Professional groupings and customized deliveries in industrial organizations

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Abstract

This paper discusses effects of an increased reliance on professionals in industrial organizations and whether educational background or belongingness to professional groups may be linked to ways of working when supplying highly customized deliveries, and consequently the innovativeness of the organization. The study upon which this paper is based attaches to theories related to traditional industrial logics as well as knowledge intensive organizations such as professional service firms. Empirically the study revolves around three main cases. Two are units within the Trelleborg Corporation, a multinational that has undergone a transformation from a highly diversified corporation orientated towards manufacturing towards a focus on utilization of complex polymer technologies. Close access to these cases is enabled through a research cooperation between Lund Institute of Economic Research and the Trelleborg Corporation. Both of the Trelleborg units supply highly customized deliveries and have a high degree of highly educated workers relative to many other units in the corporation. The third case utilizes IT-related technologies in order to supply highly customized automation systems. Here too the degree of highly educated workforce is high. The cases indicate that firms working with high levels of customization face assignments that require close interaction with buyers and the utilization of competences of highly skilled staff in problem solving activities. Activities and tasks in the organizations tend to divide between customization of final deliveries and long-term development aimed at achieving repeatability. The prominence of division between development of underlying solutions and working with customization can vary although the tendency is present in all of the cases. The degree of division may depend on technical issues and it may also be related to the innovative rate in the business and the products and how it affects the functionality that is implemented in the underlying solutions. Working with customization projects in industrial settings relates to the logics that professional service firms work by. Customization projects can be seen as vehicles for learning in industrial firms that also include tangibles in their deliveries, such as the case organizations in this study. Choosing projects therefore tends to be important in these organizations. As one of the senior managers in Spring & Dalrymple’s (2000) study so eloquently puts it: “’The customer is always right, but I can choose my customers…’” This corresponds to Fosstenlökken et al’s (2003) argument on professional service firms: “It is not obvious that the clients who are ‘right’ from an operational or profit-maximization point of view, are always the same as the clients who are ‘right’ from a knowledge-development point of view”. Thus a focus on customization in deliveries provides a link between professional service firms and what would be regarded as industrial and non-professional service firms. Among the preliminary findings of this study it seems appropriate to mention that: • Working with highly customized deliveries results in a varying degree of division between customization versus long-term development activities. • Groups associated with differing educational background or professional association may enhance the division into a customization and a long-term development oriented part of an organization that supplies highly customized deliveries. • It also seems relevant to consider the relation between professional groupings and the functional division of delivery customization and solution development, and whether it is appropriately aligned with the pursued structure and innovative pace of deliveries.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventEGOS conference, 2007 - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 2007 Jul 52007 Jul 7
Conference number: 23rd

Conference

ConferenceEGOS conference, 2007
Country/TerritoryAustria
CityVienna
Period2007/07/052007/07/07
OtherEuropean Group of Organization Studies

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration

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