Keywords: virtual enterprises (VEs), small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), cooperating networks, service broker, life cycles
Networks and the role of service brokers
Global competition is characterised by different regional production factors and varying demands on the product function, quality and performance. Success is no longer solely determined by consistent market orientation but is becoming increasingly dependent on regional contributions to production and employment. Crucial success factors are: cooperation, the availability of components in a country and the use of the existing infrastructure. Thus, many companies are intensifying international production capacities or shifting their existing capacity to foreign markets in order to sell their products in both domestic and international markets. With this strategy, global market-oriented networks are formed in which independent partners each contribute their core competencies. In the following article, certain aspects and approaches to activate the performance potentials necessary for global competition are described. Virtual enterprises, such as cooperating networks, enable a close-to-the-customer production system which is characterised not only by proximity to the market but also by extremely flexible capacities and short shipping times. For small and medium-sized enterprises, this provides the unique opportunity to participate in global competition and use this opportunity to their maximum advantage. The intention of this article is not only to identify the advantages associated with the creation of a virtual enterprise, but to present ways to create a successful virtual enterprise, namely by supporting virtual enterprises through a service and management centre which offers help throughout all stages of the life cycle.