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Global Strategic Benchmarking, Critical Capabilities and Performance of Aerospace Subcontractors


  • Élisabeth Lefebvre
  • Louis A. Lefebvre


The aerospace industry faces fierce and rapidly changing competition worldwide which exercises a considerable amount of strain on its manufacturing subcontractors. In this context, it becomes essential to gain a better understanding of what constitutes the most critical capabilities of the world-class subcontractors. Drawing heavily on the concept of benchmarking and of fit as profile deviation, this paper allows to identify the most critical capabilities of the best performing firms. Results are derived from an international comparison of 384 subcontracting firms operating in the U.S.A., the U.K. and Canada. A very distinct profile emerges from the best subcontractors in terms of their acquired technological and managerial capabilities. The most critical capabilities which are common to subcontractors of all three countries are either intangible, difficult to imitate or not easily transferable. This leads us to believe that the best subcontractors hold a partcular competitive advantage which will be difficult for others to replicate, at least in the short term. This is not however the case for the less performing subcontractors who could well be subjected in the not too far future to the competitive pressures arising from the new industrializing countries. L'industrie aérospatiale est aux prises avec une concurrence intense à l'échelle mondiale, notamment avec la venue de nouveaux concurrents de la région Asie-Pacifique. Cette situation impose une pression supplémentaire sur la sous-traitance actuelle dans ce secteur. Dans ce contexte, il apparaît essentiel de mieux comprendre ce qui caractérise les sous-traitants de classe mondiale. Pour répondre à cette préoccupation, une étude comparative de 384 entreprises sous-traitantes fut réalisée aux États-Unis, au Royaume-Uni, et au Canada, en faisant appel au concept de benchmarking et à une des perspectives d'alignement retrouvée dans la théorie de la contingence connue sous le nom de déviation du profil idéal. Un profil distinct semble émerger en ce qui a trait aux compétences technologiques et managériales détenues par les entreprises les plus performantes. Les compétences critiques qui sont communes aux entreprises sous-traitantes de classe mondiale provenant des trois pays sont intangibles, difficiles à imiter, ou difficiliment transférables. Ceci laisse entrevoir que les sous-traitants actuels de calibre international possèdent des compétences qui seront difficilement reproductibles dans le cours terme. Ce ne serait pas le cas pour les sous-traitants moins performants qui seront aux prises dans un avenir prochain avec la venue de nouveaux concurrents en provenance des pays en voie d'industrialisation.

Suggested Citation

  • Élisabeth Lefebvre & Louis A. Lefebvre, 1997. "Global Strategic Benchmarking, Critical Capabilities and Performance of Aerospace Subcontractors," CIRANO Working Papers 97s-10, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:97s-10

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marcel Boyer, 1997. "Competition and Access in Telecoms: ECPR, Global Price Cap, and Auctions," CIRANO Working Papers 97s-03, CIRANO.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christophe Carrincazeaux & Vincent Frigant, 2004. "L'internationalisation de l'industrie aérospatiale-défense française : vers une banalisation des formes d'internationalisation ?," Post-Print hal-00185928, HAL.

    More about this item


    Aeronautics; subcontractors; critical capabilities; globalization; Aérospatiale; sous-traitance; compétences critiques; globalisation;

    JEL classification:

    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D


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