Purpose – The aim of this paper is to explore the role of inventory and warehousing within international supply chains and, from this, to develop an exploratory framework that assists understanding in the area. Design/methodology/approach – The research is based on case studies of 13 supply chains in six companies, using pipeline mapping techniques, questionnaires, quantitative measures of lead times, and Likert scales to measure the perceptions of supply chain managers to risk. Findings – The results indicate that, for these case study supply chains, the supplier lead times were far in excess of the customer lead times and that, with the exception of new product lines, demand therefore needed to be supplied from inventory. In addition, inventory was a common risk mitigation strategy against the possibility of random demand variability and transportation delays. Based on these findings, an exploratory framework was developed to integrate such factors as inventory reduction strategies, risk management and inventory control theory.
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