Managing engineering design in complex supply chains

Roy, Robin and Potter, Stephen (1996). Managing engineering design in complex supply chains. International Journal of Technology Management, 12(4) pp. 403–420.


The trend towards organising design, development and manufacture via supply chains, rather than predominantly in-house, poses major challenges for design management. Procurement methods based on adversarial competitive tendering are generally unsuited to complex engineering products requiring strong design and development coordination.
Literature on ‘supplier partnerships’ has largely overlooked the implications for managing design and development. This paper reports the results of a major project that focuses upon this issue, concentrating on practical case studies – from British Rail, Netherlands Railways, Rolls Royce and British Coal – that involve the management of ‘devolved’ engineering design by large business organisations.
A spectrum of approaches from in-house to fully devolved design is described. It is concluded that there does not appear to be a single best approach for managing devolved design, but that appropriate approaches for an organisation depend on its location in the supply chain and its ability to manage organisational change.

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