On Strategy and Manufacturing Flexibility
Sammanfattning: The era when customers bought what companies produced is long gone. The situation is now reversed and companies must produce what customers want; while the customers' preferences are, furthermore, becoming increasingly diverse. This has forced companies to adopt a new mode of thinking in order to survive. The strategy, by necessity, has become to manufacture flexibly. This thesis focuses on strategy and manufacturing flexibility. It includes a frame of reference and eight papers appended in full, reporting findings in four broad areas: • Manufacturing flexibility, • Manufacturing strategy, • Strategic flexibility, • Strategic manufacturing flexibility. The overall purpose of this study is to conceptualise the strategic role of manufacturing flexibility in the continuous realignment between the organisation and its environment. The guiding principle of the methodology applied in this thesis is to use the most appropriate paradigm and methodology given the individual problem at hand. The results of the studies in manufacturing flexibility are used firstly to provide elucidation of the understanding of managers' perceptions of manufacturing flexibility. Secondly, a framework for manufacturing flexibility is deduced which illustrates how to obtain consistency from manufacturing strategy to the resource characteristics in the production system. Thirdly, a method for the evaluation of flexibility in manufacturing, the capital-back method, is developed and analysed. The results of the study in manufacturing strategy are presented as a case, indicating how flexibility of the manufacturing function can be utilised in order to gain competitive advantage in an uncertain and dynamic market. A combination methodology, using both a top-down, grand strategy approach and a bottom-up, grounded methodology is developed and used in the study, and is shown to provide a sound basis for understanding external as well as internal factors impinging upon the company. Furthermore, Porter's (1980) taxonomy of generic strategies is scrutinised and the difficulties of classifying the strategy of a real company into one, and only one, of the deduced taxa are illustrated. Strategic flexibility is a broad area of research. Consequently, the study of this area embraces only a minor part of the field, namely a meta-analysis of the literature on strategic alliances. The analysis confirms, among other things, that the literature is overoptimistic towards strategic alliances. Finally, regarding strategic manufacturing flexibility, a suggestion for research is presented which involves the synchronisation of three continuous processes within the company, concerning manufacturing flexibility, manufacturing strategy and strategic flexibility. Three major suggestions concerning research in the field of strategic manufacturing flexibility are presented. Firstly, an integrative perspective on the competitive priorities - cost, quality, flexibility and dependability - is advocated due to synergistic effects. Secondly, since the concept appears to transcend disciplinary boundaries, a multi-disciplinary perspective is also advocated. Thirdly, due to the multi-dimensionality of the concept of strategy as well as flexibility, a multi-methodological approach appears to be advantageous in the pursuit of research within this field.
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