This paper presents an empirical study aimed at investigating the adoption of manufacturing intangible technologies in small manufacturing supplying firms that are located in late developing areas. Manufacturing intangible technologies are more or less formalised practices necessary to make hard technologies work, and to improve manufacturing process management and control. A survey was carried on collecting data from a sample including 291 small manufacturing supplying firms located in Southern Italy. Findings show that managers in a large number of firms have acquired awareness that the adoption of hard tangible technologies alone cannot lead to higher performance, but a change of the manufacturing system organisation or working routines with the adoption of soft technologies is often a necessary condition to preserve or enhance competitiveness. These firms - even coming up against obstacles many times - have been capable to translate their management awareness into practice, by introducing a number of identifiable intangible technologies in the manufacturing environment of their organisations. Findings also reveal that industry type affects the adoption of intangible manufacturing technologies.
Keywords: suppliers, small firms, manufacturing, intangible technologies, soft technology adoption, manufacturing technology, late developing areas, Italy, firm performance, soft technologies