AND COMPETITIVE PRIORITIES
Many factors shape and form the operations strategy of a corporation, for example, the ever increasing need for globalizing products and operations and thus reducing the unit cost, creating a technology leadership position, introducing new inventions, taking advantage of mass customization, using supplier partnering, and looking for strategic sourcing solutions. All of these factors require an external or market-based orientation; these are the changes that take place in the external environment of the company. Traditionally, strategic decisions were thought of as "big decisions" made by general managers. However, big strategic decisions may not be the only source of competitive advantage for the firm. Jay Barney wrote, "Recent work on lean manufacturing suggests that it is the simultaneous combination of several factors that enables a manufacturing facility to be both very high quality and very low cost. This complicated system of numerous interrelated, mutually supporting small decisions is difficult to describe, and even more difficult to imitate, and thus a source of sustained competitive advantage." Barney contrasted big and small decisions further, "Recognizing that small decisions may be more important for understanding competitive advantages than big decisions suggests that the study of strategy implementation—the process by which big decisions are translated into operational reality—may be more important for understanding competitive advantage than the study of strategy formulation." The strategy expressed as a combination of a few big and hundreds of small decisions leads to setting up competitive priorities for improving operational practices through investments in various programs. These competitive priorities place different and diverse demands on manufacturing. These demands, sometimes called manufacturing tasks, can be organized into three distinctly different groups: product-related demands,...
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