In 1913, Henry Ford revolutionized product manufacturing by introducing the first assembly line to the automotive industry. Ford’s hallmark of achievement proved to be a key competence for the motor company as the low cost of the Model T attracted a broader, new range of prospective car-owners. However, after many decades of success, customers have become harder to find. Due to relatively new threats to the industry, increasing numbers of cars and trucks are parked in dealer lots and showrooms creating an alarming trend of stagnation and profit erosion. Foreign-based automakers, such as Toyota and Honda, have expanded operations onto domestic shores and, in turn, have wrestled market share from American automakers. As a direct result, unit over-capacity has steadily risen, while heightened competition and diverse product lines have led to increasing customer demands.
To answer these threats, Ford has made recent attempts to transform its dated vertical integration production model into a maneuverable, efficient supply chain. Emphasizing methods such as Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory, Total Quality Management (TQM), and Synchronous Material Flow (SMF), Ford has derived a multi-tiered system of supply. The tier system consists of numerous generic suppliers, “tier two” and below, who are managed by “tier one” vehicle sub-system suppliers. The “tier one” suppliers, by nature, are completely dependent upon Ford’s survival since the provided sub-system component is specific solely to Ford.
Dell and Virtual Integration
Despite the revamping effort, Ford remains plagued with prolonged Order-To-Delivery (OTD) time periods, congested inventories and error-ridden procurement processes. Upon investigation, these troublesome issues appear to be well addressed by the radically new direct business model of the Dell Computer Corporation. Dell differentiates itself through the utilization of virtual integration, an efficient and effective direct business model facilitated by electronic business providing Build-To-Order (BTO) products directly to customers. The process begins with the customer specifying exactly which features are to be included in the desired computer. Dell, then, buys components from several different suppliers via Internet-based JIT ordering. By using Dell’s process of JIT ordering , misal...
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...ndustry by integrating a direct supply network. Ford’s goal of TQM could be easily met by implementing a variation of Dell’s already successful virtual integration business model. Fostering cooperation through incentives is key since compliance of supply chain partners is necessary to gain first-mover advantage.
In today’s competitive environment, it is important for any business to focus on the customer and to provide unique value in order to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. Without virtual integration, competitive advantage is lost. Successful implementation of virtual integration initiatives allows supplier companies, which are performing only certain processes, to work together as one entity. Therefore, operations become more efficient by reducing inventory, assuring quality, and reducing delivery time. More importantly, the organization maintains the ability to thrive in a competitive marketplace by achieving increased customer satisfaction through unique and strategic core competences. Virtual integration will redefine corporations and , eventually, entire industries as supply chains evolve into a new business model of cooperation and sharing.
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