An Investigation into Supplier Responsiveness: Empirical Evidence from the Automotive Industry

Holweg, Matthias (2005) An Investigation into Supplier Responsiveness: Empirical Evidence from the Automotive Industry. The International Journal of Logistics Management, 16 (1). pp. 96-119.


– The ability of a manufacturing system to respond to customer demand in a timely fashion is widely accepted as a source of competitive advantage. While quick response concepts at system level have been widely discussed in a range of industry sectors, such as textile, electronics and fast moving consumer goods, few studies so far have specifically investigated the responsiveness of the component supply chain. This exploratory study hence aims to reconcile the considerable ambiguity that exists around the concept of supplier responsiveness, supported by an empirical investigation into the automotive parts industry.

– The study analyses the responsiveness of first‐tier automotive suppliers in Europe. The research is based on a multi‐method approach comprising of a survey, coupled with in‐depth processing mapping and complimenting interviews of production control staff at a subset of the surveyed companies.

– The findings suggest that supplier responsiveness is constrained by both endogenous factors originating from within their own manufacturing operations, as well as exogenous factors related to both their respective up‐stream and downstream tiers. Furthermore, the study highlights how first‐tier suppliers are “squeezed” between demanding vehicle manufacturers on the one hand, and an unresponsive raw material supply base on the other, constraining their overall ability to respond to changing market requirements.

Research limitations/implications
– The conclusions derived from this research are bound by the sample these are drawn from, and additional large‐scale analyses are suggested as further research.

– While the concept of “responsiveness” has been widely discussed in the supply chain literature, this debate has largely remained in the realms of qualitative description. Few studies have empirically addressed the issue of supply chain responsiveness, and if so, often focused on a subset of factors (e.g. schedule variations) only. In this paper, an holistic approach to responsiveness is adopted that aims at identifying the key variables that impact on supply chain responsiveness, as well as providing quantitative evidence to support these claims.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Response time, Flexible manufacturing systems, Supply chain management, Automotive industry
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2015 09:41
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2015 09:41
Funders: N/A

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