Supplier strategies in the automotive components industry : development towards lean production.
This Thesis contributes to understanding of strategic collaborative partnerships
between industrial customers and suppliers, within the context of technical change.
Automotive manufacturers are facing a plethora of technical change - more than they
can handle in traditional ways - and a new basis for competition, set by so-called
"lean" manufacturers, from Japan. Lean Production, a demonstrably superior
strategy for vehicle design and manufacture, contradicts many of the tenets of the
previous best practice: mass production.
In order to compete, vehicle assemblers are turning to their suppliers for help. The
role of the supplier is thus changing fundamentally: the new challenge is to adopt
collaborative strategies and become good "partners".
The research was based upon almost 200 interviews in the industry, in ten countries.
Five original models of customer-supplier relationships were built and tested
exhaustively. Two original models of strategy for component suppliers were
identified - operable in two modes - designed for positioning within the industry in
the light of the new complex demands from customers.
The conclusions of the research are:
1. The business relationship between a vehicle assembler and its components
suppliers may be seen as an example of vertical strategic collaboration - partnership
between two parties making complementary, dissimilar, contributions, for mutual
benefit. Suchp artnershipsm ust be assumedto havea finite life.
2. Whilst all component suppliers will need to adopt lean production methods and
approaches, four distinct types of strategy may be identified.
3. Vertical collaboration appears to share many features of horizontal collaboration.
The reasons for entering strategic collaboration, identified by research into horizontal
collaboration, can be further understood by study of vertical collaboration.
4. Supplier firms form networks within which individual roles vary. Lean supply
requires suppliers and their customers to perceive competition in a more