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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, Volume 30, Issue 2, April–June 2013, Pages 136–156
Advanced manufacturing technology (AMT) investment patterns in developing countries is in need of further investigation, particularly in the light of the conflicting evidence from the literature. This paper provides new evidence on AMT investment patterns from the Turkish automotive industry and develops a taxonomy by exploring the relationships between AMT investment patterns, ownership structure, firm size and performance. Analysis of industry survey data suggests the existence of three groups with different AMT investment strategies. Results suggest that AMT investment patterns are not only significantly correlated with firm performance or ownership, but also reveals significant differences in manufacturing performance across investment patterns.
Changing and increasing customer expectations and the inefficiency of conventional manufacturing have led manufacturers to consider new manufacturing approaches such as advanced manufacturing technology (AMT), which allows higher quality and flexibility at lower cost. AMT applies a range of technologies that utilize computers to control or monitor the manufacturing process (Boyer et al., 1996 and Jonsson, 2000). It involves manufacturing techniques and machines combined with information technology, microelectronics and new practices in the manufacturing process (Boyer et al., 1996, Small and Chen, 1997, Burgess and Gules, 1998 and Beaumont et al., 2002). Diaz et al. (2003, p. 579) state that the “relevant literature dealing with an analysis of AMT investment patterns is fairly recent and still relatively scarce”. In their pioneering study, Boyer et al. (1996) proposed a taxonomy of AMTs used in the North American metal-working industries based on relative investment in design, manufacturing and administrative technologies. Following the work of Boyer et al. (1996), Jonsson (2000) and Diaz et al. (2003) present similar taxonomies based on the Swedish metal industry and the Spanish aeronautical industry, respectively. A common characteristic of the studies by Boyer et al. (1996), Jonsson (2000) and Diaz et al. (2003) is their focus on developed countries as far as the analysis of investment patterns in AMT is concerned. However, macro- and micro-economical factors are just important in AMT adoption (Alcorta, 1999), and developing countries face more challenges than developed countries in this respect. For example, firms in developing countries have a less educated workforce, more limited capital and resources, and a less organized economic system relative to firms in developed countries (Prasad et al., 2005). Furthermore, each industry has its own process structure while the type of industry affects the associated manufacturing activities (Hayes and Wheelwright, 1979 and Swamidass and Newell, 1987). For this reason, AMT investments may change from one country and one industry to another, and the technological strategies identified in the previous studies may not be relevant to firms in developing countries. There are three main motivations for this research: (i) the contradictory findings of previous studies empirically exploring the impact of AMT investment strategies on firm performance necessitates further evidence, (ii) the lack of studies exploring AMT investment patterns in developing countries, and (iii) the suggestion repeatedly echoed in the literature to study taxonomies over time and in different contexts ( Miller and Roth, 1994, Kathuria, 2000 and Frohlich and Dixon, 2001), which is taken up in this research. The main aim of this study is to identify whether firms can be differentiated in their investments in AMT and to explore manufacturing and firm performances in the automotive industry of an emerging and developing economy, in this case Turkey1. The study aims to contribute to the operations management literature by (i) providing new evidence from the automotive sector of a developing country in which the use of AMT is highly relevant, which, to our knowledge is a first, and (ii) to provide a taxonomy of AMT investments in this sector and to identify differences and similarities from previous studies. The results are also of use for managers to understand the characteristics of each pattern, and the relationship between the patterns, performance, size, and ownership structure in this context. The rest of the paper is structured as follows. In Literature review and working hypotheses, we present a review of the relevant literature including the existing taxonomies proposed on AMT investments, and describe the working hypotheses. The methodological approach taken in this paper is presented in Methodology, followed by an analysis of the data and presentation of the results in Analysis and results. Conclusions are given in section conclusions.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Summary of findings This paper has contributed to the operations management literature concerning AMT investment patterns and the relationship between the patterns and manufacturing, firm performance, size, and ownership structure in the context of the Turkish automotive industry. Our taxonomy reveals three distinct AMT groups representing differing investment strategies – investors, followers and traditionalists. Our results indicate that different clusters of firms, namely investors, followers and traditionalists, hint at different patterns of AMT investments within the Turkish automotive industry, and also do not differ with respect to ownership structure and size. Investors and followers where firms have high levels of investment in AMT perform better in manufacturing performance than the traditionalists who have the lowest investments in all three AMT variables. However, their firm performance is similar to that of the other two groups. The similarities and differences between the technological strategies that emerge in our study and those of previous studies conducted in various and developed industries clearly show that firms in the automotive industry act according to global rather than local dynamics. Table 9 presents a tabulated summary of the findings of this study, extending the classification presented in Table 1 to the context of a developing country. Implications for theory There are a number of differences between the clusters that emerged in the automotive industry studied here and those of previous studies. First, the level of investments made by the three clusters is generally higher than those of previous studies. AMT investments are at a very high level for the investors, and not even low for traditionalists. Second, traditionalists form the smallest cluster in the three identified in the present study, whereas the same group is observed to be the largest in Boyer et al. (1996) and Diaz et al. (2003). Finally, none of the three AMT variables has come to the fore in terms of investment within a particular cluster, i.e., there are differences between clusters but not within. In our view, these differences mainly arise from the innovative and competitive nature of the automotive industry. A smaller number of traditionalists and a higher level of AMT investments in all clusters support the claim of Dean and Snell (1991) and Swamidass (2003) that the automotive industry is one of the industries using AMT most widely. Furthermore, the relatively balanced aspect of investments in design, manufacturing and administrative AMTs of the three groups identified in this study suggests that firms in the automotive industry are willing to benefit from AMTs as much as possible as regards lower cost, better quality and higher flexibility in order to gain a competitive advantage. Despite the differences noted above, there are some similarities between the technology patterns identified in the automotive industry and those in other industries. In particular, automotive firms make the lowest investments in manufacturing technologies among the three types of AMT variables, similar to those in Boyer et al. (1996) and Jonsson (2000). This feature is understandable; given that the already high investment costs of manufacturing technologies is relatively higher still than those of design and administrative technologies. This is an important result in that investment costs of AMTs still seems to be one of the primary determinants for investment decisions in developing countries as well. Another similarity between the generalists of Boyer et al. (1996) and our followers is that both clusters have significant levels of AMT investments, and they follow, with regard to the investment levels and ranks, the higher level investment group. Moreover, the number of firms in both groups is significantly higher than in the investor group; this similarity shows that there is a large cluster following a small number of leading firms in their technological investment strategies. The lack of any statistically significant difference in all three types of AMT variables between the followers and investors indicates that there is a closer relationship between the two clusters than in other industries. This finding also implies that any lack of technological investments would potentially diminish the technological superiority of the investors in the sector, in which case the similarity between investors and followers would be even greater. These findings parallel those of Boyer et al. (1996). The results obtained in this study have given way to an AMT investment model that is similar but not exactly the same as those described in Boyer et al. (1996), Jonsson (2000) and Diaz et al. (2003). In particular, findings are similar with the previous studies in that there is the emergence of traditionalist and investor groups in all taxonomies. This indicates the stability and robustness of the proposed taxonomy, and provides further support for its usefulness. However, whereas previous taxonomies describe at least one group which comes to the fore with a particular attribute, e.g., the designers described in Boyer et al. (1996) and Diaz et al. (2003) and the hard integrators described in Jonsson (2000), we have found this not to be the case with the automotive industry. The reason behind this finding could be attributed to the innovative and competitive nature of the automotive industry, as well as the perception of this very industry of seeing AMT as a whole, rather than as being segmented. Analysis reveals that there is a significant difference in manufacturing performance across different investment patterns; however, this difference is primarily attributed to traditionalist firms. The difference in manufacturing performance between the followers and investors is not significant. This finding supports our classification by showing that the manufacturing performance of the followers is similar to that of the investors, even though the former do not invest in AMT to the extent that the latter do. The results of this study suggest that AMT investment patterns are not significantly correlated with firm performance, as reported in previous studies. This indicates that the impact of AMT use on firm performance is minimal, and therefore confirms the findings of Boyer et al. (1996), Beaumont and Schroeder (1997)Swamidass and Kotha (1998) and Cagliano and Spina (2000) in a developing country. The weak link between AMT use and firm performance supports the claim of Swamidass and Kotha (1998) that “strategic rather than financial benefits may be the primary reason for investing in AMTs”. The results of this research also indicate that there are no significant differences across AMT investment patterns in terms of firm size. This result implies that it is not only large-size firms that are interested in AMT use, but also those of medium-size, provided they are financially able to invest in these technologies. Our results showed that there is no clear relationship between investment patterns of AMT and the ownership structure of the firms. Although this result does not parallel those of prior studies conducted in different industries (Schroder and Sohal, 1999, Robb and Xie, 2001, Beaumont et al., 2002 and Pyke et al., 2002), it does parallel the findings of Laosirihongthong et al. (2003) in the automotive industry. From these results, we can conclude that AMT investments of domestic firms in the automotive industry are at the same level as foreign-owned or joint venture investments. It is envisaged that the use of these technologies will become widespread among the firms in developing countries, especially as technology costs decrease as a result of developments in technology. Finally, we note that the literature on AMT taxonomies has recently been deemed inconsistent (Chung and Swink, 2009) with regards to the industry and country from which the data are collected, the number of clusters identified and the factors analysis components. Our study has contributed to this literature by offering further evidence from a developing country, which we hope will reduce the above-mentioned inconsistency to arrive at more general AMT utilization patterns. Table 10 presents a high-level comparison between the results found in this study and those of relevant studies. Implications for practice The findings of this paper have useful implications for managers of firms in the automotive sector of a developing country who have not yet adopted AMT but are considering doing so, which are listed below: One fundamental implication is that managers who hesitate to adopt AMT in the automotive sector of a developing country, for whatever reason, are facing the risk of falling out of competition, particularly with regards to manufacturing performance. In particular, our findings on the relationship between manufacturing performance and AMT investments suggest that, investing in the latter is likely to result in: (i) an increase in manufacturing performance with benefits of having a better market position and being a stronger competitor in the industry, and (ii) providing a unique attribute of having invested in a new technology, particularly in a developing country where take-up of AMT would be limited, resulting in increased reputation and customer attraction. Our findings also suggest that a manager's decisions to invest in AMT should be independent of the size and the ownership of the firm. Medium, but not necessarily high, levels of investments in AMT (as in the case of followers) would suffice to yield operational benefits to help firms remain competitive. Managers, however, should not expect to achieve such improvements in operational performance, in particular that of manufacturing, without any AMT investment. The theoretical finding mentioned in the previous section that none of the three AMT variables has come to the fore in terms of investment within a particular cluster within the automotive industry studied here indicates that AMT investments should be seen as a whole. In other words, firms in the automotive industry in a developing country should make balanced investment in all three types of AMT variables. Our findings, as with Boyer et al. (1996) and Diaz et al. (2003), do not indicate any significant correlation between AMT investment patterns and profit and growth as performance measures. This finding indicates that AMT investments alone will not suffice in increasing the overall performance of the automotive industry in developing countries. The implication for managers is that this relationship is more complex than it seems, and may also include other factors such as employee performance. The effect of learning curves for some AMT technologies should not be dismissed, as the benefits of using these technologies will only emerge after they have been in use for some time after some time of use (Sun, 2000). More research on this is needed in different sectors and geographical regions to be able to arrive at general conclusions. Like any other study, this study also has some limitations that suggest directions for future research. The use of a cross-sectional research methodology in the study provides limited longitudinal evidence, and does not show precisely how the development of different types of AMT investment patterns and patterns affect manufacturing and overall performance. Thus, with a longitudinal research, the subject of how firms make progress between strategic types and how these types affect the firm performance variables might be investigated in future studies. The extent to which institutional isomorphorism, in particular mimetic but also possibly coercive and normative, is relevant in AMT adoption in the automotive industry is another interesting question that warrants further research. More specifically, the question to be addressed is whether the decisions on AMT investment in the automotive industry are taken rationally or influenced by coercive, mimetic or normative isomorphism. In this regard, the level of rationality in the AMT investment process and its relation to firm performance is another question to be looked into. Another limitation is the sample used in this research, which is naturally relatively small considering the size of the whole population. In order to overcome these limitations and obtain further insights, future research could look into using samples from multiple countries, including firms of different sizes and ownership.