On Manufacturing Strategies : Competing Through Inter-Organizational Collaboration

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköpings Universitet

Abstract: Globalization increases the competition among small and medium sized companies. It is possible for their customers, often large systems integrators, to choose suppliers from all around the world. Swedish suppliers are often not competitive only regarding cost consequently simple work tasks are more and more located in low wage countries. One way for the Swedish suppliers to compete is to collaborate with other suppliers, thus adding extra value for their customers. If companies plan to collaborate they need however to coordinate their activities to enable efficient product realization. The companies have different production systems and manufacturing strategies that should be coordinated. The purpose of this research is to investigate the role of manufacturing strategies and the relations between manufacturing strategies and design of production systems in different organizational settings. Organizational aspects on collaborative manufacturing settings are also studied. The research has been carried out through a number of case studies, thus adding empirical value to existing theory. A production system framework is proposed that links the competitive priorities of the company and the manufacturing strategies to the design of the production system. This framework can be used to highlight the dynamic interaction between companies in inter-organizational collaborative manufacturing settings involving small- and medium sized enterprises. In collaborative settings, there is one main flow of information, i.e. from a dominating partner, normally the systems integrator, to a more subordinate partner, normally the supplier. The concept of asymmetric domination is introduced, showing this asymmetric situation. The asymmetric domination gives input to decisions regarding which competitive priorities the collaborative setting should aim at fulfilling with its production systems. The selforganizing aspect on collaborative settings is introduced as a mean to enable more efficient operations. Mutual work tasks are facilitated through reduction of the formal control. Finally, experiences from a number of studies of manufacturing networks in Sweden are synthesized and an integration framework for handling the complexity in collaborative networks is introduced.

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