Supplier selection criteria and models

Purchasing is among the most important activities in supply chain management, since it is the primary point of contact with most supply-chain partners. A major area in purchasing management is that of Supplier Selection Problem (sometimes called the Vendor Selection Problem). Research in this domain started in the early 1960s and over 175 studies have attempted to address this highly critical issue of procurement management. “Vendor selection criteria and methods” have reportedly been the highest area of interest in operations management research.

A wide variety of selection criteria have been used in different studies for the evaluation of suppliers which have varied due to the differences in requirements in different industries and also often had been purely firm specific. Typically the variety of supplier selection criteria that has been used has exceeded 50 criteria in over 65 research papers working on finding new criteria for evaluation of suppliers. These criteria have been enlisted in the matrix shown below.

Some of the most popular criteria in supplier selection which has been used in over 10 research papers and have also been widely cited are relative price, compliance with the delivery schedule, quality of the delivered goods to specifications, production capabilities of the supplier, geographic distance (of the warehouse), technical capability of the supplier, management capability of the supplier  and financial position of the supplier. All these supplier evaluation criteria have found massive application in the studies in this domain and are marked by subtle differences in terms of relative importance, as perceived by senior procurement practitioners.

Similarly another area of keen interest is the models which has been used to provide decision support to the supplier selection problem. Over 35 different mathematical models have been used for providing decision support to this extremely critical issue of procurement management. A study by Ho, Xu and Dey (2010) reveals that the Analytic Hierarchy Process, Mathematical Programming and Data Envelopment Analysis are the top 3 modeling paradigms used to provide decision support in supplier selection problems. Many other novel techniques like multi-attribute-deterministic models; mixed mathematical programming, outranking techniques; weighted sum of products; interpretive structural modeling; fuzzy set theory, neural networks; intelligent agent based techniques; TOPSIS, fuzzy multi-attribute frameworks; rule based reasoning models and multi-objective programming models have also been used. Typically the evolution of supplier selection models have been as described pictorially below, due to the evolution of the nature of selection criteria, from quantitative to a mix of quantitative and qualitative criteria.

As the trend highlights, there is a paradigm shift in the nature of the mathematical models used for supplier selection with a change in the requirements in the nature of business, mostly in the manufacturing industries and the maturity of the discipline. No wonder the area has attracted so much of attention to the consulting practitioners and theory developers in academia alike.

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Arpan Kar

Professor at IIT / IIM
Prof. Kar (PhD) is a faculty member of the Information Systems & Management area in Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, one of the top universities globally. He has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research. He has over 35 high impact publications. Prior to joining academia, he has rich experience in Cognizant Business Consulting and IBM Research Laboratory. He is the Editor of Business Fundas.
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