BackgroundNATIONWIDE TELEPHONENationwide Telephone has been a manufacturer of quality low-cost cordless 2.4-gigahertz telephones since 2001. The firm has based its business strategy on automation, fast deliveries, and reliable service. Nationwide is one of the first low-cost telephone manufacturers still producing and selling telephones in the United States. Competition, especially from the Far East, has made this an increasingly difficult endeavor.The most important segment of Nationwide’s sales has been the promotional “Gift with Purchase” market. Magazine publishers currently compose Nationwide’s largest customer base. Positive growth has been forecasted in the promotional incentive market for the next five years. To meet market demand, Nationwide manufactures two models of telephones in a variety of colors.The firm’s plant is located in Nogales, Arizona. The plant was built near the major sources of supply, which are in Mexico. Nationwide procures all its components from Mexico except for the plastic items. The plastic components are purchased in the local domestic area. Nationwide has ruled out the use of a maquiladora,* due to the highly automated nature of its production process. As a capital-intensive firm, Nationwide also concluded a maquiladora was not a feasible alternative because of the increased risks of having its equipment in a foreign country.Roger Stoga is the president and founder of the company. He has an engineering degree from Michigan Tech and an M.B.A. from Purdue University. He attributes Nationwide’s ability to stay competitive to two factors: (1) automating its process and (2) procuring highly labor- intensive materials in Mexico.The plant employs only 200 people, of whom 140 are responsible for the actual assembly work. With the help of automated assembly machines, Nationwide has been able to meet market demand and keep labor and manufacturing costs down.Supply ManagementSteven Young is the supply manager. He employs two supply analysts, Jan Newman and Bill Bush. Jan has been with the company for a little over a year and is a graduate of Arizona State University. She has a strong background in price analysis. Bill is the eldest and most experienced member of the Nationwide staff. He is expected to retire later this year. Jan purchases all the electronics and wire harnesses, while Bill concentrates his efforts on the plastics and hardware.Supply Management SystemThe manufacturing process is highly dependent on timely deliveries from its suppliers. Local sourcing is used to assure prompt delivery and to keep supplier lead times short. Supply*Maquiladora plants are located in northern Mexico. Basically, foreign materials are imported duty free, processed (using low-cost labor), and then returned to the country of origin without customs duties being imposed in either Mexico or the country of origin.management focuses its efforts on maintaining a small supplier base.The driving force of the supply management system is to obtain low-cost, high-quality materials as a means of staying competitive. As a standard procedure, supply management prepares annual re-costing reports of its suppliers. Currently, requests for quotations are sent to potential suppliers to compare with the current supplier’s prices. The supply professionals are to sort through the various bids and choose the lowest one submitted to use as a basis for negotiating future part pricing.Developing SituationOver the last six months, Roger has been noticing a drop in sales, while expenses have begun to increase. A careful evaluation of production costs revealed a recent increase in the plastic component prices. Since plastic components account for 40 percent of the telephone’s cost, the rise in price significantly affected profit.Injection molding makes plastic components. Injection molding is a process whereby a thermoplastic material, usually in pellet form, is heated to its melting point. The melted material is then pushed into a mold via an injection molding machine and held in the closed mold while it is cooled into a solid shape. The solidified part is ejected from the mold and the process begins again.On further investigation, Roger noticed Nationwide is sole-sourced by one injection molder in the local area, ABC Plastics. Nationwide has been buying solely from ABC since it consistently submitted the lowest bid. Quality and delivery have been generally good.Roger called Steve into his office to discuss the situation. Roger said to Steve, “As you are aware, our sales this quarter have been weak and expenses have been increasing. I have gone through our material price sheets and noticed plastic part prices have been steadily increasing. Why is that?” Steve replied, “Bill has made me aware of the problem, but he has not been able to determine the cause of the price changes. He has stated that ‘ABC refuses to divulge any cost information.’” Roger said firmly, “We have to understand what the problem is and get it fixed now!”Steve was pondering his options and alternatives to solve this problem. He knew if he did nothing to rectify this situation quickly, Nationwide would not be able to price its telephones competitively.Steve also knew that Jan had been successful in obtaining price reductions; therefore, Steve decided to ask Jan to work with Bill to develop an action plan to get the escalating plastic material prices under control.1. What analytical tools can be used by the supply group to determine the right price? 2. How could Nationwide’s supply department have prevented the price escalations? 3. How does the competitive condition of the plastic component industry impact the use of price analysis? 4. What kind of resistance might Jan encounter from Bill? How can Bill help facilitate the pricing analysis process? 5. What are some of the costs/benefits of continuing to source from the same local suppliers?Bruce Asbaugh and Sandra Sarmiento developed this case under the direction of Professor David N. Burt.
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