Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial Management, Mazandaran University, Babolsar, Iran

2 Master's student in Industrial Management - Operations Research, Mazandaran University, Babolsar, Iran


Supplier segmentation is considered one of the key activities in supplier relationship management for companies with multiple suppliers, which can serve as a competitive advantage. Supplier segmentation has garnered significant attention from researchers in recent decades. The aim of this study is to systematically review the research on supplier segmentation to determine the future trends in this field of research. To achieve this goal, a systematic literature review and co-citation network analysis are simultaneously employed. After defining the search protocol and criteria for article selection, a total of 48 articles were ultimately chosen. The selected articles were evaluated and analyzed in accordance with the steps of systematic literature review and co-citation network analysis methods. The results of the analysis indicate researchers' interest in portfolio approaches, decision-making techniques, and the two-dimensional model of profit and supply in supplier segmentation research. Through comprehensive examination and analysis of the research, future research trends were predicted, and it was determined that this field requires further investigation in supply chain paradigms, the impact of supplier segmentation on performance, and the analysis of overall supplier relationship management, of which supplier segmentation is an integral component.
Managing supplier relationships is a collection of activities related to the interaction between the buying company and its suppliers. It is one of the key factors in the success of organizations and holds great importance. Supplier relationship management helps organizations establish strong and effective relationships with their suppliers. By maintaining close and continuous communication with suppliers, an organization can facilitate collaboration and coordination in the supply chain and achieve better and more accurate outcomes. By establishing close relationships and mutual trust with suppliers, an organization can reduce risks associated with its suppliers and carry out critical plans during ongoing organizational operations. Supplier relationship management, by creating a strong and mutually beneficial partnership, enables collaboration and strategic partnerships between the organization and the supplier. This allows both parties to achieve greater efficiency, reduce costs, and implement joint improvements. With accurate and up-to-date information about suppliers, an organization can identify and manage potential risks, thus reducing unnecessary costs and achieving greater efficiency. In recent decades, the participation of suppliers in providing products and services that meet customer needs has increased. Therefore, managing relationships with suppliers plays a key and vital role in the supply chain. Companies adopt strategies to evaluate, select, and manage relationships with suppliers. Collaborating with a number of suppliers, each with their own competitive advantages, is certainly challenging without a systematic approach. In many studies in this field, evaluation, ranking, and selection of suppliers have been conducted. However, managing supplier relationships remains a major challenge for companies. Supplier segmentation plays a key role in enhancing the operational capabilities of a company in supply management, which in turn creates value and mutual benefits in supplier relationships. Examining existing research in this area can greatly contribute to understanding the importance of this subject and its role in the supply chain. However, a systematic review of the literature on supplier segmentation has not been conducted. This research aims to provide a comprehensive and systematic review of supplier segmentation in previous studies, which dates back to the 1980s. In addition to introducing and presenting models and approaches, this article examines the techniques used in supplier segmentation and analyzes future trends in this field.
Materials and methods
The present study provides a comprehensive analysis in the field of supplier segmentation by employing two research methods. This research examines systematic supplier segmentation using a combined approach of Systematic Literature Review (SLR) and Content Network Analysis (CNA). Secondly, the existing approaches, models, and techniques in supplier segmentation research are discussed and analyzed in detail. Finally, the prediction of future studies in this subject is analyzed and examined.
Discussion and results
In the systematic review of literature, a total of 48 articles were selected for analysis. The publication trend of the articles has shown a further increase after 2007, with approximately 62% of the articles in this field being published after 2007. Currently, this upward trend continues. Existing approaches to supplier segmentation can be divided into three categories: Process approach, where supplier segmentation is based on key characteristics of customer segmentation. Portfolio approach, pioneered by Kralljic, which provides a comprehensive portfolio approach for purchasing and supplier segmentation. The variables of profit impact, supply risk, and the types of segments created are determined based on the portfolio approach. Collaborative approach, where the level of collaboration determines the type of relationship. Supplier segmentation is performed using any approach and a dimension-based model. The dimensions of Kralljic's model (supply risk and profit impact) are the basis for 14 studies in the field of supplier segmentation. Among the existing approaches, the portfolio approach and the portfolio-collaborative approach have received more attention from researchers. Kralljic's portfolio approach is still used as a reference and standard approach. In recent years, multi-attribute decision-making techniques (MADM) have been widely used by researchers for supplier segmentation. The popularity of these techniques may stem from the need for less data and more realistic results compared to statistical techniques. Initially, most articles in this field were conceptual and focused on the concept of segmentation. After 2005, this trend shifted, and more articles became practical. Between 2005 and 2012, research in this field used statistical techniques and clustering for supplier segmentation. From 2012 onwards, this trend changed, and most research is now conducted using multi-attribute decision-making methods. The reason for this shift can be attributed to the need for less data and more realistic results. In terms of dimensions used in segmentation, it can be said that multiple dimensions have been used in various studies, with most of them being used only once. Among these dimensions, the risk-profit impact and capability-willingness dimensions have the highest application in research. The risk-profit impact dimensions have been consistently used by researchers since their introduction in 1983. However, since 2012, with the introduction of the capability-willingness dimensions, these dimensions have gained more popularity, indicating a significant growing trend.
The overall findings indicate that in recent years, the trend of studies and research in supplier segmentation is increasing. This suggests that the importance of supplier segmentation in the overall performance of supply chains for companies and organizations is growing, and companies recognize that part of their success and competitive advantage lies in the supplier management domain, of which supplier segmentation is a part. Supplier segmentation is one of the key components of supplier relationship management, and implementing or improving supplier segmentation can lead to gaining an advantage over competitors, as resources are not wasted and are utilized in the right place. By examining the articles from the beginning to 2018, it was possible to provide an overview of the evolutionary stages of key concepts in supplier segmentation and to gain a clearer understanding of the current state of the subject, which can be beneficial for future research advancements. However, there are still significant research gaps that can be explored by researchers in the future.


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