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Span of Processes - Make or Buy
When Henry Ford developed his famous moving assembly-line method of producing the Model T car at the River Rouge plant in Detroit, he chose to 'own' all stages of its production, ie the widest possible span of processes. His company owned the rubber plantations that supplied the raw materials for the car's tyres; it owned the forests that supplied the wood for the car's wheels; it owned the iron mines, steel plants, foundries, forges, rolling mills and machine shops which manufactured the engine and other components. Its ownership of the complete span of processes even extended to the company's shipping line and railroad for the transport of materials and product. Today, no car manufacturer tries to manage such a wide span of processes; the lessons of Skinner's 'factory focus' have been learned, and many of the car's components are bought from specialist suppliers. Returning to the example of the gas-turbine component and the process sequence, consideration would be given to how much of the span of these processes should be carried out by the company itself. Instead of installing and managing all of the processes, a plausible alternative would be to buy the precision forgings from a specialist supplier, and restrict the internal focus to the machining operations. In the case of the airline service discussed earlier, it might be decided to focus on the long-haul flights between hub airports, leaving the feeder flights to and from the hubs to be provided by other airlines. Likewise, the in-flight entertainment and catering provisions might be outsourced to specialist suppliers.
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