Keywords: co-design, inter-firm relation, decision making, contingencies
A model of co-design relationships: definitions and contingencies
In the ever more turbulent business environment, firms concentrate on their core capabilities and resort to suppliers as sources of complementary know-how. In other words, they tend to co-design their products. This paper shows that co-design may occur in different forms and that success of supplier involvement in product development mainly depends on the proper choice of the type of relationship according to the contingencies to be dealt with. In particular, by adopting a problem solving perspective and a case study approach, we have identified four different approaches to co-design, depending on the type of knowledge transferred from the supplier to the customer (product knowledge or process knowledge) and the degree of interaction between the partners. In this latter regard, a co-design relationship may occur with a loose interaction (when the customer defines the component specifications and the supplier designs the solution that better fits those specifications) or a tight interaction (when the problem solving process is not split between the partners). The paper shows that the choice between a joint or split co-design approach depends on two context factors: the uncertainty of the design endeavour (i.e., the novelty of the component to be developed and the turbulence of the environment) and the relational capabilities (i.e., the capabilities to manage the information flows occurring between the two patterns).