Keywords: small firms, cooperation, networks, alliances, competency development, competitiveness, manufacturing, continuous improvement
Exploiting complementary competencies via inter-firm cooperation
This paper evaluates the peer-to-peer cooperation process among small firms. It examines whether cooperation among small firms remains a phenomenon driven by third parties, or if firms are purposely developing arrangements for competitive advantage. In particular, does cooperation form part of a broader strategy to improve the range of competencies a firm can offer and consequently enhance its business? A study of five cases of successful cooperation among small firms found that while their motivation for cooperation included maintaining parity with current technology and facilitating innovation in product or process design, the key driver was redefining their service offering (manufacturing capability as perceived by customer) to maintain or improve their supply chain position. Competencies themselves were not developed; rather the ability to access competencies was sought.