The development and installation of new process equipment in production plants typically requires strong collaboration among a process firm and various equipment suppliers. While incentives to collaborate often are strong, close collaboration also poses significant problems, throughout the lifecycle of process equipment. The purpose of this article is to explore the problems and opportunities faced by process firms and their equipment suppliers throughout the lifecycle stages of collaborative development projects. This paper combines literature on open innovation, collaborative development and buyer-supplier relationships. Empirically, we draw on a large number of interviews in a dual case study of two process firms. Our results show that strong collaboration is neither positive nor negative in general. Rather, opportunities, problems, and collaboration intensity are strongly contingent on the specific stage in the lifecycle of process equipment. Our findings underscore the managerial and theoretical importance of a lifecycle perspective on the development of process equipment, since significant overlaps and interconnections exist across different stages.
Keywords: open innovation, process firms, buyer-supplier relationships, collaborative development, lifecycle stages, process equipment, partnering