Supervisor: Dr Heather Skipworth

Applications are invited from potential PhD students with a background in operations management, procurement, logistics and supply chain management or general management who have an interest in advancing the topic of supply chain risk.

Cranfield School of Management has been recognised as a centre of excellence for research into Supply Chain Risk. Major collaborative research projects undertaken by Cranfield since the year 2000 have contributed significantly to our understanding of risk and resilience.  In particular, the work of Prof Martin Christopher and Prof Richard Wilding.

More recently we have been working with Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) analysing their anonymised transaction and risk data to produce a Quarterly Global Supply Chain Risk Report providing procurement decision-makers with a source of robust evidence and analysis concerning supply chain risks.  It was published on both the Cranfield SoM and D&B websites and promoted through Press Releases and Webinars.  Further studies are being conducted with this large-scale data set encompassing 100,000’s buyer-supplier relationships over 6 years.  For example, one study investigated the impact of factors associated with the buyer (supplier criticality) and the supplier (financial risk, country risk, and foreign exchange risk) on the longevity of buyer-supplier relationships. It found that supplier criticality positively impacts relationship longevity, whereas financial risk and foreign exchange risk negatively impact it.

We have also been focussing our attention on the multiple geopolitical disruptions, including BREXIT, US-China trade war and COVID-19 to understand how companies, and their supply chains can respond to such unpredictable and impactful events, while continuing to maintain competitive advantage.  For example, in the paper by Roscoe, Skipworth, Aktas and Habib (2020) we examine how firms of different sizes formulate and implement strategies to achieve fit with an external environment disrupted by a geopolitical event in the context of the pharmaceutical industry impacted by Brexit.  We found when formulating strategy, multi-national enterprises (MNEs) used worst case assumptions, while large firms, and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) gathered knowledge as part of a “wait-and-see” strategy, allowing them to reduce perceptions of heightened supply chain uncertainty.  Firms then implemented reactive and/or proactive strategies to mitigate supply chain risks.

Supply chain Risk Management (SCRM) literature highlights ambiguity on the exact nature of reactive strategies, which could be further investigated.  One group of scholars suggest that reactive strategies are characterised by measures taken in advance of the event to reduce its severity (Chopra and Sodhi, 2004; Grotsch et al., 2013; Juttner et al., 2003), while other authors argue that reactiveness refers to the post-disruption phase, where companies focus on recovering quickly and returning to a desired state (Ali et al., 2017; Brandon-Jones et al., 2014).

Proactive SCRM strategies tend to refer to the commitment of fixed assets into new facilities, supplier contracts, or risk monitoring systems (Elluru et al., 2017; Knemeyer et al., 2009).  For example, proactive strategies may include multi-sourcing/dual sourcing strategies (Craighead et al., 2007; Juttner et al., 2003); sharing and transferring risk to supply chain partners (Tang and Tomlin, 2008); extending existing storage and distribution facilities; or moving supply chain facilities away from high risk locations (Knemeyer et al., 2009).

In support of proactive strategies, we have been researching how geopolitical disruptions impact manufacturing supply chain location decision of managers in UK multinational firms (Moradlou, Reefke, Skipworth & Roscoe, 2021).  We found most companies planned to or have relocated production facilities from the UK to the EU, and distribution centres from the EU to the UK.  This was because of market-seeking advantages (being close to major centres of demand, ease of access to local and international markets) and efficiency-seeking advantages (costs related to expected delays at ports, tariff and non-tariff barriers).

Within the context of this supply chain risk research, potential topics in this area could include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Understanding the impact of supply chain risk on organisations and their supply chains
  • Investigating supply chain risk management strategies and approaches to mitigate the risk and its subsequent impacts.
  • Examining how supply chains can be more resilient such that they can quickly recover from disruptions and how agility can support this
  • Understanding how supplier risk impacts buyer-supplier relationships in terms of aspects such as their longevity, levels of collaboration and benefits to both organisations.
  • Developing methodologies to identify, measure and monitor supply chain risk across often complex and vast supply networks.
  • Examining how risk can propagate or cascade across supply chains and the nature of the contagion effect.


Aktas E, Skipworth H, Mena C  and Habib F, Cranfield Dun & Bradstreet Quarterly Global Supply Chain Risk Report. Eight quarterly reports published from Q4 2017 to Q3 2019 exclusively.

Ali, A., Mahfouz, A. and Arisha, A. (2017), “Analysing Supply Chain Resilience: Integrating the Constructs in a Concept Mapping Framework via a Systematic Literature Review”, Supply Chain Management, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 16-39.

Brandon-Jones, E., Squire, B., Autry, C.W. and Petersen, K.J. (2014), “A Contingent Resource-Based Perspective of Supply Chain Resilience and Robustness”, Journal of Supply Chain Management, Vol. 50 No. 3, pp. 55-73.

Chopra, S. and Sodhi, M.S. (2004), “Managing Risk to Avoid Supply-Chain Break Down”, MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 46 No. 1, pp. 53-61.

Craighead, C.W., Blackhurst, J., Rungtusanatham, M.J. and Handfield, R.B. (2007), “The Severity of Supply Chain Disruptions: Design Characteristics and Mitigation Capabilities”, Decision Sciences, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 131-156

Elluru, S., Gupta, H., Kaur, H. and Singh, S.P. (2017), “Proactive and Reactive Models for Disaster Resilient Supply Chain”, Annals of Operations Research, doi: 10.1007/s10479-017-2681-2.

Grotsch, V., M., Blome, C. and Schleper, M.C. (2013), “Antecedents of Proactive Supply Chain Risk Management - a Contingency Theory Perspective”, International Journal of Production Research, Vol. 51 No. 10, pp. 2482-2867.

Hansen, C., Mena, C and Skipworth, H, (2017) "Exploring Political Risk in Offshoring Engagement", International Journal of Production Research, 55 (7), pp. 2051-2067.

Juttner, U., Peck, H. and Christopher, M. (2003), “Supply Chain Risk Management: Outlining an Agenda for Future Research”, International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 197-210.

Knemeyer, A.M., Zinn, W. and Eroglu, C. (2009), “Proactive Planning for Catastrophic Events in Supply Chains”, Special Issue: Perspectives on Risk Management in Supply Chains, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 141-153.

Moradlou H, Reefke H, Skipworth H & Roscoe S (2021) "Geopolitical Disruptions and the Manufacturing Location Decision in Multinational Company Supply Chains: a Delphi Study on Brexit", International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 41 (2), pp. 102-130

Roscoe S, Skipworth H, Aktas E & Habib F (2020) "Managing Supply Chain Uncertainty Arising from Geopolitical Disruptions: Evidence from the Pharmaceutical Industry and Brexit", International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 40 (9), pp. 1499-1529.

Tang, C. and Tomlin, B. (2008), “The Power of Flexibility for Mitigating Supply Chain Risks”, International Journal of Production Economics, Vol. 116 No. 1, pp. 12-27.

Contact Details:

Dr Heather Skipworth
Tel: 01234 751122 Ext 2843