This paper aims to contribute to the scholarly debate on the origins and nature of industrial servitization. By resorting to contract manufacturing (CM) as an empirical case, it is posited that any product-service solution that a manufacturing firm is capable of delivering on a competitive basis mirrors its goals in value creation and capture, positioning within its value networks and the pool of assets and competences it holds.
To support this argument, a comparative case study of two CM firms that represent polar cases in the industry was conducted. The primary data were collected through participatory methodology, observations and semi-structured interviews of company representatives. The business experiences of an industry practitioner provided a distinct contribution to the content analysis and modelling.
It was concluded that servitization becomes endogenous as contract manufacturers aim for higher profitability through the insource of customer activities and hence extend their offering downstream in the supply chain. The findings suggest that the way out of the servitization trap is a shift toward original design and manufacturing business, where high value-adding modules are insourced and integrated into replicable solutions for various types of customers and market segments.
The generalization of the conclusion is constrained by the limited focus on two cases only. More industry and company data are therefore required to further validate this argument. Particularly valuable will be the data on the intermediate business models between the two polar cases.
Building on contested business practices, this paper outlines the logic of competitive strategy in CM on the basis of specific characteristics and implications of the various business concepts. In this case, the principal drivers of servitization are the acquisition of supporting capabilities and insourcing of customer activities. The case study method integrates theory with academic observation and managerial experiences.
This study is part of FIMECC Rebus research program that advances relational business practices and R&D collaboration. Timo Seppälä has received support for his work from iPlate research project that considers integrating platform competences toward network effects. This study is funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. The authors would like to thank industry partners at Scanfil, Petteri Jokitalo and Tommi Kangas, for their support and valuable comments.
Viitamo, E., Luoto, S. and Seppälä, T. (2016), "Servitization in contract manufacturing – evidence from Polar business cases", Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 246-270. https://doi.org/10.1108/SO-04-2016-0014
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