# The Value Chain and Evaluating the Industry

 Site: Saylor Academy Course: BUS206: Management Information Systems Book: The Value Chain and Evaluating the Industry
 Printed by: Guest user Date: Thursday, December 8, 2022, 4:39 AM

## Description

Read these sections on the value chain and Porter's five forces. While you read, think about the impact information technology can have on these concepts.

## Value Chain

#### Learning Objectives

1. Define the primary activities of the value chain.
2. Know the different support activities within the value chain.
3. Be able to apply the value chain to an organization of your choosing.
4. Understand the difference between a value chain and supply chain.

Adding Value within a Value Chain

Image courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith

### Elements of the Value Chain

When executives choose strategies, an organization's resources and capabilities should be examined alongside consideration of its value chain. A value chain charts the path by which products and services are created and eventually sold to customers. Competitive advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance. New York, NY: Free Press. The term value chain reflects the fact that, as each step of this path is completed, the product becomes more valuable than it was at the previous step ("Adding Value within a Value Chain"). Within the lumber business, for example, value is added when a tree is transformed into usable wooden boards; the boards created from a tree can be sold for more money than the price of the tree.

The Value Chain

Value chains include both primary and secondary activities. Primary activities are actions that are directly involved in creating and distributing goods and services. Consider a simple illustrative example: doughnut shops. Doughnut shops transform basic commodity products such as flour, sugar, butter, and grease into delectable treats. Value is added through this process because consumers are willing to pay much more for doughnuts than they would be willing to pay for the underlying ingredients.

There are five primary activities. Inbound logistics refers to the arrival of raw materials. Although doughnuts are seen by most consumers as notoriously unhealthy, the Doughnut Plant in New York City has carved out a unique niche for itself by obtaining organic ingredients from a local farmer's market. Operations refers to the actual production process, while outbound logistics tracks the movement of a finished product to customers. One of Southwest Airlines' unique capabilities is moving passengers more quickly than its rivals. This advantage in operations is based in part on Southwest's reliance on one type of airplane (which speeds maintenance) and its avoidance of advance seat assignments (which accelerates the passenger boarding process).

Attracting potential customers and convincing them to make purchases is the domain of marketing and sales. For example, people cannot help but notice Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, California, because the building has a giant doughnut on top of it. Finally, service refers to the extent to which a firm provides assistance to their customers. Voodoo Donuts in Portland, Oregon, has developed a clever website (voodoodoughnut.com) that helps customers understand their uniquely named products, such as the Voodoo Doll, the Texas Challenge, the Memphis Mafia, and the Dirty Snowball.

Secondary activities are not directly involved in the evolution of a product but instead provide important underlying support for primary activities. Firm infrastructure refers to how the firm is organized and led by executives. The effects of this organizing and leadership can be profound. For example, Ron Joyce's leadership of Canadian doughnut shop chain Tim Hortons was so successful that Canadians consume more doughnuts per person than all other countries. In terms of resource-based theory, Joyce's leadership was clearly a valuable and rare resource that helped his firm prosper.

Also important is human resource management, which involves the recruitment, training, and compensation of employees. A recent research study used data from more than twelve thousand organizations to demonstrate that the knowledge, skills, and abilities of a firm's employees can act as a strategic resource and strongly influence the firm's performance. Does human capital matter? A meta-analysis of the relationship between human capital and firm performance. Certainly, the unique level of dedication demonstrated by employees at Southwest Airlines has contributed to that firm's excellent performance over several decades.

Technology refers to the use of computerization and telecommunications to support primary activities. Although doughnut making is not a high-tech business, technology plays a variety of roles for doughnut shops, such as allowing customers to use credit cards. Procurement is the process of negotiating for and purchasing raw materials. Large doughnut chains such as Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme can gain cost advantages over their smaller rivals by purchasing flour, sugar, and other ingredients in bulk. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines has gained an advantage over its rivals by using futures contracts within its procurement process to minimize the effects of rising fuel prices.

### From the Value Chain to Best Value Supply Chains

"Time is money"! warns a famous saying. This simple yet profound statement suggests that organizations that quickly complete their work will enjoy greater profits, while slower-moving firms will suffer. The belief that time is money has encouraged the modern emphasis on supply chain management. A supply chain is a system of people, activities, information, and resources involved in creating a product and moving it to the customer. A supply chain is a broader concept than a value chain; the latter refers to activities within one firm, while the former captures the entire process of creating and distributing a product, often across several firms.

Competition in the twenty-first century requires an approach that considers the supply chain concept in tandem with the value-creation process within a firm: best value supply chains. These chains do not fixate on speed or on any other single metric. Instead, relative to their peers, best value supply chains focus on the total value added to the customer.

Creating best value supply chains requires four components. The first is strategic supply chain management – the use of supply chains as a means to create competitive advantages and enhance firm performance. Such an approach contradicts the popular wisdom centered on the need to maximize speed. Instead, there is recognition that the fastest chain may not satisfy customers' needs. Best value supply chains strive to excel along four measures. Speed (or "cycle time") is the time duration from initiation to completion of the production and distribution process. Quality refers to the relative reliability of supply chain activities. Supply chains' efforts at managing cost involve enhancing value by either reducing expenses or increasing customer benefits for the same cost level. Flexibility refers to a supply chain's responsiveness to changes in customers' needs. Through balancing these four metrics, best value supply chains attempt to provide the highest level of total value added.

The value of strategic supply chain management is reflected in how firms such as Walmart have used their supply chains as competitive weapons to gain advantages over peers. Walmart excels in terms of speed and cost by locating all domestic stores within one day's drive of a warehouse while owning a trucking fleet. This creates distribution speed and economies of scale that competitors simply cannot match. When Kmart's executives decided in the late 1990s to compete head-to-head with Walmart on price, Walmart's sophisticated logistics system enabled it to easily withstand the price war. Unable to match its rival's speed and costs, Kmart soon plunged into bankruptcy. Walmart's supply chains also possess strong quality and flexibility. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, Walmart used not only its warehouses and trucks but also its satellite technology, radio frequency identification (RFID), and global positioning systems to quickly divert assets to affected areas. The result was that Walmart emerged as the first responder in many towns and provided essentials such as drinking water faster than local and federal governments could.

### Strategy at the Movies

Flash of Genius

When dealing with a large company, a small supplier can get squashed like a bug on a windshield. That is what college professor and inventor Dr. Robert Kearns found out when he invented intermittent windshield wipers in the 1960s and attempted to supply them to Ford Motor Company. As depicted in the 2008 movie Flash of Genius, Kearns dreamed of manufacturing the wipers and selling them to Detroit automakers. Rather than buy the wipers from Kearns, Ford replicated the design. An angry Kearns then spent many years trying to hold the firm accountable for infringing on his patent. Kearns eventually won in court, but he paid a terrible personal price along the way, including a nervous breakdown and estrangement from his family. Kearns's lengthy battle with Ford illustrates the concept of bargaining power that is central to Porter's five forces model. Even though Kearns created an exceptional new product, he had little leverage when dealing with a massive, well-financed automobile manufacturer.

### The Power of an Industry’s Buyers

Buyers purchase the goods and services that the firms in an industry produce. For Subway and other restaurants, buyers are individual people. In contrast, the buyers for some firms are other firms rather than end users. For Procter & Gamble, for example, buyers are retailers such as Walmart and Target who stock Procter & Gamble's pharmaceuticals, hair care products, pet supplies, cleaning products, and other household goods on their shelves.

The relative bargaining power between an industry's competitors and its buyers helps shape the profit potential of the industry. If buyers have greater leverage over the competitors than the competitors have over the buyers, then the competitors may be forced to lower their prices over time. This weakens competitors' profit margins and makes them less likely to be prosperous. Walmart furnishes a good example. The mammoth retailer is notorious among manufacturers of goods for demanding lower and lower prices over time. In 2008, for example, the firm threatened to stop selling compact discs if record companies did not lower their prices. Walmart has the power to insist on price concessions because its sales volume is huge. Compact discs make up a small portion of Walmart's overall sales, so exiting the market would not hurt Walmart. From the perspective of record companies, however, Walmart is their biggest buyer. If the record companies were to refuse to do business with Walmart, they would miss out on access to a large portion of consumers.

On the other hand, if buyers have less leverage over the competitors than the competitors have over the buyers, then competitors can raise their prices and enjoy greater profits. This description fits the textbook industry quite well. College students are often dismayed to learn that an assigned textbook costs \$150 or more. Historically, textbook publishers have been able to charge high prices because buyers had no leverage. A student enrolled in a class must purchase the specific book that the professor has selected. Used copies are sometimes a lower-cost option, but textbook publishers have cleverly worked to undermine the used textbook market by releasing new editions after very short periods of time.

Of course, the presence of a very high profit industry is attractive to potential new entrants. Firms such as Unnamed Publisher, the publisher of this book, have entered the textbook market with lower-priced offerings. Time will tell whether such offerings bring down textbook prices. Like any new entrant, upstarts in the textbook business must prove that they can execute their strategies before they can gain widespread acceptance. Overall, when analyzing the profit potential of their industry, executives must carefully consider whether buyers have the ability to demand lower prices. In the textbook market, buyers do not.

Every industry is unique to some degree, but some general characteristics help to predict the likelihood that buyers will be powerful relative to the firms from which they purchases goods and services. Buyers tend to be powerful, for example, to the extent that there are relatively few buyers compared with the number of firms that supply the industry, the industry's goods or services are standardized or undifferentiated, buyers face little or no switching costs in changing vendors, the good or service purchased by the buyers represents a high percentage of the buyer's costs, and the good or service is of limited importance to the quality or price of the buyer's offerings.

Finally, buyers possess power to the extent that they have the ability to become a new entrant to the industry if they wish. This strategy is called backward vertical integration. DIRECTV used to be an important customer of TiVo, the pioneer of digital video recorders. This situation changed, however, when executives at DIRECTV grew weary of their relationship with TiVo. DIRECTV then used a backward vertical integration strategy and started offering DIRECTV-branded digital video recorders. Profits that used to be enjoyed by TiVo were transferred at that point to DIRECTV.

### The Limitations of Five Forces Analysis

Five forces analysis is useful, but it has some limitations too. The description of five forces analysis provided by its creator, Michael Porter, seems to assume that competition is a zero-sum game, meaning that the amount of profit potential in an industry is fixed. One implication is that, if a firm is to make more profit, it must take that profit from a rival, a supplier, or a buyer. In some settings, however, collaboration can create a larger pool of profit that benefits everyone involved in the collaboration. In general, collaboration is a possibility that five forces analysis tends to downplay. The relationships among the rivals in an industry, for example, are depicted as adversarial. In reality, these relationships are sometimes adversarial and sometimes collaborative. General Motors and Toyota compete fiercely all around the world, for example, but they also have worked together in joint ventures. Similarly, five forces analysis tends to portray a firm's relationships with its suppliers and buyers as adversarial, but many firms find ways to collaborate with these parties for mutual benefit. Indeed, concepts such as just-in-time inventory systems depend heavily on a firm working as a partner with its suppliers and buyers.

### Key Takeaway

• "How much profit potential exists in our industry?" is a key question for executives. Five forces analysis provides an answer to this question. It does this by considering the interactions among the competitors in an industry, potential new entrants to the industry, substitutes for the industry's offerings, suppliers to the industry, and the industry's buyers.