Implementation issues influencing the decision to adopt postponement

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Purpose - Postponement (also known as delayed product differentiation) has been shown to be an effective supply chain strategy from an inventory-reduction, service-level improvement standpoint. However, there has been relatively little empirical research on identifying the drivers and/or obstacles to a successful implementation of a postponement strategy. This study aims to identify the importance of several managerial issues surrounding the implementation of such a strategy. Design/methodology/approach - Exploratory depth interviews with company managers were conducted to identify and examine issues that may affect a successful implementation. Borrowing from the concept of triangulation, the findings are integrated with results reported elsewhere in the literature to understand the interrelated aspects of postponement implementation issues. This approach provides insights that would not be had if the results of each study were viewed independently of one another. Findings - The identification of managerial issues implies that there is more to implementing a partial postponement strategy than the repositioning of inventories prescribed by a mathematical inventory model. Several issues that may influence a postponement implementation are identified and discussed including product integrity, operations scheduling, and organizational readiness. Research limitations/implications - The depth interview process is an empirical methodology subject to the limitations of judgmental conclusions, interpreter bias and small sample size. The results of this exploratory study provide a more in-depth understanding of drivers and obstacles to implementing this supply chain strategy. The findings suggest the need for further investigation of the issues surrounding the decision to adopt postponement. Practical implications - The findings have broad implications for manufacturing managers regarding the impact of adopting a postponement strategy on several aspects of the operations function. Originality/value - Although principally exploratory in nature, the investigation demonstrates the need for researchers to identify and better understand the managerial issues surrounding an attempt to implement a specific partial postponement strategy. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

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International Journal of Operations and Production Management