Strategic Alliance – Whirlpool Corporation And Inland Steel

2291 words - 10 pages

Strategic Alliance – Whirlpool Corporation and Inland Steel

Faced with intense competition, increasing expectations from customers, reduced product life cycles, and localized geographic markets, Whirlpool Corporation (a Fortune 500 manufacturer of appliances) realized that the need to achieve a competitive advantage from its sourcing and material efforts was greater than ever. Part of the strategy to achieve this advantage involved pursuing an alliance with a key steel supplier. Steel is a major component used across all of the company’s finished products (such as washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and others). The purchasing managers at Whirlpool faced a number of ...view middle of the document...

While all of this was occurring in 1984 at Whirlpool, the management team at Inland Steel was considering a different set of questions. Four vice presidents of marketing at Inland Steel, an integrated steel producer located in the same geographic region as Whirlpool, were reviewing their market strategies and the recent changes that had occurred in their strategic alliances. They had made the decision to reduce their customer base, and were forming a new management plan. This was part of Inland’s Customer Relationship Management strategy, which entailed reducing their customer base in order to serve only their preferred customers that would yield the highest long-term profitability for the company. This strategy was a direct result of Inland Steel’s total quality management program, which dictates that to delight the customer, one must identify key markets and focus on those markets. A major component of this market strategy was to approach key customers with the idea of entering into long-term agreements. In doing so, Inland Steel realized that the best opportunity for reducing costs was to become involved early in new product design with key customers. However, to achieve this objective, the vice presidents realized that significant capital investment would be required to update Inland Steel’s facilities with state-of-the-art steel processing technology to align technologies with key customers. In some cases, this involved some degree to risk, as aligning capital investments with specific key customers could “shut out” new business with other potential customers. However, the management team reached a consensus that the only way to succeed in the current market structure was to reduce costs through early involvement in customer new product designs, and to back this up with capital investments in design capabilities and new facilities.
Meanshile, Whirlpool executives were mulling over whether Inland Steel was the right supplier to form an alliance with. Whirlpool Corporation had used Inland Steel as a supplier for several years, but had used many different steel suppliers during this period. The strategy of forming a formal buyer-supplier partnership was a relatively new one. As these two companies explored the idea, it became obvious that a complementary common strategic vision existed between the two companies, which could make such a partnership a reality. This common vision was based on the fact that the Whirlpool Corporation needed to sustain a competitive advantage and support its direct customer relationships, while Inland needed to manage the transition inherent in a customer-focused market strategy. Thus, Whirlpool Corporation sought to work with Inland Steel to realize reduced costs vis-à-vis the competition, and Inland sought to obtain a major share of Whirlpool’s steel contract. While this initial concept seemed straightforward, it required almost seven years to make it a reality.
The vision was made a reality by first...

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