Design chain management : inter-organisational coordination of product development in the UK automotive industry
This thesis examines the inter-firm management of product development between a vehicle manufacturer and six component suppliers actively participating in the design and development process. It introduces the notion of design chain management, in a similar way to the supply chain concept has been used to describe logistics and purchasing relationships. This concept enables the product development process to be considered at the inter-firm level between supplier and vehicle manufacturer. Specifically, the research investigates: the nature of the inter-firm design process; the changing requirements of the inter-firm relationship; and the mechanisms that promote inter-firm design transactions. There is an extensive literature review, integrating related themes in product development; coordination mechanisms; inter-firm relationships; information processing; and supplier involvement. This review develops the key components for managing design at the inter-firm level, which forms the basis for an empirical examination of one UK vehicle manufacturer and six of its component suppliers. The empirical part consists of in-depth analyses of the design management process within each case study, and across the buyer-supplier relationship. The research presents a classification of suppliers involved in product development based on their relative responsibility for design, and the position each enters the product development process. The thesis concludes that the core suppliers involved in early exchanges of design information require more attention to long-term structural mechanisms, such as supplier development initiatives, than to the use of CAD/CAM or ED!. In particular, suppliers are investing in placing their own staff permanently within their customer premises, in the form of guest (resident) engineers, and this is an area in need of further research. In addition, there is a need for post-project reviews at both the vehicle programme level and the individual system and component level. As project management is devolved to the supply base, the ability to project manage both internally and externally will determine those firms able to compete effectively in the market place.