Supply chain innovation captures the interest of many practitioners but most find it elusive and often even difficult to understand.  This project has produced a number of publications addressing some of the challenges that exist for practitioners interested in creating supply chain innovation in their business. 

Download a copy of SCI articles and white papers:

"Can Your Supply Chain Hear Me Now" - Sloan Management Review Frontiers Blog, May 7, 2018

Supply Chain Management Review: The Next Gen Supply Chain (NextGen Interview), September 1, 2017

Materials Handling Innovation (and why it matters) - Modern Materials Handling, May 9, 2017 by Bob Trebilcock (featuring an interview with Jim Rice on supply chain innovation)

"Deconstruct to Reconstruct: Using the Past to Create the Future" - Supply Chain Management Review, September/October 2015

"Perseverance Pays in the Innovation Game" - Supply Chain Management Review, May-June 2014

"Inapt Innovations Do More Harm Than Good" - Supply Chain Management Review, Jan-Feb 2014

Innovative or Inconclusive?  Evaluating New Supply Chain Ideas, CTL White Paper, Spring 2013

SC Innovation: A Conceptual Framework, CTL White Paper, February 7, 2012

What is Supply Chain Innovation?

Through the research to date, we have come to define supply chain innovation (SCI) as the combining and application of a mix of inventions, existing processes, and technologies in a new way that achieves a desirable change in cost, quality, financial flows and/or service.  Key distinctions to note: there is no distinction on time to achieve, there is no distinction on impact (i.e. sustaining or disruptive), and there is no distinction on what is 'new.'  

In pursuing SCI, firms should recognize that supply chain innovation (or process innovation) is distinct from product innovation.  Technical invention does not necessarily constitute innovation. 


- Entails a change in method and/or process, often but not always enabled by technology,

- Results in a positive and relatively meaningful change in performance, but rarely is it rapidly ‘disruptive,’

- Can accrue through deliberate small improvements and developments that together make more significant impact, and

- Comes in the latter stages of development where the application creates some tangible cost or service improvements.

Lingering questions about SCI remain: 

- how can the firm pursue SCI?
- how should the firm organize and staff to pursue SCI?
- what are the necessary skills to develop SCIs and implement SCIs in the firm?
- is there a distinct calculus required for making SCI investments?
- how should firms consider and utilize emerging technologies?
- how should firms work with upstream and downstream partners to create SCIs in the extended supply chain?

How to participate

If you have interest in working to address these and related questions, please contact Jim Rice directly at or by phone at 617.258.8584.

Key members of the team

Jim Rice
Deputy Director, MIT CTL