This study takes its starting point in what seems to be acommon opinion in industry: the trend for more and more work,product development activities in particular, to be handled bysuppliers. Today this is often discussed as a trend towardsincreased outsourcing and words like lean supply, partnershipand co-operation in the supply chain have become popular todescribe what is happening. A critical view on these trends isthe starting point of this study.
The overall question in this study is: what is influencingthe allocation of work, product development work in particular,within a supply chain? Literature and three deep case studiesis the base of the study. Earlier research discussed is thenetwork approach within marketing, the transaction costapproach, literature on purchasing, strategic supply andproduct development.
Three important aspects of the overall question arediscussed: the product (specifications in particular), theorganizational context and the time dimension. Arising fromthese three aspects is a discussion on what influence on theallocation of product development within a supply chain canlook like.
An important theoretical result of the study is that anapproach on how to study the changes of allocation of work inthe supply chain, as a make-or-buy decision problem, should becomplemented with studies like this one. A seldom articulatedpresumption, that influence could be reduced to a decision,must be broadened. By influencing the product, the organizationand earlier happenings both within and between the companies itis possible to get influence on the allocation of work withinthe supply chain. That kind of influence can be achievedoutside a "decision-room". It could even be achieved before anydecision of changed allocation of work have been made.
A practical result of the study, and a complement to thetrend scenario, is that an often stated advice to suppliers,"to-start-your-own-department-for-product-development", shouldbe given some nuances. It is not necessary to employ a designengineer to take part in the product development work of thecustomers. It is possible for a supplier to use hismanufacturing knowledge in his customers developmentprocess.
Keywords:buyer-supplier relationship, allocation ofwork, product development, influence, time, products,organizational context, supply-chain, outsourcing.
Stockholm: Industriell ekonomi och organisation , 1997. , 287 p.