
The authors' results show that throughout the pandemic, MSF adapted its procurement and supply processes to cope with supply shortages at both the international and local levels of the SC. This was possible due to the organization's capacity to use its exploitation and exploration capabilities of the organization at the same time.
Research limitations/implications:
This research is based on the single in-depth case study of a medical aid organization. Further research should investigate this phenomenon in commercial companies with similar or different organizational structures.
This study constitutes a first attempt to empirically demonstrate that the four phases of the adaptive cycle put forth in the panarchy theory constitute a suitable representation of the reconfigurations that SCs follow in response to a high-impact shock. The study also adds to the growing body of knowledge on resilience by including ambidexterity as a mechanism to achieve resilience.

Adaptive cycles


Interpretive research




Diego Vega

Hanken School of Economics

Ala Arvidsson

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Felicia Saiah

Hanken School of Economics

International Journal of Operations and Production Management

01443577 (ISSN) 17586593 (eISSN)

Vol. 43 1 70-98

RESPIRE: Rethinking the management of unexpected events for resilient and sustainable production

VINNOVA (2021-03685), 2021-11-15 -- 2024-11-15.

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Other Mechanical Engineering

Business Administration

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance




Basic sciences



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