Strategic manufacturing effectiveness : an empirical analysis
The difficulties that faced many manufacturing firms were attributed by Skinner (1969) to the inadequate attention given by top managers to the manufacturing function. He proposed a holistic framework of manufacturing strategy development that link manufacturing with corporate strategy. This work of Skinner is the first of three stages in the progression of thinking with respect to the strategic role of manufacturing as pointed out by Hum and Leow (1993). The other two stages being the demand of manufacturing to support and be consistent with corporate strategy (Wheelwright, 1978), and the present thinking that manufacturing can lead other functional areas in its contribution to the development of corporate strategy. This research is concerned with the current understanding of the strategic role of manufacturing which was provided by Wheelwright and Hayes (1985). They suggested that even though strategic manufacturing effectiveness is developed along a continuum, there are four identifiable stages that can indicate a firm's position. Furthermore, they suggested that strategic manufacturing effectiveness can be operationalised through the emphasis that firms place on manufacturing choices and decisions; there are factors that affect strategic manufacturing effectiveness; and the higher the level of strategic manufacturing effectiveness, the better the firm's performance. With respect to the factors affecting manufacturing effectiveness, Wheelwright and Hayes (1985) perceived five such dimensions. They are the attitude of top managers towards manufacturing, the involvement of manufacturing managers in setting the strategic direction of the firm, the emphasis on formulating manufacturing strategy, manufacturing proactiveness, and the co-ordination between manufacturing and other functions. The framework of Wheelwright and Hayes (1985) is a diagnostic tool that is used to appraise manufacturing's role within a firm. However, the relationships among its constituents have not been examined in detail before. This research develops a model that clearly identifies such dimensions and how they influence manufacturing effectiveness. Also, the notion that there are four identifiable stages is investigated. Moreover, mediating effects of the types of industry, the sizes of firms, and the types of production process on manufacturing effectiveness are also examined. The results from hypotheses testing indicated the significance of the attitude of top managers towards manufacturing and the involvement of manufacturing managers in setting the strategic direction of the firm as being the key factors that influence the process of acquiring strategic manufacturing effectiveness.