Original Research

A supply chain cost reduction framework for the South African mobile phone industry

Musenga F. Mpwanya, Cornelius H. van Heerden
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 20, No 1 | a1464 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v20i1.1464 | © 2017 Musenga F. Mpwanya, Cornelius H. van Heerden | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 August 2015 | Published: 31 March 2017

About the author(s)

Musenga F. Mpwanya, Department of Marketing, Logistics and Sport Management, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Cornelius H. van Heerden, Faculty of Management Sciences, Office of the Executive Dean, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The costs incurred in the provision of products and services across the supply chain are on the rise in many industries, including the mobile phone industry. Despite this, there is limited information in South Africa on the perceptions of supply chain players regarding cost reduction in the mobile phone industry. Furthermore, there is currently no framework for reducing supply chain costs in the South African mobile phone industry.

Aim: The purpose of this study is to explore supply chain costs in the South African mobile phone industry, and to develop a supply chain cost-reduction framework for the South African mobile phone industry.

Setting: This study explores supply chain costs in four mobile phone companies operating in the South African mobile phone industry, of which three mobile network operators and one mobile retailing group. It uses semi-structured interview data collected in 2011.

Method: This study adopted a qualitative case study design to understand supply chain costs and develop a supply chain cost-reduction framework for the South African mobile phone industry. Eight semi-structured interviews with managers of mobile phone companies were conducted. The data were analysed with the help of Atlas.ti, using an adapted three-phased analytical framework as suggested by Miles and Huberman (1994) and O’ Dwyer (2004).

Results: The study found that consolidation of strategic relationships through collaboration and strategic alliances between MNOs and other supply chain players is one of the ways to drive costs down across the supply chain. Outsourcing of some of the support activities and retailers’ direct purchasing transactions from device manufacturers were also found to be other avenues for reducing supply chain costs in the industry.

Conclusion: The study suggests that mobile network operators (MNOs) need to consolidate their strategic relationships by increasing the share of the network infrastructure, and emphasising the need to strive for operational efficiencies. This combined effort should result in significant cost reductions across the supply chain. The findings of this study provided some avenues that managers of mobile-phone companies could consider to drive costs down supply chain-wide and service end-users at lower rates. The findings of this study could also help regulating authorities to get insights into supply chain cost reduction and develop appropriate mobile phone policies in South Africa.


Keywords

supply chain; cost reduction; qualitative case study; mobile phone industry; supply chain cost-reduction framework

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