Supply network configuration for small series, high-cost production : Exploring the European textile and apparel industry context

Sammanfattning: The purpose of this thesis is to increase the understanding of supply network configuration (SNC) for small series production in high-cost contexts in relation to the textile/apparel industry. SNC encompasses strategic structural and infrastructural decisions at the supply chain level, motivated by capabilities/priorities. The key configuration decisions addressed concern textile/apparel production in Europe, with associated context-specific advantages and challenges. The thesis takes a particular focus on how practitioners consider these configurations and motivations. The thesis begins with identification of motivations for locating textile/apparel production in high-cost contexts, to capture the driving priorities. Thereafter, the thesis extends the focus beyond location motivations to identify the key SNC aspects and characteristics for small series production in high-cost contexts. These configuration-related aspects and capabilities are elaborated upon and modelled to understand how they are interrelated in textile/apparel industry contexts. The empirical work uses mixed-methods and seeks to bring together the relevant topics using a SNC and capabilities approach. The specific methods, Delphi study and interpretive structural modeling, are focused on sensitivity practitioner perspectives.Findings show multiple key motivations/capabilities for high-cost textile/apparel production, specifically small series production (customization); which is closely linked with several other priorities, including quality and flexibility/delivery. Expanding the view to the SNC aspects, the findings confirm and extend the literature regarding complexities, multi-level characteristics, synergies and trade-offs, and industry/location contingencies. Regarding this European textile/apparel context, several interrelated considerations create challenges with respect to balancing configuration, capabilities and location; in particular related to multiple priorities such as flexibility/delivery, quality, innovation/sustainability, and the level of product variety/customization. Several relational characteristics are also crucial, including focus on trust and information sharing, although, with a few significant exceptions, limited supplier integration levels are found. These findings indicate the need to build upon existing relationships to develop end-to-end digital connections.The thesis approaches issues at the intersection of theory and practice, regarding configuring supply networks for small series production in high-cost contexts. Practically, it develops an approach to evaluate and model decision aspects, demonstrating how this can be used with a variety of textile/apparel companies. Several extensions are required to support current and future state mapping, including developments related to the method and the addition of performance considerations.The thesis contributes to theory by broadening the focus on high-cost locations to include small series production and the SNC perspective. Thus, the research confirms multiple priorities including innovation and sustainability; additionally finding several challenges associated with small series textile/apparel production in high-cost contexts. Further research should extend the focus to understand (re)configuration processes, and implications on priorities like sustainable innovation.