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Methodology: An Assessment of Manufacturing Customer Pain Points: Challenges for Researchers


h3. Interviews with supply chain executives

We began by creating the interview protocol and establishing contact with senior supply chain executives from ten Fortune 100 manufacturing companies to identify pain points inhibiting their organizations’ ability to innovate. Interviews were centered on the discussion of three issues:

We would like you to briefly describe three or four primary pain points you are experiencing today. What is the primary business process or business function associated with this pain (e.g. finance, supply management, manufacturing, marketing, etc.)

Could you describe the relative severity of these pains on your business operations, in terms of their aggregate loss or severity on a range from relatively low dollars to very high dollars? An extreme example might be a catastrophic activity that would shut down your business for a month or more.

What is the relative probability of these pains occurring? That is, are they likely to occur frequently, or are they extremely rare in terms of occurrence? For example, theft may be an event that occurs two or three times a year, while a terrorist event might happen once in a decade.

The interview protocol was designed to allow us to identify three or four key pain points being experienced by the expert. The executives were also asked to estimate the severity of the pain, as well as the probability/frequency of its occurrence. Finally, they were asked to identify the primary process or function associated with the source of the problem.

Technology support

We then conducted interviews with a group of subject matter experts through a study commissioned by a large software manufacturer, in preparation for an executive forum focused on the core problems of manufacturing companies and how technology could support them in these instances.

We mailed invitations to experts at 15 multinational manufacturing companies to join the study, with 10 companies agreeing to participate. Participants were told that their responses would be kept confidential, so individual responses are not reported here. The companies represented include a chemicals manufacturer, three consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers, three electronics firms, one industrial glassmaker, and one industrial printing and communications company.

We carried out a series of semi-structured 30-minute phone interviews with experts during the period from November 2004 to January 2005, coding and analyzing interview data to develop a “pain point map.”