Collaborative Learning in Supply Chain relationships


Acronym: CLES

Official reference: DPI2009-10902

Funding Body: Ministry of Science and Innovation.  Department of Programmes and Knowledge Transfer

Type of Funding: Public

Main Researcher: Dr. María Jesús Sáenz Gil de Gómez

Other Researchers: Santiago Kraiselburd (ZLC), Fernando Liesa Carrera (ZLC), David Alan Johnston (SSB), Juan Luis Cano Fernández (UNIZAR), Rubén Rebollar Rubio (UNIZAR), Iván Lidón López (UNIZAR), Pilar Lambán Castillo (UNIZAR)

Term: 01/01/2010 to 31/12/2010

Project Description

The empirical reality of supply chain management is still far from reaching the theoretically promised gains related to a seamless end-to-end pipeline. The good news is that supply chain managers are aware of this gap, and show an interest in learning new capabilities. How they learn these capabilities is not well understood. One source is from people and stocks of knowledge built up within the firm over time. Another well known complementary source is through supplier – customer relationships. Often these relationships are formalized as alliances, partnerships, preferred suppliers and key customers. Some of the outcomes are new product and service development due to synergy of resources, faster speed to market through concurrent design, long-term cost reductions including reduced transaction costs, improved process technology adoption, improvements in conformance quality, risk reduction and reductions in capital investments. Some authors clamor for the gap in the literature about these relationships to be covered from the research point of view. Considering the research gaps mentioned above, the aim of the CLES project is to develop and test a comprehensive framework on collaborative learning within companies, while they are developing innovation projects in the supply chain context. This aim is expressed in several facets:

  1. To research the Collaborative Learning theory, integrating it with the literature on adaptation, knowledge management, project management and innovation in the context of supply chain relationships.
  2. To introduce some new constructs around collaborative learning as a theoretical constructs.
  3. To develop a comprehensive research model of Collaborative Learning and the corresponding relationship performance, for empirical investigation with excellence pilot companies.
  4. To provide recommendations to Supply Chain managers for building Collaborative Learning in appropriate situations related to Supply Chain relationships.
  5. To publish the results of the project in top academic journals. The main research question lies in the acknowledgement and understanding of the strategic mission of inter-organizational learning aiding companies in improving their supply chain relational performance. Some complementary research questions for this project are: How do you effectively capture, disseminate and scale best practices horizontally and vertically in the supply chain? How do you predict the effects of inter- and intra-organizational learning across the supply chain?

The main deliverables after the research in the CLES Project are to obtain a General framework for understanding and predicting the dynamics of learning in supply chains; the analysis of the best practices for dynamic alignment through collaborative learning in joint innovation strategies, integration, and dyad organizations as well as the recommendations about the potential application of the best practices detected, from the general framework and from the case-studies, in other areas of improvement; and the publications of the main research results.

The research methodology is performed by a longitudinal exploratory investigation through at least 8 leading companies in the world, such as Leroy Merlín (Spain), CAT Logistics (US), Jonhson & Jonhson (Canada) and Hewlett Packard (Spain), and their corresponding strategic partners, to explore the performance implications using a combinatorial qualitative approach that leverages the strengths of multi-case study research that permits the contrasting or confirmation emerging results, content analysis though secondary data analysis and survey research.

This research is developed under the collaboration between the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program (Zaragoza Logistics Center), the Project Engineering Group (University of Zaragoza) and the Schulich School of Business (York University, Canada), with the support of the companies involved.

Participating Organizations


  • Zaragoza Logistics Center
  • York University – Schulich School of Business (SSB)
  • Universidad de Zaragoza