Virtual factories: how innovation networks can change your production chain

Tomé Canas, Ana Sílvia Santos, Jorge Sales Gomes

Production supply chains are undergoing several paradigm changes, in various vectors such as increasing focus on operating costs reduction, core business specialization, increased level of product customization, shortage of specialized technical workers, the emergence of innovation networking models, among others. So, developing and producing in partnership has been a main issue in new product developing and innovation contexts. Several models have been proposed for the development of these chains, from ones, more focused on internal competencies, to others completely based on external production, using licensing based business models. For organizations that follow a network innovation model there are difficulties and risks that need to be managed, in order to aim the potential benefits expected from a partnership. In the present paper, the production process of an automatic toll payment machine for Brisa, a Portuguese highway company, is presented. The production process of this product was all based on strong collaborative work between Brisa and its suppliers/partners.
The case study shows how innovation networks can be applied to the production phase and reveals some of the difficulties and solutions that appear on a production partnership.