Information Utilisation in the Planning Process of Suppliers in High-Variety, Low-Volume Supply Chains
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Manufacturers of products with a high number of possible configurations and produced in low volumes, struggle with long delivery lead times. For such products, a substantial part of the product s value is created by suppliers. The manufacturer can contribute to reduce the delivery lead time from their suppliers by sharing information in a way that ensures utilisation of the shared information in the supplier s planning process. The research is structured according to three research questions; 1) What factors influence utilisation of information shared from manufacturers to their suppliers? 2) How can shared information be utilised in the planning process of suppliers in high-variety, low-volume (HVLV) supply chains, and how can this information be described? 3) How can HVLV manufacturing companies determine what information they need to share with their HVLV suppliers to ensure utilisation of the information?A supply chain perspective is applied, with a focus on optimising processes between two companies. The scope is limited to supply chains where both the supplying and manufacturing company manufacture HVLV products (HVLV supply chains). Only information flow from the manufacturer to the supplier and the supplier s planning process at the tactical and operational planning levels are considered. Information quality is considered out of scope. Qualitative research methods have been applied, including a literature study and an exploratory multiple-case study. Semi-structured interviews are used for collecting empirical data, and a cross-case for analysing empirical data. The variables ability and willingness are identified as components of actual information utilisation. Through the literature study, the main factors identified to affect the ability and willingness were; manufacturing environment (including product, production process and relation between the companies), planning processes of both companies, and types and facets of the shared information. Empirical findings indicated that the planning process at the manufacturer is the main factor affecting actual information utilisation at their supplier. To instead let the needs of the supplier s planning process determine the facets of the shared information, and as a contribution to practice, four process steps and associated guidelines are developed to assist manufacturers determine what information to share with their suppliers to ensure actual information utilisation. The process steps are considered general for all supply chains, while the guidelines are specific for HVLV supply chains. In relation to the developed process, a framework to explain in what situations the steps and guidelines can be used in HVLV supply chains is presented. The contribution to theory includes; 1) Synthesize existing research on planning, collaboration, facets of information sharing, and information utilisation, 2) Increase understanding of information sharing and importance of achieving actual information utilisation in HVLV supply chains, 3) Extend previous research within the field of information utilisation by providing empirical data from HVLV supply chains.