Due to their common role as suppliers, small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) are especially challenged by today's turbulent business conditions. In order to meet this challenge, short‐term Internet‐based enterprise co‐operations are regarded as an appropriate way to enhance the competitive strength of SMEs. Hence, the Institute of Machine Tools and Industrial Management (IWB) operates three so‐called competence networks for engineering (www.engineering‐net.de), rapid prototyping (www.rp‐net.de) and manufacturing (www.produktionsnetz.de) services. For the purpose of an applied research project, more than 80 participating SME suppliers were included in these specialised virtual markets, which are based on the core competencies of the co‐operating SMEs. Additionally, an Internet platform (www.virtueller‐markt.de) is used to enable customers to configure their specific cyber chains via the above‐mentioned competence networks. The present paper depicts how to establish and operate competence networks as well as how to configure cyber chains via these virtual markets.
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