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Paper info: The Impact of Buyer-Supplier Relationships on Quality Practices and Quality Performance


The Impact of Buyer-Supplier Relationships on Quality Practices and Quality Performance


Brian Fynes and
Sean de Burca
University College Dublin
Sean de Burca

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 17th IMP-conference in Oslo, Norway in 2001.


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1The research questions addressed in this study are:(a) to what extent do quality practices impact upon the various dimensions of qualityperformance and in turn, business performance?(b) to what extent is the relationship between quality practices and qualityperformance contingent upon the nature of buyer-supplier relationships?We undertook comprehensive reviews of the literature in the domains of both qualitymanagement and buyer-supplier relationships. The review of the quality managementliterature revealed that much of it is anecdotal, prescriptive and methodologicallysuspect, and that theory construction and rigorous empirical testing is a relativelyrecent development. On the other hand, the field of buyer-supplier relationship hasevolved rather differently. This literature, which traditionally has attracted theattention of industrial and distribution channel marketing scholars, is more rigorousboth in terms of theory construction and empirical testing.Drawing on these reviews, we develop a theoretical model that integrates both thequality management and buyer-supplier relationship streams of research. The centralproposition in our theoretical research model is that the strength of the relationshipbetween buyer and supplier is a key intervening variable between quality practices andquality performance. This is operationalised as a path model incorporating qualitypractices, design quality, conformance quality, external quality-in-use, product cost,time-to-market, customer satisfaction and business performance. Fifteen hypotheseslink these theoretical constructs.The model was tested with data collected from 200 suppliers in the electronics sectorin the Republic of Ireland. The analytical procedure used included reliability analysis,factor analysis, path (regression) analysis and sub-group analysis to test for themoderator effects of relationship strength. Data analysis of the data indicates thateleven of the hypotheses are supported. In particular, previously untested hypothesesincorporating design quality are supported. Similarly, the key hypothesis that buyersupplierrelationship strength moderated the quality practices-design relationship isalso supported. An important contribution to knowledge of this study is that itprovided the first empirical evidence that constructs from within the buyer-supplierrelational paradigm could explain the relationship between quality practices anddesign quality. In particular, the conceptualisation and measurement of design qualityas a key dimension of quality performance, combined with the role of buyer-supplierrelationships in product design and development, represents a new extension to theorydevelopment in this field. In addition, the study adds to existing theoreticaldevelopment of the quality performance construct by including variables such asproduct cost and time-to-market. Methodologically, the study is amongst the first touse sub-group analysis to test for the moderating effects of a contingency variable inthe field of quality management.From a theoretical perspective, this study contributes to the development of qualitymanagement theory as well as the current debate on how the operations managementdiscipline is broadening beyond its traditional functional remit to include conceptssuch as buyer-seller relationships. The results obtained also have practicalimplications for how supplier companies can consolidate customer relationships in thecontext of product quality. Likewise from a policy perspective, the results haveimplications for government agencies concerned with how linkages betweenindigenous suppliers and highly mobile multinational corporations can be enhanced,and thus contribute to industrial development and employment.