Variety in Distribution Networks: A Transvection Analysis
In recent years, the debate concerning changes taking place in distribution structures has been intense in both academia and in practice. One main standpoint is that distribution is subject to considerable reorganisation. Furthermore, some observers point to an increasing degree of variety in the distribution 'reality', both in how production and distribution structures are organised and in end-user needs.
In this thesis, the overarching phenomenon dealt with is variety in distribution. The theoretical framework is based on two main sources of inspiration. First, the Industrial Network Approach (e.g. Håkansson, 1987), highlighting the interdependencies between actors, activities, and resources in industrial systems, is applied. Second, as a means to deal with interdependence in distribution networks, the transvection concept (Alderson, 1965), based on two main types of activities, transformations and sortings, is used to describe and analyse the 'entire process' from raw material to the delivery of the end-product to a specific end-user. Combined, they provide a framework for analysing variety in distribution, where distribution networks are conceptualised as 'sets of crossing transvections'.
To explore variety in distribution networks, the framework is applied on distribution of PCs. Variety is analysed by identifying and analysing a number of transvections, and how they are interconnected. The analysis focuses on how objects, starting as raw material and ending up as an end-product, are changing in different dimensions as they are sorted and transformed.
The thesis concludes that the key to understanding variety in distribution networks is sorting. Sorting directs objects to different resources and actors and is therefore essential for how variety in the objects' features is created. Sorting by a mix of postponement and speculation strategies allows efficient resource utilisation to be obtained at the same time as end-user needs can be taken into consideration.
The study indicates that the focus in mainstream distribution literature on 'channels' only captures a limited part of the inherent complexity, owing to interdependence, in distribution structures. The transvection is brought forward as an analytical concept, taking into consideration both the producer and the user side in distribution networks, and their different kinds of logic. Furthermore, the thesis suggests that a network perspective brings about a more profound understanding of variety in distribution compared to a 'channel' perspective.