Manufacturing change: competitiveness and adjustment through evolving production relationships

Mulhall, Rachel Ann (2013). Manufacturing change: competitiveness and adjustment through evolving production relationships. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Manufacturing is a vital and significant element of the British economy. The sector has made a transition towards the production of higher value-added products and services to remain competitive in increasingly international markets. A highly skilled and competitive supply base is central to the viability of the sector as tasks once undertaken by end-manufacturers are increasingly being absorbed into the portfolio of functions undertaken by the supplier. This thesis examines how one supply industry, intermediate metal processing (IMP), is adjusting to international competition in the context of increasingly complex dependencies in the supply chain.

An intensive study of IMP manufacturers in the West Midlands (UK) was undertaken through qualitative interviews and desk based research to understand the current challenges and opportunities the industry faced. The analysis is focused on the transition to higher value manufacturing and the complexity of buyer-supplier relationships. This is developed through a case study analysis of the industry’s adjustment to rising industrial energy costs and a detailed examination of customer agreement structures in shaping transactional governance structures.

The research makes a contribution to current conceptions of the spatial organisation of production and the nature of production relationships. Mature industries, such as metal component manufacture, are successfully undertaking complex and varied forms of adaptation to remain competitive. Despite transitions to value-added products, costs continue to be an important element to both competitiveness and viability. Production relationships, and specifically the nature of the inter-firm agreement, are a significant aspect of adjustment and the capacity to capture value through governance mechanisms. Contracts are a relatively under represented factor of inter-firm relationships but are found to be central to the adaptability of firms, the attainment of value and stability of the business.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: T Technology > TS Manufactures


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