- Editors’ Introduction
The Summer 2016 issue is a special themed issue on the advancement of middle-range theory (MRT) in transportation, logistics, and supply chain. Unlike grand theories that are used to describe, explain, and predict phenomena at a very high level, the goal of MRT is to examine a problem in order to discover a useful application that helps to solve that problem. It is a critical bridge between practice and theory. Furthermore, because MRT is context specific, it enhances the practical relevance of research. Yet, our initial search indicated that we have lagged in the development of MRT in transportation, logistics, and supply chain management research. This assessment is reinforced in the lead article by Craighead, Ketchen, and Cheng, who state that middle-range theory needs more attention in order to make it more salient and prominent in supply chain research. The authors use theoretical contextualization as a lever that can be utilized in top-down and bottom-up strategies to develop MRT. Four emerging topics are used by Craighead, Ketchen, and Cheng to describe how this lever contextualizes theoretical constructs and relationships in practice.
The second article in this issue, by Douglas and Swartz, contributes to the development of MRT by using a multimethod approach to examine the issue of truck driver safety. The authors utilized a qualitative method to understand important contextual factors that, when overlaid with extant psychosocial behavioral models post hoc, led to the development of a more integrated and comprehensive theoretical framework. The framework facilitated the creation of a program for hiring and retaining safe drivers. This is a primary goal of MRT—to study a problem for the purpose of having some useful application that helps to solve the problem.
As any supply chain or logistics student learns early in their studies, theory suggests that transportation and inventory polices are often viewed as offsetting policies. Yet research by Swanson, Williams, Gu, and Waller suggests that theory does not translate to practice. The authors’ analysis of aggregate transportation and inventory costs in the United States indicate that rather than offset each other these two policies are in long-term equilibrium. Furthermore, the results of their research indicate that while inventory policies are adjusted for changes in transportation cost, the opposite is not true. While most research has examined these costs at a firm level, this study utilizes an aggregate measurement approach. This novel approach uncovered the need for future research to [End Page v] explicitly integrate economic theory more strongly into logistics theory and practice.
Liu, Wang, Du, and Wang propose a collaborative mechanism between shipping lines and port operators that seeks to improve the overall efficiency of container transportation. The authors examine the problem by means of optimization approaches in which traditionally simulation modeling has been used to analyze the impact of a given schedule. Their novel approach to the problem led to the development of a practical and easy-to-implement structure that has the potential to reduce maritime supply chain costs significantly.
The Summer 2016 themed issue has one Industry Note by LeMay, Burns, and Hawkins that examines the airport bond rating system. Airport ratings have a long-term effect on multiple stakeholders. A change (either positive or negative) in the airport rating can affect the interest rate and subsequently impact the value of the bonds as an investment. The authors suggest that a critical factor lacking in the current rating structure is a travel model for measuring competition between airports. They submit that if the United States begins to reinvest in transportation infrastructure in the future, it will be even more important to fix this omission and uncover the “black boxes” that rating agencies use in their analyses.
In keeping with the theme for the special issue, The Roots of Logistics is the featured book for this edition. As Pellathy states in his review of this book, the collection of articles are an “illuminating primer on the theoretical underpinnings of our discipline.” Like many of us, we suspect that readers are not aware of this book, which provides an in-depth intellectual history of transportation, logistics, and supply chain management...