ABSTRACT

Purpose - The postponement strategy, which delays the form, place, and production of products as late as possible, has been widely considered as a competitive supply chain management scheme in an era of mass customization and modular manufacturing. An interesting business phenomenon is that not all manufacturing/logistics firms choose the postponement strategy. Given that postponement is a counter-measure to speculation, which has some advantages under certain environments, the current imprudent inclination toward the postponement strategy may cause firms to lose the potential of the speculation strategy, an alternative strategy in supply chain management. Building on the logistics and manufacturing literature, this study examines characteristics of two contrasting strategies, postponement and speculation, and major factors favoring each strategy. Research design, data, and methodology - We apply the profiling approach to two business cases, HP printer and LG mobile phone. The profiling approach is a method of choosing a particular strategy aligned with environmental factors. While various approaches have been used to check the fit between a business strategy and environmental factors, the literature on manufacturing strategy and logistics has commonly adopted the profiling approach. Major factors used in profiling variables are derived from the literature. Two samples, HP printer and LG mobile phone, are selected, because they represent major characteristics appropriate for each strategy. The profiling is based on data from semi-organized interviews with managers. Results – The profiling approach shows that the postponement strategy is a suitable one for HP printers. Most factors, such as product life cycle, large production volume, low-price, product value, and monetary density, support delaying end products until as late as possible. Despite some exceptions, such as delivery time and economy of scale, our analysis states that the overall profile of HP printer is favorable for the postponement strategy. On the other hand, LG mobile phone may adapt the speculation strategy. Although it has large production volume and low delivery frequency, most characteristics support the speculation strategy for this product. An interesting finding is that, despite common perception that advanced technology products such as mobile telephones favor the postponement strategy, profiling proposes the speculation strategy for this product. Conclusions - Our analysis shows that speculation is not the universal option for supply chain management, and that, when choosing a specific strategy, one should consider many factors simultaneously. A major implication of our work is to emphasize the role of environmental factors such as supply chain variables in choosing an inventory strategy, and the importance of fit rather than solely strategic orientation. A theoretical contribution is to demonstrate the benefit of the simultaneous consideration of business variables in choosing specific strategies. For practitioners, our work leads us to consider the existence and the potential of speculation as a counter-measure to postponement. In addition, the comprehensive framework in this research may be instantly used in examining a practical strategy.

KEYWORD

Supply Chain Management, Postponement, Speculation, Profiling Model, Fit.

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