What motivates manufacturing SMEs to outsource offshore in China?: Comparing the perspectives of SME manufacturers and their suppliers

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to focus on the motivations for offshore outsourcing encountered by manufacturing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their suppliers in China. The paper explores the motivations and challenges encountered by SMEs choosing to outsource their manufacturing activities and why their suppliers engage with them. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative case study method was utilized. The authors obtained perspectives of SME managers as well as the suppliers for each of the cases, conducting in-depth interviews in order to obtain comprehensive information about their outsourcing activities. Then, cross-case analysis was carried out using content analysis techniques to identify key themes for the motivations to undertake offshore outsourcing. Findings – The results showed that the first rationale for offshore outsourcing relates to increasing efficiency and labor cost reduction while holding quality constant. The second rationale is to maintain flexibility in resource allocation providing both manufacturing SMEs and their suppliers with an opportunity to enter new markets. For both manufacturing firms and their suppliers building a relationship through networks and alliances was the key to the success (learning orientation) of the partnership. Practical implications – The managerial implications of the findings are that first, from the perspective of client firms, the most important factor for success in manufacturing offshore outsourcing was maintaining good relationships with suppliers. The benefits of having close relationships with suppliers for outsourcing firms helped them to secure the quality of their products. The second managerial implication is from the perspective of the supplier firms. Supplier firms which were also aware of the transaction cost implications of their delivery while improving their own international image by supplying international clients. The evidence supplied suggests that supplier firms can benefit from using networks to assist them to gain international exposure. Originality/value – While there are numerous studies on offshore outsourcing by multinational enterprises (MNEs) and large enterprises, there are relatively fewer studies on manufacturing offshore outsourcing by SMEs. Using the three theoretical lenses of the transaction cost approach, the core competences and the alliances, networks and internationalization approach, the paper offers insights on the reasons for and outcomes of a group of SMEs decision to undertake offshoring-manufacturing activities in China. Also, the paper examines the manufacturing offshore outsourcing issues from the perspective of the suppliers to these SMEs.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Sinha, P., Akoorie, M.E.M., Ding, Q. & Wu, Q. (2011). What motivates manufacturing SMEs to outsource offshore in China?: Comparing the perspectives of SME manufacturers and their suppliers. Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal, 4(1), 67-88.
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