Business process modelling in demand-driven agri-food supply chains : a reference framework

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Keywords: Business process models; Supply chain management; Information systems; Reference information models; Market orientation; Mass customisation; Configuration; Coordination; Control; SCOR; Pot plants; Fruit industry


The increasing volatility and diversity of demand urge agri-food supply chains to become more demand driven, i.e. sensitive and responsive to demand information of the ultimate consumer. Companies that participate in demand-driven supply chains must manage a high variety and variability of supply chain configurations to meet the specific requirements of their customers. Business process models can be valuable means to achieve this by supporting the design of customised supply chain configurations and subsequently the engineering of enabling information systems.
However, existing reference process models do not sufficiently support specific requirements in demand-driven agri-food supply chains. Therefore, this dissertation aims to design a reference framework for business process modelling that i) is setup to enable the instantiation of various specific supply chain configurations, ii) supports a seamless translation of high-level supply chain designs to detailed information engineering models, and iii) is sector-specific i.e. contains domain-specific knowledge for the agri-food sector.

The research started with the definition of basic design requirements based on literature review and subsequently existing reference models were assessed on these requirements. Based on this assessment and the reviewed literature, a generic framework was constructed. This generic framework was applied, evaluated and refined in three different case studies: i) an explorative multiple case study in the Dutch flower industry, ii) an in-depth multiple case study in the European fruit industry, and iii) a single case study in the Dutch flower industry on implementation of the framework in configurable process models.

The main result of this thesis is the design of a framework for reference process modelling in demand-driven agri-food supply chains. The framework provides concepts and a toolkit for modelling a wide variety of supply chain configurations from standard model components. As such, it enhances shared understanding and reuse of process knowledge in supply chain design and information systems engineering.
The framework consists of two parts: i) an object system definition and ii) a toolbox for modelling the defined object system.
The object system definition provides typologies of the main elements of supply chain configurations, i.e. business processes, product units, control systems and coordination mechanisms.
The toolbox provides the representation power for modelling the defined object system. It identifies three types of supply chain process models:
1. Product Flow Models: visualise the allocation of basic transformations to supply chain actors and the related product flows from input material into end products;
2. Thread Diagrams: visualise how order-driven and forecast-driven processes are decoupled in specific supply chain configurations (positions Customer Order Decoupling Points), and how interdependences between processes are coordinated;
3. Business Process Diagrams: depict the sequence and interaction of control and coordination activities (as identified in Thread Diagrams) in an executable notation.
For each process model type, the toolbox contains i) standard model building blocks (reference components), ii) a method to configure specific diagrams (configuration tree), and iii) pre-configured models (reference templates) that capture reusable knowledge abstracted from the case studies. The toolbox also includes a conceptual architecture for implementation of enabling information systems.

The main addition of this thesis to existing theory is the design of an innovative artefact: a new framework that captures the concepts needed to design adequate reference process models in demand-driven agri-food supply chains. Therefore, the thesis has defined, developed and evaluated the representation power needed to model a wide variety of supply chain configurations as specific networks with different allocations of business processes to supply chain participants and different modes of control and coordination. More specifically, three additional contributions can be mentioned.
First, the research has applied the concept of mass customisation to reference process models, which implies that customised models are configured from a repository of standard building blocks i.e. predefined model components. As such, it contributes to the emerging field of process model configuration, which is a relatively new research area.
Second, the research has developed a framework that combines process models at different levels of abstraction for two main purpose of usage: supply chain design and information systems engineering. As such, it contributes to the development of a common conceptualisation and consistent terminology of these two research streams.
Third, the research has applied the framework to specific agri-food sectors, i.e. pot plants and fruit supply chains. As such, it has developed sector-specific reference process models for pot plants and fruit supply chains, which do not yet exist.

The main practical value of the framework helps to map, in a timely, punctual and coherent way, the business processes of the supply chain configurations that a company must manage in order to fulfil the different demand requirements of their customers. The framework is designed for demand-driven supply chains that aim to provide a rapid and customised response to volatile demand. We have argued that this imposes stringent demands on information systems and requires. The designed framework supports the ability to design and implement customised supply chain configurations by supplying business and ICT professionals with concepts and a toolkit for modelling a wide range of supply chain configurations. As such, although designed for demand-driven supply chains, the framework is a general tool for supply chain modelling.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Beulens, Adrie, Promotor
  • Trienekens, Jacques, Co-promotor
Award date28 Sept 2010
Place of Publication[S.l.
Print ISBNs9789085857105
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2010


  • food chains
  • agroindustrial sector
  • demand
  • information processing
  • information systems
  • models
  • agro-industrial chains
  • supply chain management
  • management information systems


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