Revolutionizing French Military Logistics in the 18th and 19th Centuries: Lessons for Supply Chain Management

Loup Valax, David B. Grant, James Stock

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Purpose of the communication: Paper overviews improvements occurring in French military logistics in the 18th-19th centuries and discusses their implications for modern-day supply chains in a globalized market.
Research design and methodology: Paper draws on literature tracing three streams using a historical approach: changes in French military logistics in the 18th-19th centuries, activities in modern-day military logistics stemming from such changes, and implications for modern-day supply chain management. Writings of prominent French military theorists at that time are examined but focus on Philippe-Henri, comte de Grimoard.

Results: Development three centuries ago of better technology and weaponry and longer and extended campaigns with more men and equipment necessitated a change in military logistics strategy to establish supply chains for materiel, support products and services. Key insights proposed by the French authors included decentralization and smaller units of activity that are agile, flexible and well-coordinated, sourcing supplies and positioning stocks. Such strategies continue to be used in modern-day military design and operations. Implications for modern-day supply chain management include being agile within global activities, i.e., organizing a system based mainly on local resources and products as opposed to transporting such goods over long distances in order to meet demand requirements of timeliness and lower cost.

Theoretical contribution: While not refuting lean, long supply chain strategies, theoretical contributions propose more agile or ‘leagile’ supply chain management strategies. This proposition is counter-intuitive to outsourcing and globalization in vogue since the 1980s but currently under stress due to deglobalization.

Managerial contribution: Theoretical contributions noted above suggest modern-day supply chains may need to be reconfigured towards more agile strategies that consider different positioning, stock management and demand planning solutions. Such reconfiguration has resonance in fast-moving consumer goods and humanitarian logistics settings.

Limitations of the study: This paper is conceptual and based on a historical literature review and as such there is no empirical research to validate propositions offered. Future research should undertake empirical studies to investigate their efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication12ème Rencontres Internationales de la Recherche en Logistique et Supply Chain Management
PublisherAIRL - Association Internationale de Recherche Logistique et Supply Chain Management
Publication date30.05.2018
Publication statusPublished - 30.05.2018
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings

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

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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