انعطاف پذیری تولید و استراتژی کسب و کار: مطالعه تجربی از شرکت های کوچک و متوسط
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Production Economics, Volume 83, Issue 1, 25 January 2003, Pages 13–26
This study investigates the practice of manufacturing flexibility in small and medium sized firms. Using the data collected from 87 firms from machinery and machine tool industries in Taiwan, we analyzed and prescribed the alignment of various manufacturing flexibility dimensions with business strategies. Several practical approaches to developing manufacturing flexibility in small and medium sized firms were discussed. In addition, statistical results indicate that the compatibility between business strategy and manufacturing flexibility is critical to business performance. The one-to-one relationship between business strategy and manufacturing flexibility is established to enable managers to set clear priorities in investing and developing necessary manufacturing flexibility.
Unlike some of the industrialized countries in Asia (e.g., Japan and Korea), where major conglomerates account for the majority of economic activities, Taiwan has traditionally relied on its small and medium sized firms to compete in international markets since the 1970s. These firms are known for being flexible and quick to adapt to changes in the highly demanding international market. Over the last decade they have found themselves facing increasing technological innovation and more severe competition from nearby developing countries such as China and Malaysia. Constantly changing technology induces product and process innovation and shorter product life cycles, thus providing customers with more choices and manufacturers with more ways to compete. To deal with a more dynamic and competitive market, the literature has suggested the development of manufacturing flexibility as a new strategic imperative (Gerwin, 1993; Suarez et al., 1996). This study investigates the practice of developing manufacturing flexibility of small and medium sized firms in Taiwan. While there are many research issues pertaining to manufacturing flexibility, this paper specifically studies the incorporation of developing flexibility into business strategy planning as suggested by previous studies (Sethi and Sethi, 1990; Gerwin, 1993; Suarez et al., 1996; Gupta and Somers, 1996). The concept of manufacturing flexibility is regarded as “vague and difficult to improve yet critical to competitiveness” (Upton, 1995, p. 75). Upton (1995) studied 61 factories and found that 40% of flexibility improvement effort was regarded unsuccessful. One of the major factors contributing to such failure was the inability of managers to identify and agree on the kind of flexibility to develop. The choice of type of flexibility to develop can be difficult, considering that there are so many different dimensions of flexibility. If manufacturing managers do not carefully assess their strategic needs before embarking on a flexibility program, the result can be competitively destructive. As evidenced by many studies, flexibility cannot be bought by simply installing computer-integrated systems. It needs to be planned, managed and integrated with a firm's strategy. Accordingly, the research questions that we intend to address are “Are different types of manufacturing flexibility important to firms in different business strategies?” If so, “How should managers develop and implement manufacturing flexibility based on their business strategies?” Our purpose is to prescribe the alignment of manufacturing flexibility with business strategy in order to enhance business performance. The research assumption is that more flexibility does not necessarily lead to better business performance. This study hypothesizes that not all manufacturing flexibility types are useful in all manufacturing environment. In addition, we propose that matching the two, flexibility and business strategy, would improve business performance such as profit and sales growth. To our knowledge, while the issue of aligning of manufacturing flexibility with specific business strategy has been briefly discussed in theory, no empirical studies have thoroughly verified the impact of such compatibility on business performance. Therefore, this research investigates the current practice of developing manufacturing flexibility in alignment with business strategy and empirically verifies the positive impact of this matching on business performance. We first review the effect of manufacturing flexibility on business performance and the theoretical relationship between various flexibility dimensions and business strategies. Next, we discuss the research design including hypothesis and statistical methods. Finally, statistical results and discussions are presented.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This study reviews the manufacturing flexibility practice in small and medium sized firms. Using data collected from machine tool and machinery industries in Taiwan, we investigated the effect of manufacturing flexibility on business performance under three different business strategies. The premise was that flexibility is multi-dimensional, and companies should select and develop types of flexibility consistent with their business strategy. Our results show that no one specific type of manufacturing flexibility is beneficial under all circumstances. For example, volume flexibility is not critical for firms with Differentiated/Follower strategy, while it benefits Preemptive/First Movers. This finding supports previous notions that more flexibility is not necessarily better and useful (Gaimon and Singhal, 1992). This finding also has very important management implications. Many researchers have observed the nature of trade-off among various manufacturing flexibility dimensions. Since most small and medium sized firms do not have much resource, it is important that they set clear priorities in investing and developing manufacturing flexibility that match their business strategy. Alternatively, it is necessary that firms review existing manufacturing flexibility during the process of developing business strategy. It may be counter-productive for a firm to enhance manufacturing flexibility without changing its strategy (Milgrom and Roberts, 1990). For example, marketing may not take advantage of new opportunities resulting from manufacturing flexibility. The data used in this study were collected from machine tool and machinery industries in Taiwan. It is not known how the selection of industries and geographical areas would affect this study's findings. Since the nature of product life cycle, competitive environment and industry structure are different from industry to industry and from country to country, future study should investigate the applicability of our findings with other industries and areas. Another limitation of this study is related to the measures of manufacturing flexibility. We defined flexibility following previous studies (Gupta and Somers, 1996; Braglia and Petroni, 2000). It is possible that the use of single item indicators could limit the generalizability of the statistical results. On the other hand, there are researchers who advocate the use of single item indicators for better efficiency in social science studies (Drolet and Morrison, 2001). In any case, the statistical results are mostly consistent with previous studies and our observations from the field. Research in this area should try to establish operationally useful measurement criteria across different industries to facilitate empirical study.