This thesis explores the relationship between a firm's supply chain and a firm's degree of market orientation and economic performance. The results suggest that certain types of supply chain design - in particular those models that make for close links with the firm's customers - lead to superior marketing and shareholder value. Two sets of environmental forces have been particularly influential in reshaping supply chains over recent years. One is the enormous growth in production capacity, especially in the Far East, which has lead to more industries operating with excess capacity. Production skills and resources were once seen as at the heart of a firm's core capabilities and the source of its competitive advantage. Today, in more and more sectors, the key skill is marketing - creating customer preference in oversupplied markets through branding and customer relationship management. Downstream activities in the supply chain have risen in prominence compared to upstream activities.\ud The second change has been the information revolution brought about by the computer and the Internet. This has lowered the transaction costs of integrating the activities performed by the different businesses constituting a supply chain and made it increasingly attractive to achieve control without ownership. Supply chains can now become networks integrated through seamless in formation exchanges We explore these changes at the microeconomic level. The research draws upon the existing literature and on primary data including exploratory interviews, main-study in-depth interviews and survey data. Matched pair samples of 20 high performance and 20 low performance business units based in the UK provided the main body of data results. Data analysis involved four distinct phases; within case analysis and cross case analysis for the qualitative data collected; exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to identify dimensions of influence as a method of integration; discriminant analysis and Lambda to investigate the association between supply chain configuration typologies, market orientation and business performance.\ud Two major contributions stem from this research. First, the interdisciplinary domain for supply chain configuration can be established. Whereas traditionally competitive advantage has been built through a focus on operations efficiency - streamlining processes to reduce cost, today increased communications, global markets and the speed at which Internet technologies are developing, demand and facilitate an additional perspective for supply chain management - the effectiveness perspective. The concept of effectiveness brings the subject of supply chain management from the sphere of operations management into the domain of marketing strategy. From this perspective the building, maintenance and management of customer relationships becomes central to the supply chain configuration. Highly efficient production processes, where fiercely protected technical know-how enables the delivery of superior quality products, no longer acts as a sustainable source of competitive advantage. To achieve this, firms must focus on two principle activities: building brand value and carefully fostering relationships with key customers. For firms positioned upstream in the supply chain, building a strong brand identity offers potentially a means to integrate downstream with both customers and consumers.\ud The second contribution comes from the association of supply chain configuration with other variables. Our results show a relationship between market orientation, business performance and supply chain configuration. We conclude that companies are beginning to recognise opportunities that arise from using technology and information to blur traditional boundaries between suppliers, manufacturers and end users. We discuss how technology enables co-ordination across company boundaries to achieve new levels of efficiency and effectiveness, as well as extraordinary returns to investors. For example, a company, its suppliers, and even its customers might begin to share information and activities to speed the design of a product and raise the likelihood of its success in the marketplace. This should enable suppliers to begin developing components before the overall product design is complete, providing vital timely feedback regarding component specification, cost and time objectives. Equally, customers are able to review a product as it evolves and provide input on how it meets their needs. Managers must concern themselves with the design stages of the product and facilitate knowledge and information flows through the entire supply chain.\ud Business seems to be on the threshold of a new era of inter-firm relationships. Supply chain customers sharing the same suppliers are able to provide leadership, encouraging shared distribution systems and payment/ordering systems. Over capacity in firms forces such considerations. Collaborative approaches can drive down costs and ultimately offer improved services for consumers, making available the goods they want, where and when they want them. But this configuration of an interconnected, interdependent supply network requires much more openness. Interfirm boundaries must become almost invisible. Trust, commitment, open communication and information sharing must permeate the culture of partnering firms. The sharing of real time customer information both within and between firms facilitates the reduction of inventory and increases speed to market, reducing risk and increasing cost savings. Customer information provides a sound basis for segmenting markets, allowing the understanding of customer needs to develop in a deeper way. This customer closeness gives access to information critical in aiding accurate forecasting which is central to the elimination of unnecessary costs and enabling firms to dramatically extend the value they deliver to customers thus creating competitive advantage.\ud Shrinking the time and the resources it takes to meet customers' needs in a world where those needs are constantly changing is the challenge. As Wayne Gretzky, the famous hockey player explained, "the key to winning is getting first to where the puck is going next". The same could be said about succeeding in business. Listening to customers and then using and sharing this most valuable information resource throughout the supply chain will be the key
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