The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Matching Customer Demand, Offering Portfolio and Operations System in Technology-Intensive Industries

Patrik Appelqvist

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 7th of December, 2005, at 12 o'clock noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-7916-9)   [2322 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-7915-0)


Speed, flexibility, product diversity and customisation have emerged as important sources of competitive advantage for companies, especially in technology-intensive industries. This thesis explores how to simultaneously fulfil divergent customer demands and achieve high operational efficiency through co-management of customer needs, offering portfolio, and operations. The research builds on and contributes to the areas of operations strategy, demand chain management, focused supply chains, and product design for supply chain.

The research is carried out as a series of collaborative case/action research interventions in three organisations in electronics industry. The collected data includes about 100 interviews carried out in six European countries, data from operational ERP systems of the three case companies and observations from 14 plant visits. The material is used for identifying relationships between customer needs, offerings portfolios, operations systems and operational efficiency. Secondly, tactics for mitigating the negative effect of product variety are evaluated. Based on cross-case analysis, a model is constructed that formalises the trade-off between serving each customer with a tailored offering and achieving maximum operational efficiency.

Research results suggest customer demand as the starting point for operations system design. When customers are buying a product for making it a part of a larger whole, unique offerings delivered via project-oriented operations are needed. When customers are buying the product for its own sake, generic offerings and efficient, process-oriented operations are appropriate. For a company targeting both types of demand, it may be beneficial to design several separate operations concepts. Secondly, the research evaluates pre-defined configurations, product configurability, form postponement and generic resources as tactics for managing the trade-off between a broad offering portfolio and high operational efficiency. For theory, the research provides a model for causal relationships between customer demand, offering portfolio, operations system and performance. Testing of the model testing is suggested as an issue for further research. For management, the thesis provides a structured way of thinking about the complex issues involved in design of offering portfolios and operations systems.

Keywords: supply chain management, design for supply chain, operations strategy, electronics industry

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© 2005 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26