Process modularity, supply chain responsiveness, and moderators: The Médecins Sans Frontières response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Félicia Saïah *, Diego Vega, Harwin de Vries, Joakim Kembro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The unprecedented scale of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge for health supply chains around the world. Many International Humanitarian Organizations (IHOs) have had to ensure the continuity of their already complex development programmes, while addressing their supply chain disruptions linked to the pandemic. Process modularity has frequently been advocated as a strategy to mitigate such disruptions, although empirical evidence regarding its impact on supply chain responsiveness and what moderates this impact is scarce. This exploratory research uses supply chain data analysis, qualitative content analysis, interviews, and a three-round Delphi study to investigate how Doctors without Borders (MSF) and its 151 missions employed process modularity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our results show that, despite severe disruptions, process modularity – based on a modular architecture, interfaces, and standards – has helped MSF maintain supply chain responsiveness. Specifically, it 1) enabled time-consuming, non-essential tasks to be skipped, 2) relieved internal and external bottlenecks, and 3) facilitated better allocation and prioritization. Our analyses also put forward eight moderators, structured in three dimensions (visibility, alignment, and resource orchestration), which can affect the impact of process modularity on supply chain responsiveness. We extend the literature on supply chain responsiveness and process modularity by presenting extensive empirical results suggesting that process modularity improves responsiveness in crisis situations, how it does so, and what moderates this impact. Our study thereby highlights the potential of this strategy and provides operationally relevant insights that could help organizations to implement or to review and redesign their process modularity.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1490-1511
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 17.02.2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Covid-19 pandemic
  • humanitarian supply chain
  • moderators
  • process modularity
  • supply chain responsiveness

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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