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Paper info: Trust-related Dynamics in the Supply Chain Relationship


Trust-related Dynamics in the Supply Chain Relationship


Heli Aramo-Immonen and Rainer Breite

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 27th IMP-conference in Glasgow, Scotland in 2011.



Conventionally, different company-supplier relationship areas have been illustrated by
distinguishing five different relationship categories between the supplier or subcontractor and the
buyer company, namely adversarial leverage, preferred supplier, single sourcing, network sourcing
partnership, and strategic supplier alliance. This implies that the supplier’s importance to the buyer
company also changes and vice versa. One delaying element which retards the evolution of a supply
relationship is a lack of trust. This element manifests itself as poor information flows, restricted
knowledge sharing, and suspicion between stakeholders. Therefore trust is one of the most
important elements in improving dyadic relationships. Trust is becoming an ever more essential
managing element between companies when they integrate their activities, form and maintain their
dyadic relationship, and create control systems.
In the paper is discussed personal trust and system-based trust affecting supplier relationships in the
supply chain context. Empirical material was collected by means of a survey and interviews. The
managers of the case company estimated how they trust and trusted their suppliers and how reliable
their suppliers actually are or were. The case company is involved with complicated projects that
include several hundred suppliers.
We introduce some results from the survey study (sample n=392 persons) and from the interviews
with the focus group, in order to explore how the company’s defined company-supplier relationship
is related to the expected level of trust and how the expected trust varies in different supplier
relationships. The results indicate that different aspects and expectation of trust in the case company
has led to the situation where the supplier categorization is unclear in the company’s organization,
which can lead to confusion in supply management. This in turn implies that organization’s own
attitudes and changes in trust may be a source of dynamics that impedes efficient and effective
supply network management.
Keywords: Trust, supplier relationship, supply chain management