On the verge of disruption: rethinking position and role – the case of additive manufacturing

Christina Öberg (Ratio Institute, Stockholm, Sweden and Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
Tawfiq Shams (School of Business, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Publication date: 3 June 2019



With the overarching idea of disruptive technology and its effects on business, this paper focuses on how companies strategically consider meeting the challenge of a disruptive technology such as additive manufacturing. The purpose of this paper is to describe and discuss changes in positions and roles related to the implementation of a disruptive technology.


Additive manufacturing could be expected to have different consequences for parties based on their current supply chain positions. The paper therefore investigates companies’ strategies related to various supply chain positions and does so by departing from a position and role point of view. Three business cases related to metal 3D printing - illustrating sub-suppliers, manufacturers and logistics firms - describe as many strategies. Data for the cases were collected through meetings, interviews, seminars and secondary data focusing on both current business activities related to additive manufacturing and scenarios for the future.


The companies attempted to defend their current positions, leading to new roles for them. This disconnects the change of roles from that of positions. The changed roles indicate that all parties, regardless of supply chain positions, would move into competing producing roles, thereby indicating how a disruptive technology may disrupt network structures based on companies’ attempts to defend their positions.


The paper contributes to previous research by reporting a disconnect between positions and roles among firms when disruption takes place. The paper further denotes how the investigated firms largely disregarded network consequences at the disruptive stage, caused by the introduction of additive manufacturing. The paper also contributes to research on additive manufacturing by including a business dimension and linking this to positions and roles.



Öberg, C. and Shams, T. (2019), "On the verge of disruption: rethinking position and role – the case of additive manufacturing", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 1093-1105. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-10-2018-0293



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