Channel coordination (or supply chain coordination) aims at improving supply chain performance by aligning the plans and the objectives of individual enterprises. It usually focuses on inventory management and ordering decisions in distributed inter-company settings. Channel coordination models may involve multi-echelon inventory theory, multiple decision makers, asymmetric information, as well as recent paradigms of manufacturing, such as mass customization, short product life-cycles, outsourcing and delayed differentiation. The theoretical foundations of the coordination are based chiefly on the contract theory.
The decentralized decision making in supply chains leads to a dilemma situation which results in a suboptimal overall performance called double marginalization. Recently, partners in permanent supply chains tend to extend the coordination of their decisions in order to improve the performance for all of the participants. Some practical realizations of this approach are Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR), Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) and Quick Response (QR).
The theory of channel coordination aims at supporting the performance optimization by developing arrangements for aligning the different objectives of the partners. These are called coordination mechanisms or schemes, which control the flows of information, materials (or service) and financial assets along the chains. In general, a contracting scheme should consist of the following components:
- Local planning methods which consider the constraints and objectives of the individual partners,
- An infrastructure and protocol for information sharing, and
- An incentive scheme for aligning the individual interests of the partners.
The appropriate planning methods are necessary for optimizing the behavior of the production. The second component should support the information visibility and transparency both within and among the partners and facilitates the realization of real-time enterprises. Finally, the third component should guarantee that the partners act upon to the common goals of the supply chain.