The content of manufacturing strategy: An empirical study

Roger G Schroeder, John C Anderson, Gary Cleveland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


While there has been an extensive literature written on manufacturing strategy since the 1960s, little empirical research has been done. This article reports on a study of manufacturing strategy in thirty-nine companies based on questionnaire responses received from manufacturing managers. The study indicates that things are not as bleak as the literature might suggest. About one-third of the companies appear to have a well-developed manufacturing strategy. In those cases where the manufacturing strategy exists it is consistent with the business strategy and internally consistent among mission, objectives, policies, and distinctive competence. The term "manufacturing strategy" is not well understood by the managers surveyed. When asked to state their manufacturing strategy, they gave statements about what manufacturing should be, what it should do, how it should do it, and why it should do it. Apparently, the terminology itself is confusing. Frameworks for stating both business strategies and the elements of manufacturing strategy need to be strengthened and some specific suggestions are given in the article for doing so. Even though two-thirds of the companies did not have well-developed manufacturing strategies, 80% of the managers felt that manufacturing had lent competitive strength to the business. This was being done through the development of a distinctive competence in manufacturing that provided competitive advantage. Manufacturing strategies seemed to follow from business strategy. This is contrary to the literature, which indicates that manufacturing strategy is missing, or, at the very least inconsistent with business strategy and marketing strategy. Perhaps a stronger relationship exists than was previously thought. This article provides some evidence for establishing this premise and also provides data on the general status of strategy in manufacturing today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-415
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Operations Management
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1986


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