Thursday, June 7, 2012

Business Management : Value Chain (1)

The value chain, also known as value chain analysis, is a concept from business management that was first described and popularized by Michael Porter in his 1985 best-seller, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.

A value chain is a chain of activities. Products pass through all activities of the chain in order and at each activity the product gains some value. The chain of activities gives the products more added value than the sum of added values of all activities. It is important not to mix the concept of the value chain with the costs occurring throughout the activities. A diamond cutter can be used as an example of the difference. The cutting activity may have a low cost, but the activity adds much of the value to the end product, since a rough diamond is significantly less valuable than a cut diamond.

The value chain categorizes the generic value-adding activities of an organization. The "primary activities" include: inbound logistics, operations (production), outbound logistics, marketing and sales (demand), and services (maintenance). The "support activities" include: administrative infrastructure management, human resource management, technology (R&D), and procurement. The costs and value drivers are identified for each value activity. The value chain framework quickly made its way to the forefront of management thought as a powerful analysis tool for strategic planning. The simpler concept of value streams, a cross-functional process which was developed over the next decade, had some success in the early 1990s.

The value-chain concept has been extended beyond individual organizations. It can apply to whole supply chains and distribution networks. The delivery of a mix of products and services to the end customer will mobilize different economic factors, each managing its own value chain. The industry wide synchronized interactions of those local value chains create an extended value chain, sometimes global in extent. Porter terms this larger interconnected system of value chains the "value system." A value system includes the value chains of a firm's supplier (and their suppliers all the way back), the firm itself, the firm distribution channels, and the firm's buyers (and presumably extended to the buyers of their products, and so on).

Capturing the value generated along the chain is the new approach taken by many management strategists. For example, a manufacturer might require its parts suppliers to be located nearby its assembly plant to minimize the cost of transportation. By exploiting the upstream and downstream information flowing along the value chain, the firms may try to bypass the intermediaries creating new business models, or in other ways create improvements in its value system.

The Supply-Chain Council, a global trade consortium in operation with over 700 member companies, governmental, academic, and consulting groups participating in the last 10 years, manages the Supply-Chain Operations Reference (SCOR), the de facto universal reference model for Supply Chain including Planning, Procurement, Manufacturing, Order Management, Logistics, Returns, and Retail; Product and Service Design including Design Planning, Research, Prototyping, Integration, Launch and Revision, and Sales including CRM, Service Support, Sales, and Contract Management which are congruent to the Porter framework. The SCOR framework has been adopted by hundreds of companies as well as national entities as a standard for business excellence, and the US DOD has adopted the newly-launched Design-Chain Operations Reference (DCOR) framework for product design as a standard to use for managing their development processes. In addition to process elements, these reference frameworks also maintain a vast database of standard process metrics aligned to the Porter model, as well as a large and constantly researched database of prescriptive universal best practices for process execution.


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