A configuration framework of manufacturing strategy paradigm in state owned enterprises within China's petrochemical industry:building context-embedded configurations for the paradigm of strategic manufacturing management from exploratory case studies

Xu, Tie (2004). A configuration framework of manufacturing strategy paradigm in state owned enterprises within China's petrochemical industry:building context-embedded configurations for the paradigm of strategic manufacturing management from exploratory case studies. PHD thesis, Aston University.

Abstract

The role of the production system as a key determinant of competitive performance of business operations- has long been the subject of industrial organization research, even predating the .explicit conceptua1isation of manufacturing, strategy in the literature. Particular emergent production issues such as the globalisation of production, global supply chain management, management of integrated manufacturing and a growing e~busjness environment are expected to critically influence the overall competitive performance and therefore the strategic success of the organization. More than ever, there is a critical need to configure and improve production system and operations competence in a strategic way so as to contribute to the long-term competitiveness of the organization. In order to operate competitively and profitably, manufacturing companies, no matter how well managed, all need a long-term 'strategic direction' for the development of operations competence in order to consistently produce more market value with less cost towards a leadership position. As to the long-term competitiveness, it is more important to establish a dynamic 'strategic perspective' for continuous operational improvements in pursuit of this direction, as well as ongoing reviews of the direction in relation to the overall operating context. However, it also clear that the 'existing paradigm of manufacturing strategy development' is incapable of adequately responding to the increasing complexities and variations of contemporary business operations. This has been factually reflected as many manufacturing companies are finding that methodologies advocated in the existing paradigm for developing manufacturing strategy have very limited scale and scope for contextual contingency in empirical application. More importantly, there has also emerged a deficiency in the multidimensional and integrative profile from a theoretical perspective when operationalising the underlying concept of strategic manufacturing management established in the literature. The point of departure for this study was a recognition of such contextual and unitary limitations in the existing paradigm of manufacturing strategy development when applied to contemporary industrial organizations in general, and Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in particular. As China gradually becomes integrated into the world economy, the relevance of Western management theory and its paradigm becomes a practical matter as much as a theoretical issue. Since China markedly differs from Western countries in terms of culture, society, and political and economic systems, it presents promising grounds to test and refine existing management theories and paradigms with greater contextual contingency and wider theoretical perspective. Under China's ongoing programmes of SOE reform, there has been an increased recognition that strategy development is the very essence of the management task for managers of manufacturing companies in the same way as it is for their counterparts in Western economies. However, the Western paradigm often displays a rather naive and unitary perspective of the nature of strategic management decision-making, one which largely overlooks context-embedded factors and social/political influences on the development of manufacturing strategy. This thesis studies the successful experiences of developing manufacturing strategy from five high-performing large-scale SOEs within China’s petrochemical industry. China’s petrochemical industry constitutes a basic heavy industrial sector, which has always been a strategic focus for reform and development by the Chinese government. Using a confirmation approach, the study has focused on exploring and conceptualising the empirical paradigm of manufacturing strategy development practiced by management. That is examining the ‘empirical specifics’ and surfacing the ‘managerial perceptions’ of content configuration, context of consideration, and process organization for developing a manufacturing strategy during the practice. The research investigation adopts a qualitative exploratory case study methodology with a semi-structural front-end research design. Data collection follows a longitudinal and multiple-case design and triangulates case evidence from sources including qualitative interviews, direct observation, and a search of documentations and archival records. Data analysis follows an investigative progression from a within-case preliminary interpretation of facts to a cross-case search for patterns through theoretical comparison and analytical generalization. The underlying conceptions in both the literature of manufacturing strategy and related studies in business strategy were used to develop theoretical framework and analytical templates applied during data collection and analysis. The thesis makes both empirical and theoretical contributions to our understanding of 'contemporary management paradigm of manufacturing strategy development'. First, it provides a valuable contextual contingency of the 'subject' using the business setting of China's SOEs in petrochemical industry. This has been unpacked into empirical configurations developed for its context of consideration, its content and process respectively. Of special note, a lean paradigm of business operations and production management discovered at case companies has significant implications as an emerging alternative for high-volume capital intensive state manufacturing in China. Second, it provides a multidimensional and integrative theoretical profile of the 'subject' based upon managerial perspectives conceptualised at case companies when operationalising manufacturing strategy. This has been unpacked into conceptual frameworks developed for its context of consideration, its content constructs, and its process patterns respectively. Notably, a synergies perspective towards the operating context, competitive priorities and competence development of business operations and production management has significant implications for implementing a lean manufacturing paradigm. As a whole, in so doing, the thesis established a theoretical platform for future refinement and development of context-specific methodologies for developing manufacturing strategy.

Divisions: Aston Business School
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Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: strategic management of business operations,manufacturing strategy,management paradigm,contingency theory,configuration models,exploratory case study,SOE reform,corporate management in China
Completed Date: 2004-07
Authors: Xu, Tie

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