This paper presents a conceptual model for the creation and operation of supply networks. Existing conceptual research relating to interorganizational relationships and networks is reviewed in terms of its relevance to understanding supply networks; this research is drawn from the fields of strategic management, channel management, industrial marketing and purchasing, organizational behaviour and supply-chain management. The different perspectives each field has on networks are highlighted. Contributions made by each in assisting to understand supply networks are discussed and synthesized. Findings from an exploratory survey are used to structure the design of a conceptual model for analysing the processes involved in the creation and operation of supply networks. The authors identify nine different types of networking activities and discuss the nature of these activities in the context of supply. Four different types of contextual factors relating to supply networks are identified. The model is tested in eight in-depth case studies and a validating survey of 58 focal firm networks. It is concluded that it provides a robust structure that enabled complex, cross-case analysis of multi-variable, multi-disciplinary data from interorganization product/service supply networks, but that further testing by other researchers is required.
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