Flexibility through Information Sharing : Evidences from the Automotive Industry in Sweden

Abstract: Research has validated the contribution of information sharing to performance improvement. It has also suggested that flexibility is a highly important competitive priority for those companies where demand is volatile. Several studies argue that flexibility has been recognized as a key enabler for supply chain responsiveness. However, the impact of information sharing on supplier flexibility is still unexplored, especially for the companies that operate in agile business environments such as in the automotive industry where flexibility is a strategic requirement to manage demand uncertainty. In agile supply chains, such as in the automotive industry, information sharing can play an important role in responding to demand variability. In such settings, the demand volumes generally fluctuate, and hence create production-scheduling problems for the upstream suppliers such as first-tier suppliers. Interestingly, the impact of demand fluctuations on suppliers is higher than that of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).The aim of this doctoral thesis is to investigate the role of information sharing between OEMs and first-tier suppliers, in enhancing supplier flexibility. Particularly, the research focuses on exploring the relationship between sharing demand schedules and inventory data, and volume and delivery flexibility. The questions on whether information sharing between OEMs and first-tier suppliers affect supplier flexibility remain unanswered. The following research questions have emerged: RQ1: How does information sharing between OEMs and first-tier suppliers affect the latter's responsiveness to fluctuating demand?RQ2: What is the relationship between information sharing of OEMsʼ demand forecasts and inventory data, and suppliers’ volume and delivery flexibility? RQ3: What factors should OEMs consider to improve the sharing of demand forecasts with suppliers?The empirical part of this thesis comprises three individual studies that constitute the empirical foundations of the research problem. Each study analyzes one research question using its own methodological approach. Hence, different research methods for collecting and analyzing data were used to address the research questions. Applying different research methods is deemed advantageous because it allows for methodological rigorousness in this doctoral thesis.This thesis contributes to the body of knowledge in three dimensions—theory, method, and context. First, it contributes to the academic field of operations and supply chain management by developing a model to explain how information sharing could affect suppliers’ delivery performance. The model provides a measurement scale to measure the level of information sharing between OEMs and suppliers, and its impact on suppliers’ delivery flexibility. Second, this thesis contributes to the methods by using state-of-the-art techniques, which is partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) including consistent PLS, and applying advanced concepts to empirically test the proposed model. Third, this thesis has a managerial contribution to examine the concept of information sharing and flexibility at the supplier level. Investigating the problem at the supplier level may enable managers to improve short-term decisions, such as production scheduling decisions, internal production, and inventory processes, and evaluate collaboration practices with OEMs.This doctoral thesis is organized in a monograph format comprising five chapters: Introduction, Literature review, Methodology, Empirics, and Conclusion. As an outcome, several scientific articles have emerged from this thesis and have been submitted for consideration for publication in peer-reviewed journals and international conferences in the field of operations and supply chain management. These articles are listed and appended at the end of this dissertation.