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van Hoek, Remko I., Vos, Bart, Commandeur, Harry R., "Restructuring European supply chains by implementing postponement strategies", Long Range Planning, Vol. 32, No. 5, Oct 1999, pp. 505-518.



More demanding customer needs in terms of quality, variety, delivery (both fast and reliable), and competitive pricing challenge an increasing number of companies to restructure their supply chains. An appealing option is to delay or postpone, the point of product differentiation, that is deferring the process in which products are transformed according to unique customer specifications. Advances in technology and the gradual removal of barriers to trade in Europe increasingly enable companies to apply postponement principles in their supply chain strategies. An in-depth analysis is provided of the experiences of four companies in managing the change process associated with implementing such strategies. Operating and organizational characteristics are identified to assess the attractiveness of postponement in their specific business settings. It was found that in particular, an organization's administrative heritage and the lack of an overall supply chain vision can be major bottlenecks in managing the change process. For a successful implementation of postponement, a company's management should establish the appropriate mix of standardization and customization in the supply chain. Differences in the internal organization and the external demands for product specificity require different postponement strategies.