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Outsourcing and its Impact on Manufacturing Flexibility: Contingencies Matter

Author

Listed:
  • Maike Scherrer-Rathje

    () (Institute for Technology Management, University of St. Gallen)

  • Patricia Deflorin

    () (Institute for Strategy and Business Economics, University of Zurich)

  • Gopesh Anand

    () (College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Abstract

Despite the growing prevalence of outsourcing in manufacturing organizations, research examining how outsourcing impacts different types of flexibility is considerably lacking. This study seeks to advance our understanding of this relatively unexplored relationship by examining how outsourcing influences product, process, volume, and labor flexibilities. To achieve this goal, a mixed case study approach with eleven manufacturing companies that outsourced some portion of their product development or manufacturing activities is used. Our findings indicate that contingencies such as the speed of learning, the accuracy of transfer of learning, absorptive and desorptive capacities, and the distribution of power between the procuring and provider companies determine whether the effects of outsourcing on manufacturing flexibility are positive, negative, or if the type of flexibility is not affected at all. We find that process and product flexibility are impacted mainly positively by outsourcing, while the effects on volume and labor flexibility are ambiguous. A company that decides to outsource must therefore carefully analyze the possible consequences of outsourcing on different flexibility types and in relation to multiple contingencies.

Suggested Citation

  • Maike Scherrer-Rathje & Patricia Deflorin & Gopesh Anand, 2010. "Outsourcing and its Impact on Manufacturing Flexibility: Contingencies Matter," Working Papers 0125, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU).
  • Handle: RePEc:iso:wpaper:0125
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Flexibility; outsourcing; contingency factors; supply chain management; multiple case study;

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