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Indiana University Bloomington

Operations & Decision Technologies

Kelley Advantage

Our Operations, Analytics and Information Systems faculty have written many of the definitive textbooks in the areas of operations, data analysis, database management, networking, and Excel modeling.

Recent Publications

Journal Articles

Supply Chain Bolt-ons: Investment and Usage by Manufacturers

2008, International Journal of Operations & Production Mgmt

C. Watts, V. Mabert, N. Hartman


Purpose – While past IT investment research has looked at a number of important factors, one issue that needs to be resolved in supply chain IT is the ability of different types of software to improve a firm's productivity or sales. Specifically, the purpose of this paper is to investigate which factors influence the number and types of supply chain bolt-ons systems that are used by companies to improve system functionality.

Design/methodology/approach – In total, 2,000 questionnaires and personalized cover letters were mailed to qualified individuals who were selected from APICS's active membership and employed in manufacturing firms in the USA and 187 useful responses (a 9.3 per cent return rate) were obtained.

Findings – The results were encouraging and they indicated the use of bolt-ons were most common in large firms, firms with defined plans and objectives, firms with existing ERP systems, and firms who believe that the application of best practices is of maximum importance. Most importantly, Bolt-on usage did not seem to be impacted by recent sales or productivity increases, but was instead a result of a critical need in the supply chain.

Research limitations/implications – This research used a single survey methodology and all measures were collected at single point in time. This may limit its generalizability to all time periods and conditions.

Practical implications – Investment in supply chain IT like all strategic initiatives does not end with its installation and implementation but requires continuous improvement. Bolt-ons seem to be one way firms customize their systems to optimize performance and develop a competitive advantage.

Originality/value – The paper employed a survey study approach to examine investments in Bolt-on technologies used to supplement and/or augment ERPs across a wide variety of companies. This is a particular novel research area because much of the existing ERP research has focused almost exclusively on ERP deployment and integration with other systems; while relatively little research has focused on those key Bolt-on systems that might be needed to enhance ERP systems once they have been installed.


Watts, Charles A., Vincent A. Mabert, and Nathan S. Hartman (2008), "Supply Chain Bolt-ons: Investment and Usage by Manufacturers," International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Vol. 28, No. 12, pp. 1219-1243.