• Study of internet usage in the fresh produce supply chain in the UK and China

      Xu, Xiaoxiao (University of Bedfordshire, 2010-03)
      Fresh produce supply chain management faces a high level of complexity and uncertainty and a number of challenges due to fresh produce's perishable, seasonal and fragile characteristics. It is argued that effective implementation of Information and Communication Technologies (leTs) has great potential for improving efficiency and reducing wastage within the fresh produce (fruit and vegetable) supply chain. While' the Internet is used by many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the fresh produce industry, the extent to which it is applied and further developed after the initial adoption varies widely. Much research has been carried out to investigate Internet adoption and usage, but very limited effort has been focused on the identification of the current level of technology integration and deve!opment and the factors affecting the level of the development after the adoption, especially in the context of SMEs in the fresh produce supply chain. This research attempts to address this issue by developing a theoretical framework to illustrate the evolutionary process of Internet adoption and diffusion and to identify factors affecting the development of Internet-based supply chains by following the Technological/Organisational/Environmental (TOE) framevork. First, five development levels of post-adoption of Internet technologies in the supply chain were defined, and factors from the technological, organisational and environmentalcontexts were identified according to literatures and exploratory interviews. Second, questionnaire surveys were conducted in the UK and China to investigate the current situation of internet technologies used by SMEs in the fresh produce supply chains in the two countries. Finally, factors the proposed framework were validated and discussed. The empirical findings show that the Internet is no longer a new technology for most fresh produce SMEs in the UK and China. However, a large proportion of SMEs surveyed are still using basic functions of the Internet, and there is little difference between the UK and Chinese SMEs when comparing the use of complex applications in the supply chains. The results also show that most of the factors in the organisational and technological contexts are positively related to the current development levels of the Internet-based supply chain, whereas, in the environmental context, pressures from customers in the UK and mutual trust among partners in China have a significant impact on current development levels. Additionally, in both countries, companies in a better development level of Internet-based supply chain would achieve a higher degree of integration in their supply chain in five years. Overall, the research has made a number of important contributions to knowledge, current debate and practice in an under-researched sector. The five-level post-adoption framework can be adapted to identify ICT development levels and key factors in other sectors. The empirical data collected has added value to and sheds lights on the current applications of the Internet in the supply chain in general, and in the fresh produce SMEs in China and the UK in particular. The key factors identified as impeding the further development of the Internet, such as factors related to the business environments in the UK and China, will help government policy-makers, supply chain facilitators and IT service providers to be more focused in their efforts to improve the situation and to stimulate the further diffusion of emerging Internet technologies. The research has certain limitations due to the time constraints and sample selections. These limitations provide a platform for directing future research.