Virtual manufacturing - a study of some important issues relating to the transformation of traditional manufacturing organisations
This thesis starts with a literature review, outlining the major issues identified in the literature concerning virtual manufacturing enterprise (VME) transformation. Then it details the research methodology used – a systematic approach for empirical research. next, based on the conceptual framework proposed, this thesis builds three modules to form a reference model, with the purpose of clarifying the important issues relevant to transforming a traditional manufacturing company into a VME. The first module proposes a mechanism of VME transformation – operating along the VME metabolism. The second module builds a management function within a VME to ensure a proper operation of the mechanism. This function helps identify six areas as closely related to VME transformation: lean manufacturing; competency protection; internal operation performance measurement; alliance performance measurement; knowledge management; alliance decision making. The third module continues and proposes an alliance performance measurement system which includes 14 categories of performance indicators. An analysis template for alliance decision making is also proposed and integrated into the first module. To validate these three modules, 7 manufacturing organisations (5 in China and 2 in the UK) were investigated, and these field case studies are analysed in this thesis. The evidence found in these organisations, together with the evidence collected from the literature, including both researcher views and literature case studies, provide support for triangulation evidence. In addition, this thesis identifies the strength and weakness patterns of the manufacturing companies within the theoretical niche of this research, and clarifies the relationships among some major research areas from the perspective of virtual manufacturing. Finally, the research findings are summarised, as well as their theoretical and practical implications. Research limitations and recommendations for future work conclude this thesis.