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STRATEGIC ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR XYZ RESEARCH
CORPORATION: A CASE STUDY
PAUL E. JARAMILLO VEGA
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Paul E. Jaramillo Vega
To my family.
I would like to thank my parents, Patricio Jaramillo and Rita Vega, who have
continuously supported me emotionally and financially throughout all my crazy
endeavors. I am grateful for all the opportunities they have afforded me. I also want to
thank my brother Ivan Jaramillo and my sister Patricia Jaramillo (and their families), all
partners in crime with my parents in holding me up through these years.
I wish to thank my supervisory committee chair, Dr. Lisa House; and my cochair,
Dr. Allen Wysocki. Both of them tirelessly helped me since the inception of this project.
Their guidance and patience encouraged me greatly. I am immensely indebted to Dr. Jane
Luzar for all her unconditional help. I would like to thank Dr. William Brown and all the
people at XYZ. Their openness and financial assistance made this study possible. Their
help and trust in this project are deeply appreciated. Thanks also go to other faculty and
staff members in the Food and Resource Economics Department, and to my fellow
graduate students for their assistance and encouragement.
Thanks are due to all my friends here in Gainesville and in Ecuador, for countless
words and acts of support offered. Finally, I would like to thank Maria Fernanda
Cifuentes, my friend and soul mate. Her enduring support and sincere love served as a
foundation for building my goals.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS ........................................ iv
LIST OF TABLES .................. ...... ............................ viii
LIST OF FIGURES ....................................... ix
ABSTRAC T ............. ............ ................. ........ ........x
1 R E SE A R C H SE T TIN G ...............................................................................
1.1 Background and Justification............................................................ ........... 1
1.2 Problem Statement .............................. ................. .............. .... .3
1.2.1 Description of the XYZ Research Corporation and of the U.S.
Independent Food-Testing Laboratory Industry .......................................4
188.8.131.52 Description of XYZ Research Corporation ............... ..............4
184.108.40.206 Description of the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory
in d u stry ........................................................5
1.3 Objectives ................ .. .. ........................ .6
1.3.1 General Objectives..............................................6
1.3.2 Specific Objectives ................... ............................6
2 LITERATURE REVIEW .................................................. ...............8
2.1 Strategic Analysis and Strategic Planning in Strategic Management Research ...8
2.2 Influence of Economics on Strategic Management ..............................10
3 M E T H O D S PR O P O SE D ..................................................................................... 16
3.1 Alternative Strategies for Addressing the Research Problem..........................16
3.2 Case Study as the Preferred Research Strategy ..................................... 18
3.2.1 Strengths of the Case Study Research Approach.................................19
3.2.2 Concluding Remarks Regarding The Case Study Research Strategy.....20
3.3 Strategic Analysis Interviews and Focus Groups .......................................... 20
4 STR A TE G IC A N A L Y SIS ..................................................................................... 22
4.1 Overview of the U.S. Independent Food-Testing Laboratory Industry ..............22
4.1.1 Nature of the Industry ............. ...................... 27
220.127.116.11 Outsourcing and the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory
indu story ........................ .. .. ... .. .. ..................27
18.104.22.168 The U.S. food safety system and the U.S. independent
food-testing laboratory industry.................................... .........29
4.1.2 The U.S. Food Supply Chain and the U.S. Independent Food-Testing
L laboratory Indu stry ........................... ...... ..........................32
4.1.3 Factors Influencing Demand in the U.S. Independent Food-Testing
L laboratory Industry ................... ....... ... ............................36
4.2 Forces Influencing the U.S. Independent Food-Testing Laboratory Industry ....38
4.2.1 Degree of Rivalry was M oderate.....................................................39
4.2.2 Threat of Substitutes was Low................................. .. .......... 40
4.2.3 Buyer Power was Highest for Large Manufacturers and Lowest for
Sm all Producers ............................................... ..............4 1
4.2.4 Supplier Power was High................................ ............... 42
4.2.5 Barriers to Entry/ Threat of Entry was Low ........... .............43
4.3 Strategic Analysis of XYZ Research Corporation................. ..............44
4.3.1 M marketing Resources ................................. ............... 45
4.3.2 Financial R sources ........................................................ 48
4.3.3 H um an R sources ............................................ ............... 49
4.3.4 Operation/Production Resources ................. ................. ............50
4.3.5 M anagement/Leadership Resources ........................................ ...52
4.3.6 Organizational Resources .......................................... 53
4.3.7 Information Resources ................... ..... .............. .................54
4.4 Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis for XYZ
4.4.1 Competitive Advantages (Strengths).................................................. 56
4.4.2 Opportunities.................. ........ ............. ... ..............58
4.4.3 Competitive Disadvantages (W weaknesses) ...........................................59
4.4.4 Threats..................... ............. ......... 61
5 RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS ........................................... 62
5.1 Recommendations for XYZ Research Corporation.............. ...............62
5.1.1 Defining a Strategy .....................................62
22.214.171.124 Considerations for XYZ choosing the cost leadership
strategy ............... ........ .... .. .... .... ... ........ 64
126.96.36.199 Considerations for XYZ choosing the differentiation
strategy ........... ........... ............... ........65
5.1.2 Aggressive Strategy-Based Marketing ...................................... 65
5.1.3 Understanding and Shaping the Customer Base...............................66
5.1.4 D ecentralizing Leadership ............................................ .......67
5.1.5 Development of a New Incentive Program.......... .................67
5.1.6 Tuning Up the Organizational Structure and Accounting System..........69
5.1.7 O n Building N ew Facilities .............................................. ......69
5.1.8 M management Training Programs......................................70
5.2 Recommendations for Further Research................................. ..............70
5.3 Conclusions .................. .. ............. ............71
A AN A LY SIS TO O LS .................................................. 72
B MAJOR QUALITY ASSURANCE PROGRAMS.................................... 76
R EFER EN CE S ........................................
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ...................................................82
LIST OF TABLES
3-1 Relevant situations for different research strategies ........................................... 17
4-1 Silliker's sales volume for domestic facilities............ .......... ...............26
4-2 Microbac's sales volume for domestic facilities........................ ...............26
4-3 Independent food-testing laboratories by region.........................27
4-4 Summary statistics from the XYZ Research Corporation interviews..................46
A -i Perform ance assessm ent................................................. 72
A-2 Internal checklist ....................................... ......... ..... ...73
A-3 Strengths analysis................ ...... .. ............ 75
A-4 W weakness analysis............... ........ ................ 75
LIST OF FIGURES
2-1 Sunk costs and scale economics definitions, effect on the industry, and influence
on strategic management theory.............................. ........... ......... 11
4-1 Distribution of U.S. independent food-testing labs by sales class.........................24
4-2 Overview of the label change process in response to regulation. ............................31
4-3 Major alternative marketing channels of the U.S. food system .............. ...........35
5-1 XYZ's size position and available strategies. ................ .................. ...........63
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
STRATEGIC ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR XYZ RESEARCH
CORPORATION: A CASE STUDY
Paul E. Jaramillo Vega
Chair: Lisa House
Cochair: Allen Wysocki
Major Department: Food and Resource Economics
This study is a collaboration of efforts between the Food and Resource Economic
Department of the University of Florida and XYZ Research Corporation to (1) determine
the main forces influencing the behavior of food-testing laboratories participating in the
U.S. independent laboratory industry, (2) assist XYZ in developing a strategy and offer
recommendations, and (3) generate a separate teaching case study.
Limited information on the industry was available at the beginning of this study.
Competitive analysis was used to determine a low level of rivalry in the industry. The
low level of rivalry was due to an accelerated growth of the market observed in this
relatively young industry. However, most forces were found to work toward high levels
of rivalry in the absence of industry growth.
Several interviews and focus groups were conducted at XYZ Research to gain
insights into XYZ's competitive advantages and disadvantages. An analysis of the
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of XYZ revealed several competitive
advantages that the company possesses over its rivals as well as some areas of weakness
that can be improved. Also, the analysis revealed the existence of numerous potential
opportunities facing XYZ, and only a small number of weak threats.
Specific considerations regarding the two alternative strategies proposed by this
research (cost-leadership or differentiation) were developed for XYZ together with a set
of recommendations on very specific issues the company should address.
The final products of this study include a proposed business plan (based on the
strategic analysis conducted for XYZ Research Corporation) and a teaching case study
for use in Agribusiness and Human Resource classrooms.
This chapter is divided in three sections. Section 1.1 briefly discusses the
background and setting of this study. Section 1.2 identifies the main problem and main
issues concerning our study. Section 1.3 states both the relevant general and specific
1.1 Background and Justification
The present and future role of the U.S. land grant university system has been a
matter of discussion in the last few years, as the original conditions that provided the
impetus for a nationwide cooperative extension system in the 1860s have changed over
time. During the formation of the cooperative extension system, a large farm population
existed that had unique and distinct characteristics compared to urban households. Farms
were also dispersed and isolated, with slow transportation and communications networks.
The national concern for food security combined with the needs of farmers, and the need
of many agriculture colleges for a constituency and base of support created a demand for
agricultural extension (National Research Council 1996). Today, farm families are not
dispersed or isolated, transportation networks and communications are rapid and
extensive, and farm households are not nearly as different from non-farm households as
they used to be (National Research Council 1996). By 1991, education and income of
farm households was already, on average, on par with the education and income of non-
farm households (Dacquel and Dahmann 1993). The context of the national condition is
very different than it was at the time the base for extension was laid.
At the same time, governments around the world have continuously experienced
increasingly tighter budgets. As a result of budgetary pressure, many countries have
examined alternative arrangements for delivery of extension services, including public
expenditure reductions, changes in approaches to generating tax revenue, charges for
government extension services, commercialization and privatization (Howell 1985). In
the United States, total federal funds for extension were $439 million in 1995. This
represented 29 % of all cooperative extension funding from state, local (including county
and private), and federal sources, down from 42 % 20 years prior (National Research
Council 1995). According to Le Gouis (1991), three principal policies have been used by
governments: (1) public financing by the taxpayer only for the kinds of services that are
of direct concern to the general public; (2) direct charging for some individual services
with direct return, such as improved income; and (3) mixed funding shared between
public and private professional association contributions, for some services where
benefits are shared.
Presently, the U.S. land grant university system faces a country with few farmers
and many consumers. Farms that account for most of the agricultural products entering
commercial markets are highly sophisticated organizations, operating with cutting-edge
production and information technologies. Under these circumstances the U.S. land grant
system must compete or collaborate with a private sector that shows growing
participation in offering extension as consulting services; while at the same time
balancing a reduced budget to respond to all farm, rural, urban, and suburban needs.
Some discussions point out the growing similarity of the current role of the land
grant system to that of a consulting agency. In which ways and how much does the role
of public universities reflect that of being consulting agencies for different private sectors
in the economy? Furthermore, if this is the case, how can both the private and public
sector take advantage of this kind of relationship? According to Feller et al. (1987), one
way to look at this relationship is to see extension personnel as wholesalers of technical
information; and private consultants as increasingly, the retailers. Our study is a result of
a public-private partnership between University of Florida and XYZ Research
Corporation. We analyzed the partnership for insights in the road to answering the
questions stated above.
1.2 Problem Statement
For the last 3 years, XYZ Research Corporation has been performing well
financially. Such positive performance has sparked a desire from the company to grow
and to improve even further.
The company operates in an immensely complex and not well-defined U.S.
independent food-testing laboratory industry. The industry offers food-testing services to
food companies under a highly federal-regulated environment. A large number of very
diverse firms (ranging in size from small mom-and-pop types of businesses to large
multinational multi-site billion-dollar corporations) participate in the industry.
Independent private laboratories, in contrast with publicly traded companies, are not
required to make readily available to the public their financial situation or any other
information. As a result, XYZ Research Corporation's management staff deals with,
among other things, a thin market for information on competitors' and industry data (e.g.,
sales, size) that is needed for planning future moves.
In its struggle to find the best plan of action, XYZ's management team realized the
need to address several internal and external factors that were constraining the company
from developing to its full potential as a leader in the industry. XYZ Research
Corporation contacted the Food and Resource Economics Department (FRED) in the
University of Florida requesting assistance in identifying such internal factors and
external industry-issues; and in suggesting ways to improve its competitiveness and
Considering the current issues relating to the present and future role of the land
grant university system, our study posed a remarkable opportunity to set an example of
public-private partnership arrangements that benefit both the private and public sector.
The goals of our study are stated at the end of this chapter in Section 1.3.
1.2.1 Description of the XYZ Research Corporation and of the U.S. Independent
Food-Testing Laboratory Industry
188.8.131.52 Description of XYZ Research Corporation
Established in 1967 by Dr. William L. Brown, XYZ Research Corporation is a full-
service laboratory based in Gainesville, Florida. The company started out with 20
scientists, and has grown to more than 50 scientists and a $1.5 million payroll. XYZ
Research Corporation conducts daily chemical, physical, and microbiological analyses
for its customer base of over 2000 food companies. This includes mostly large (but also
small) fast-food chains, mainstream chain restaurants, food retail and wholesale firms,
food-processing firms, packing firms, commercial farms, and some companies in foreign
XYZ Research Corporation's organization and major departments are described as
follows: (1) Top Management (CEO, Dr. William Brown; Vice President, Mr. Hart); (2)
Quality Control; (3) Office Management; (4) Business Development (increasing XYZ's
capabilities to include product development, HACCP auditing, and biotechnology
services); (5) Sales and Marketing; (6) Microbiology (tests for presence of pathogens in
food, errors in food processes that result in spoilage, and purity of water; and offers
regulatory assistance); (7) Research Microbiology (analytical, research, and consulting
services); (8) Chemistry (analytical tests for physical properties); (9) Food Chemistry:
analytical tests on general nutritional content; miscellaneous properties of foods (pH,
flavor, odor, etc); and presence of pesticide residues, additives, and toxins; and (10)
Chemistry/Problem Solving (offers problem solving services for any type of food
184.108.40.206 Description of the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry
Independent food-testing laboratories are part of a large set of very different types
of laboratories operating in the United States. In general, independent laboratories offer a
wide range of services to several industries. Focus may vary immensely, from dental
X-Ray laboratories, to Research laboratories, or Motion Picture laboratories. The SIC has
19 classification numbers that include the word laboratory or laboratories. The scope of
our study is limited to independent food-testing and product-development laboratories.
Food-testing laboratories are classified in the SIC under Division I: Services and
under Industry Group 873: Research Development and Testing Services. Classification
number 8731: Commercial Physical and Biological Research includes establishments
primarily engaged in commercial physical and biological research and development on a
contract fee basis. Facilities engaged primarily in food testing fall under classification
8734: Testing Laboratories. Specifically our interest is subdivision 8734-02:
Laboratories-Testing and 8734-14 Laboratories-Analytical. Finally, noncommercial
research organizations (such as those funded by grants, endowments or contributions) are
part of classification 8733: Noncommercial Research Organizations. When discussing
the independent lab industry our study refers only to section 8731: Commercial Physical
and Biological Research and the relevant sections of 8734: Testing Laboratories. Section
4.1 of our study offers a deeper look into the industry.
1.3.1 General Objectives
Two general objectives will be used as guides to achieve our research goals. They
1. To introduce an analytical framework that could be applied to XYZ Research
Corporation and to the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry.
XYZ Research Corporation approached the Food and Resource Economics
Department of University of Florida requesting assistance in identifying ways to
achieve growth and improve competitiveness in its industry.
2. To explore and characterize the multiple mutually beneficial opportunities
existent in public-private research partnerships and re-define the expanding-
evolving role of the land grant university system to interact more directly with
the private sector. Final output of our study will be both beneficial to the private
sector (strategic plan) and educational (case study).
1.3.2 Specific Objectives
Six specific objectives were identified as necessary to effectively carry out our
research. They were based on the general objectives mentioned above. These are
1. To provide XYZ Research Corporation with a detailed description of the
economic aspects of the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry and
the relations between the industry's demand and factors affecting the U.S. food
supply chain. Many factors concerning the whole food supply chain are factors that
affect the lab industry and dictate how their demand is generated.
2. To conduct a strategic analysis of XYZ Research Corporation. The strategic
analysis is composed of several focus groups conducted with employees and
management in the company. Output includes employee/management ranked
answers on the most important internal resources in the company.
3. To provide an analysis of the competitive forces functioning in the U.S.
independent food-testing laboratory industry. Strong competitive forces imply
increased rivalry and a reduced likelihood for sustaining industry-wide
4. To conduct an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
(SWOT) confronting XYZ Research Corporation and the U.S. independent lab
industry. Internal strengths and external opportunities reduce the strength of
competitive forces, while internal weaknesses and external threats increase the
strength of the competitive forces.
5. To assist XYZ Research Corporation in developing a strategic plan and
propose them a set of strategic alternatives with the purpose of guiding their
future development. The strategic plan is a core plan of action based on the
competitive force analysis, the SWOT analysis and the strategic plan analysis. The
strategic plan is intended to commit XYZ Research Corporation with a set of goals
and objectives that will jumpstart their growth from a medium-size profitable
company into a true corporation.
This literature review is divided into two sections: Section 2.1 shows the use of
strategic analysis and strategic planning in strategic management research. Section 2.2
discusses the influences of economics on strategic management.
2.1 Strategic Analysis and Strategic Planning in Strategic Management Research
Miller and Dess (1996) define strategic analysis as the conjugation of three
processes: (1) consideration of the organization's strategic intent; (2) exploration of the
opportunities and threats presented in the immediate environment surrounding the
organization; and (3) a study of the organization's internal strengths and weaknesses.
This definition is very similar or equivalent to the concept of a Strengths Weaknesses
Opportunities and Threats Analysis (SWOT ) plus any effort to define a company's
On the other hand; strategic planning is defined by Aeker (1988) as the process of
increasing a company's ability to anticipate changes that have strategic implication, by
focusing on their immediate market environment to achieve an in-depth understanding of
competitors and customers. Also defined by Pearce (1994), as an on-going process based
on the implementation and development of better strategies.
Finally, strategic management is described as the on-going dynamic process
(involving both strategic analysis and strategic planning) leading to a set of
analysis-driven decisions and actions taken by a firm to achieve its performance goals
(Pearce 1994, Peterson 1994). Performance may mean desired level of profits, market
share, customer satisfaction, or sales.
Also, according to Zahra et al. (1993), competitive analysis is a process by which
firms define and try to understand their industry; identify their competitors; determine
strengths and weaknesses of rivals; and anticipate situations and moves. According to
Beaver and Ross (2000), for small companies, strategic management is often an adaptive
process. Such process is carried out to achieve positional and resource advantages.
Decisions are taken from day to day, as needed, which is the way for meeting most small
environmental changes. Our study stresses the importance for XYZ, as a medium-large
company, in developing a more structured and systematical way of thinking strategically
(regardless of what strategy they pursue) to address a rapidly growing industry.
Sorensen, Valqui, and Engstrom (2003, p. 566), performed SWOT-based research
to identify the issues constraining European businesses from developing effective
strategies to adopt and incorporate Information Technologies (IT) to their operations.
Insights and identified issues obtained through the SWOT analysis were used to develop
alternative strategies for small businesses. Their research was conducted using the case
study strategy. The case involved a small Swedish company referred to as Kirby. The
The SWOT analysis was used simply because the first contact with the firm made it
clear that the sales manager had no idea of how to structure the complex situation.
As the authors see it, there were not real alternatives to SWOT. With only one
participating person, a rather restricted time frame (for interviews and the number
of interviews that could be expected), and the authors' ambition to leave behind at
least one tool or idea Kirby could work with alone, SWOT seemed as the best
option. As mentioned earlier, the application of SWOT was made through several
meetings allowing the sales manager to reflect on both the issues and the situation
and on the methodological approach for structuring the problem. The time between
meetings made up a more productive and interactive analysis. By starting out
discussions one day, the sales manager became more attentive to the SWOT factors
discussed, and at next meeting he could always add on new relevant issues.
However, it was also clear that the analysis could not have been applied without the
technological knowledge of the facilitator. Application of SWOT requires a good
information and sound knowledge base to succeed. The sales manager did not have
sufficient knowledge especially about the external SWOT factors, and the direct
engagement of the facilitator as an expert was a requirement for carrying out the
analysis. In terms of using SWOT with an illustrative purpose, it is the authors'
perception that the manager did get so much insight into SWOT methodologically
that he could be able to apply it himself or take on a facilitator role.
Dyson (2003, p. 631) used SWOT based research to assist in formulating a
development strategy for the University of Warwick, UK. In his words
The application links SWOT analysis to resource-based planning, illustrates it as an
iterative rather than a linear process, and embeds it within the overall planning
process. Lessons are drawn both for the University and for the strategy formulation
Wysocki (1997) used SWOT analysis and Porter's Five Force framework to
develop a strategic plan for Michigan's Public Variety Field and Seed Potato Producers.
The SWOT analysis was conducted through several meetings, face-to-face interviews,
and surveys; similar to Sorensen, Valqui, and Engstrom (2003).
2.2 Influence of Economics on Strategic Management
Five specific examples of how economics has affected strategic management
include: (1) traditional entry-barrier theory yielded the concepts of scale economics and
sunk costs, while mobility barrier theory stressed the importance of learning and first-
mover advantages in making specialized investments; (2) the notion that high profits are
returns to specialized high-quality resources supported by the Chicago school; (3) game
theory provided models to analyze (and the basis for understanding) firms' use of
preemption, brand crowding, dynamic limit-pricing, signaling, and reputation for
toughness to strategically protect market positions; (4) the economics of innovation
brought focus on Schumpeterian competition, intellectual property, and the costs of
technology transfer; and (5) transaction costs economics (Rumelt et al. 1991).
Figure 2-1 shows the definitions of sunk costs and scale economies, their potential
effect to the industry, and their influence to strategic management. Sunk costs refer to
costs that once paid are impossible to recover. The magnitude of sunk costs required to
start a business in a given industry represents a barrier to entry for new firms because it
increases the size of the initial investment required. It also increases the level of risk
associated, by increasing the amount of money that can be lost if the business fails. In
terms of its influence to strategic management: (1) established firms do not worry as
much for new firms entering the industry (which allows them to concentrate on existing
competition); and (2) the rivalry among established firms is higher (the higher the
magnitude of sunk costs, the higher the loss associated with going out of business).1
Definition: costs that once paid are impossible to recover
Effect: can represent an entry barrier
Influence: 1) barrier allows established firms to concentrate in
2) increases rivalry among existing competition
Definition: lower costs resulting from mass production
Types: technical, managerial, financial, marketing,
Effect: enhances company's ability to engage in price
Influence: argument favoring cost leadership strategies
Figure 2-1. Sunk costs and scale economics definitions, effect on the industry, and
influence on strategic management theory.
Scale economies occur when mass-producing a good, results in lower average
costs. Lower average costs can be caused by: (1) technical economies (making better use
1 For a detailed discussion of sunk costs see: Baumol, W. J., Panzar, J. C., and Willig, R. "Contestable
Markets: An Uprising in the Theory of Industry Structure." American Economic Review, 72(1)(1983):1-15.
of equipment); (2) managerial economies (splitting managerial skills among higher levels
of output); (3) financial economies (having access to loans with lower interest rates than
smaller firms); (4) marketing economies (diluting advertising costs among more output);
(5) commercial economies (buying inputs in bulk with discounts); and (6) external
economies (e.g., local skilled or low-cost labor). Scale economies affect strategic
management decisions by improving a company's ability to engage in price competition.
Also, influencing strategic management is the concept of first mover advantage.
First mover advantages give firms access to excess profits created by shocks to the
market before any competitors have access to them. Furthermore, first mover advantages
offer firms the opportunity to create long-run competitive advantages over competitors
(e.g., brand name, customer recognition, control of distribution channels, technological
lead). Three types of first mover advantages identified are: (1) technological leadership,
(2) preemption of assets, and (3) switching costs.
Technological leadership first mover advantage is related to the concepts of
learning curve and experience curve. The learning curve effect states that the more often
a task is performed, the less time will be required on each iteration. Wright (1925), first
noticed this effect at the Air Force Base in America, where he determined that every time
aircraft production doubled, the required labor time decreased by 10% to 15%. The
experience curve effect is broader in scope than the learning curve effect, encompassing
far more than just labor time. It states that the more often a task is performed; the lower
will be the cost of doing it due to increased labor efficiency, standardization,
specialization, experience, and technology driven learning (Boston Consulting Group
1972). The Boston Consulting Group strategists examined the consequences of the
experience effect for businesses. They concluded that because relatively low cost of
operations is a very powerful strategic advantage, firms should capitalize on these
learning and experience effects. The reasoning is, increased activity leads to increased
learning, which leads to lower costs, which can lead to lower prices, which can lead to
increased market share, which can lead to increased profitability and market dominance.
Today we recognize that there are other strategies that are just as effective as cost
leadership so we need not limit ourselves to this one path. See for example Porter generic
strategies discussed in Chapter 5 (Section 5.1) of this study, which talks about product
differentiation and focused market segmentation as two alternatives to cost leadership. To
avoid confusion between scale economies and the experience curve effects it is helpful to
remember that economies of scale are those efficiencies that arise from an increased scale
of production, and that experience effects are those efficiencies that arise from the
learning and experience gained from repeated activities.
Schumpeter, defined competition as a dynamic process wherein firms strive to
survive under an evolving set of rules that constantly produce winners and losers. His
1912 book on The Theory of Economic Development established the links between
innovation and competition. His 1928 paper on The Instability of Capitalism highlighted
the transient character of competition conditions (Tavares 1999). Firms can have an
advantage in this game by creating asymmetries in information. In such, creation and
protection of intellectual property are also related to the technological leadership
first-mover advantage since the experience curve effect is diminished as the inter-firm
sharing of technological information is increased. This is an example of a cost of
technological transfer. One factor that can increase the sharing of information is
inter-firm mobility of workers.
The second first mover advantage discussed is preemption of assets. Preemption is
the appropriation of something in advance of others. For example, firms can gain
advantage over competitors by pursuing strategies that enable them to exercise
preemption over input factors or intellectual property (R&D and patents).
The third first mover advantage has to do with increasing switching costs. For
example; by creating brand loyalty through exclusive quality, or creating artificial brand
loyalty through contractual switching costs like airlines do with frequent flier programs.
However, according to Rumelt et al. (1991), the most influential change to strategic
management came from Michael Porter's work titled Competitive Strategy. Michael
Porter's work synthesized into a logical framework the Chicago School's idea that
different industry structures are reflected in different industry outcomes or performances
as opposed to market power. His well-known and extensively used framework, Porter's
Five Forces, is built based on the structure-conduct-performance (S-C-P) paradigm
of industrial economics.
The key aspect when formulating a competitive strategy is relating the company to
its environment. This environment includes social and economic forces, but mainly the
industry or industries in which the firm competes. Industry structures have a strong
influence in determining the competitive rules of the game and the strategies potentially
available to the firm (Porter 1980). Our study makes use of Porter's Five Forces
framework as an aid to understand the forces and behaviors operating in the industry in
which XYZ Research Corporation competes.
Summarizing, our study argues that strategic analysis supported by Porter Five
Forces framework and a SWOT analysis of the industry are appropriate foundations for
the strategy formulation of a firm. In aiding XYZ Research Company to develop a
strategy for their business, our study makes use of these tools and data gathering methods
(strategic analysis, SWOT analysis, Porter's Five Forces, face-to-face interviews, etc) to
accomplish the objectives and goals proposed.
This chapter discusses the methods proposed to carry out our study. Section 3.1
shows the alternative strategies reviewed to address our research problem. Section 3.2
defines the case study strategy as the preferred research strategy. Section 3.3 describes
the survey tool (interviews and focus groups) used.
3.1 Alternative Strategies for Addressing the Research Problem
Several research strategies used to address social science research include
experiments, surveys, case studies, histories and the analysis of archival information. The
selection of which strategy is used by investigators depends upon three conditions: (1) the
type of research question being asked, (2) the control the researcher has over actual
behavioral variables or events, and (3) the focus on contemporary as opposed to historical
phenomena (Yin 1994).
Research phases affect which type of research strategy might be selected. Phases
can be exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory. Phases differ from each other on the type
of research questions they try to answer. Exploratory research is mainly concerned with
answering "what" questions. Descriptive research is effective in answering "who" and
"where" questions. Finally, explanatory research is meant to answer "how" and "why"
Table 3-1 summarizes the different relevant situations for five alternative research
strategies. Each strategy is assessed according to the three conditions mentioned above.
Table 3-1. Relevant situations for different research strategies
Requires control Focuses on
over behavioral contemporary
Strategy Form of research question events? events?
Experiment How Why Yes Yes
Survey Who What Where How How No Yes
Archival Who What Where How How No Yes or
Analysis many much No
History How Why No No
Case Study How Why No Yes
Obtained from Yin, Robert K. "Case Study Research: Design and Methods." 2nd
edition.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994.
Questions like "What are your strengths as an independent food-testing
laboratory?" are here called "what" questions constituting the exploratory phase of
research. Although favoring the use of surveys and archival analysis, "what" questions
can be addressed with any of the five research strategies. This study will be using face-to-
face interviews and focus groups, and an extensive literature review, to carry out the
exploratory research phase.
The descriptive phase addresses "who," "where," "how many," and "how much"
types of questions. For example, "Where are most of the independent laboratories
located?" "How many laboratories participate in the industry?" or "Who do you consider
your main competitors in the industry?" Survey strategies or archival analysis are the
best-suited strategies to carry out this phase of the research. Our study will consider the
use of face-to-face interviews and focus groups, and archival records from Research
Triangle Institute's Food Testing Laboratory Database (FTLD) to carry out the
descriptive phase of this study.
Explanatory research is pursued by answering "how" and "why" questions; case
studies, experiments, and histories are commonly used to carry out this phase of research.
Our study will make use of face-to-face interviews and focus groups, and the case study
approach to tackle this phase of the research.
Of all five research strategies, only experiments require the researcher to have
control over behavioral variables and events. The type of research carried out in our study
lends itself to very little control over variables; thus, conducting experiment-based
research is not advised. Meanwhile, the case study and historical archives strategies do
not require the investigator to have control over the variables studied and could be used
to accomplish the objectives of our study.
However, of these two (case study and historical archives), only the case study
approach focuses on the study of contemporary events. Summarizing, the case study is
the most recommended approach to address research that presents the three following
characteristics: (1) answer "how" and "why" questions, (2) the investigator has little
control over variables, and (3) when the focus is on contemporary phenomena with real
life context (Yin 1994).
3.2 Case Study as the Preferred Research Strategy
It is argued in this section that the case study strategy is the best suited for
accomplishing the objectives of our study as stated earlier. The main focus of the case
study research strategy is on understanding in detail the dynamics present in single
settings. Study of cases involves meticulous examination of very few persons, items, or
entities. Commonly used in medical and psychological research, the case study method is
not as frequently used in the agricultural economics profession, though its use is
becoming more common in agribusiness research.
The trend in academic research is to use deductive methods of research over
inductive methods, whenever possible. A transition has been observed from using case
studies of actual situations to develop generalizations through induction, to deductive
methods utilizing the falsification method of Popper,2 and the statistical methods of
multi-variate analysis (Rumelt et al. 1991). Although the case study approach is more
effective for inductive research methods, it also has a role to play in deductive research.
Typically, case studies involve a combination of data collection techniques; such as
archives, interviews, questionnaires, and observation. The grouped evidence collected
may end up being qualitative, quantitative, or both (Eisenhardt 1989). While multivariate
analysis is good in dealing only with quantitative data sets, the case study approach can
be used for all quantitative, qualitative, or mixed sets of data.
3.2.1 Strengths of the Case Study Research Approach
Traditionally, case studies were thought only appropriate for the exploratory phase
of an investigation; that surveys and histories were effective for the descriptive phase;
and that only experiments were correctly used when doing explanatory or causal inquiries
(Yin 1994). The hierarchal framework of research phases reinforced the idea that case
studies could not be used to describe or test research propositions. A more current view is
that case studies can be used for all three types of research: exploratory, descriptive and
The case study method is conceived as a simultaneous treatment and observation
process that can be made over a period of time. According to Kennedy (1979), studies of
2 According to Popper, you can never demonstrate that something is materially true, but you can
demonstrate that some things are false. For a more detailed explanation of Popper's views see Blaug
(1992). "The Methodology of Economics of How Economics Explain."
individual cases allow the researcher to learn intricate details and provides insight into
the problem being considered, which aids in the process of prescribing a course of action.
Casley and Lury (1987) consider detailed insight is required when it is necessary to probe
deeply into systems governing behavior or when analyzing the interrelationships among
people and institutions to explain attitudes and behaviors.
3.2.2 Concluding Remarks Regarding The Case Study Research Strategy
Our study is based on research that is not designed to be tested with sophisticated
statistical analysis or econometric methods. The detailed nature of our research, the
limited number of observations, and the lack of specific numerical data prohibit standard
hypothesis testing. This research lends itself to the testing of research propositions by
in-depth analysis of industry structure, dynamic relationships, and forces influencing
behavior in the U.S. food-testing laboratory industry.
The exploratory and ongoing organic nature of our study limits the researcher's
ability to predetermine clear methods to test its propositions, and is best addressed by use
of the case study research strategy. Yin (1994, p. 102-103) addresses this issue by
Unlike statistical analysis, there are few fixed formulas or cookbook recipes to
guide the analysis for novices. Instead, much depends on the investigator's own
style of rigorous thinking, along with sufficient presentation of evidence and
careful consideration of alternative interpretations.
3.3 Strategic Analysis Interviews and Focus Groups
This section describes the series of interviews carried out at XYZ Research
Corporation for purposes of our study. The strategic analysis involved a series of visits to
the company to conduct focus groups with its employees and management. Five focus
groups were carried out at XYZ Research Corporation. Each session took between three
and four hours. Four of the five focus groups were comprised of employees across the
company, involving an average of four participants per session. The fifth session was
conducted directly with the CEO, Dr. Brown; and Vice President, Mr. Hart. In total, 17
employees and 2 top managers were interviewed. Participants were selected from each
department in the company to make the sample representative. Interviewees were
grouped according to their department.
The interview was adapted from a previously developed interview, authored by Dr.
Christopher Peterson3 from Michigan State University. Peterson (who enjoys an
extensive background in strategic management research) obtained his PhD from Cornell
University in 1991, and his M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1981.
The interview involved filling and discussing a questionnaire regarding: marketing,
financial, human, operations/production, organizational and information resources in the
company (See Appendix A for the complete questionnaire used). Each item in the
questionnaire was to be ranked by the interviewee as a weakness or strength for the
company. The scale used ranked from 1 (great weakness) to 5 (great strength).
The results obtained from employees were averaged and compared to the average
obtained from top management answers. Top management included the CEO and the
vice-president of the company. The results were then used to compare perceptions and
gain insights into the issues confronting the company.
3 Peterson, H. Christopher. "Strategic Analysis Interview." Personal communication, January 2003.
This chapter contains: Section 4.1 shows an overview of the U.S. independent
food-testing laboratory industry, its unique characteristics, and dynamic interaction with
the food industry supply chain together with issues surrounding it and factors influencing
its demand. Section 4.2 is an application of Porter's Five Force framework to the U.S.
independent food-testing laboratory industry is used to analyze the forces affecting the
industry. Section 4.3 shows the results gathered from the strategic analysis interviews and
focus groups are discussed. Finally, in Section 4.4 the findings from the Strengths
Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats Analysis (SWOT) conducted on XYZ Research
Corporation are summarized.
4.1 Overview of the U.S. Independent Food-Testing Laboratory Industry
Much of the next section comes from Fanjoy et al. (2001) Food Testing
Laboratories Database (FTLD). Fanjoy et al. (2001), from the Research Triangle
Institute, used FDA's (1997) definition for private laboratories4 to gather data on food-
testing laboratories and compiled it into a database that documents several industry
variables (e.g., location, economic variables, capabilities, and quality assurance
programs). Their research recognizes two limitations: (1) the U.S. food-testing laboratory
industry is not well defined which posed difficulties when screening companies that
4 The term "private laboratory" refers to those private sector laboratories that conduct testing of regulated
products and submit analytical data to the FDA to demonstrate compliance with the FD&C Act. The term
includes only those laboratories, which not regulated by Good Laboratory Practices and/or Good
Manufacturing Practices. By definition, private laboratories are independent providers of analytical services
and are not directly associated with firms utilizing their resources.
qualified as food-testing laboratories from other types of laboratories, and (2) laboratory
websites, maintained mainly for promotional purposes and association sources (e.g.,
American Council of Independent Laboratories-ACIL), do not include economic
variables or economic data on sales volume and what was available was hard to confirm.
In general, companies do not share such information in a freely manner.
Fanjoy et al.'s research used several screening methods to select laboratories and
define the food-testing laboratory population: (1) use of multiple private and federal
resources (e.g., company websites, FDA's OASIS), (2) use of a list purchased from
infoUSA containing 5,000 laboratories that are included in SIC code 8734-02:
Laboratories-Testing which was filtered by initially excluding laboratories that do not
test food or water, (3) grouping of the remaining laboratories in the list into categories by
their names and reviewing 5 to 10 examples from each category, (4) giving closer
scrutiny to exclude companies containing keywords in their names (e.g., agri, calibration,
hemo, terra), (5) use of corroborating sources to reconsider laboratories excluded using
the keyword filter, and (6) expert reviews from food science personnel at six universities
(Cornell, NCSU, Penn State, Texas A&M, University of California Davis and Virginia
The final database includes records for 546 companies that test food mostly within,
but also outside the United States. Available economic data for 193 of the 546 firms
suggests that industry sales volume easily surpasses $1.3 billion. However, this includes
revenues from all activities and services offered by the laboratories, not only from food-
In Figure 4-1 all independent food-testing laboratories for which data was available
were grouped according to their sales volume or sales size. From the 193 available
records, the diversity in size of firms operating in the industry is easily observed. Almost
half of the laboratories (47%) have a sales volume of $500,000 to $2,499,000.
Approximately a third (32%) have a sales volume ranging from $2,500,000 to
$19,999,000. Only four firms showed larger sales volumes. A smaller number of firms
(13.3%) fall under the small mom-and-pop type of business with sales volumes of $1,000
$1,000,000 or more 0L. 6 -- 71.07%
'CI $50,000$99,999 o5.5
Ch $2,500-$4,999 4. 17.
o $1,000$2,499 242/ 21.52%
< Less than $499 1. 13.29%
0.00/o 10.00/o 20.000/ 30.000/o 40.000/ 50.00%/o 60.00%/o 70.00% 80.00%
% of Total
Laboratories 1 Value of Products & Services Sold
Figure 4-1. Distribution of U.S. independent food-testing labs by sales class: 2001
According to the same data, around 71% of the estimated minimum of $1.3 billion
sales for the 193 laboratories belong to one single company (U.S Filter/Zimpro
Incorporated). Filter/Zimpro specializes in offering products, services and solutions for
water, wastewater and selected industrial processes to several industries. The rest of the
sales in the industry were distributed as follows: Medium-large sized companies (with
sales ranging from $2,500,000 to $19,999,000) accounted for approximately 19% of the
sales and medium-small sized laboratories ($500,000 to $2,499,000) accounted for 3.8%
of the sales. "Mom-and-pop" ($1,000 to $500,000) businesses contributed less than 1%
of the sales. The remaining 6.3% was made by the other three companies with volumes
sales larger than $19,999,999.
Two key competitors in the industry worth mentioning are Siliker Laboratories and
Microbac. Table 4-1 shows estimates of Silliker's sales volumes for its U.S. based
locations, Table 4.2 show estimates of Microbac's sales volumes. Both were obtained
using Food Testing Laboratories Database's economic data. Information for 9 of
Silliker's 11 U.S. locations suggests sales between 33.5 million and 67.5 million dollars.
According to the FTLD, sales from 11 of Microbac's 16 U.S. facilities are between 17
and 39.5 million dollars.
The FDA divides the U.S. territory in five regions. The Food Testing Laboratory
Database (FTLD) contains regional location data for 502 of the identified 546
food-testing laboratories operating in the U.S. Table 4-3 shows the number of
laboratories operating in each region. The Central region shows the highest concentration
with 165 laboratories, while the lowest concentration is seen in the Northeast area, with
only 67 laboratories. Such concentration in the Central and Pacific areas may be an
indication of where the clients are, showing labs wanting to reduce transportation costs
and enhance presence and communication by being close to their clients. On the other
hand, it may also be simply related to cost efficiency decisions other than transportation
costs, like lower labor costs, lower input costs, or closeness to input industry.
The remainder of this section discusses the nature of the industry (Section 4.1.1).
Then, Section 4.1.2 introduces a framework using the U.S. food supply chain to give a
clear picture of the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry and its complex
links and relationships with the food industry. After this, a list and description of the
major factors influencing demand in the industry is presented in Section 4.1.3.
Table 4-1. Silliker's sales volume for domestic facilities
Sales volume (thousands)
Table 4-2. Microbac's sales volume for domestic facilities
Fort Meyers, FL
Camp Hill, PA
New Castle, PA
New Ellenton, SC
Sales volume (thousands)
Table 4-3. Independent food-testing laboratories by region
Southeast l 85
i Central: DE, KY, MD, NJ, OH, PA, VA, WV, IL, IN, MI, MN, SD, WI
ii Northeast: CT, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT, MA
iii Pacific: AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, CA, HI, NV, AZ
iv Southeast: AL, FL GA, LA, MS, NC, Puerto Rico, SC, TN
v Southwest: IA, MO, NE, KS, AR, OK, TX, CO, NM, UT, WY
4.1.1 Nature of the Industry
Our study identifies two particularities that define and distinguish the U.S.
independent food-testing laboratory industry from other industries in the United States:
(1) the existence of the industry is closely linked to a trend in the food industry to
outsource some of the activities required by their business, and (2) most of the demand in
the food-testing laboratory industry is generated directly from the requisition from the
federal government for food companies to comply with food safety regulations.
220.127.116.11 Outsourcing and the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry
Outsourcing is the assignment of work to a third party for a specific length of time
with an agreed-on price and service level (Giese 2001). According to International Data
Corporation (1999), worldwide outsourcing services is a $100-billion industry, with sales
of $99 billion for 1998 and expected sales for 2003 of $151 billion.
The food industry is part of this outsourcing phenomenon, including the existence
of the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry. Food firms in the U.S. operate
in an intensely competitive, highly regulated, and mature industry. Many of these firms
have resorted to downsizing in areas that are not central to their business for example,
laboratory testing. In fact, many labs that today are contract labs are, or were in the past,
directly associated with a major food company. Some examples include: R-Tech (Land
O'Lakes), Medallion Laboratories (General Mills), TPC Labs (Pillsbury), Northland
Laboratories (Sara Lee Corporation), and Covance (once a Ralston Purina Company
division) (Marsili 1997).
Compass Consulting International (2004) and Giese (2001) recognize the
advantages for food companies from outsourcing. These are
* It can be a cost effective method of supplementing in-house testing. Costs
associated with maintaining a state-of-the-art analytical food chemistry laboratory
are expensive. For example, costs include lab chemists and lab technician salaries
and fringe benefits, construction costs, chemical agents, glassware, instruments,
and repair and maintenance. Food companies might have temporary needs for a
certain test; buying the necessary equipment to never use it again is not an
economically wise decision. Independent labs make a better use of economies of
scale distributing the use of such equipment through many food companies.
Outsourcing can also help food companies reduce their overhead.5
* Allows food companies to concentrate in their main business, their strategic
assets or core competencies. For example, a manager in a food manufacturing
company such as Kellogg Company or Quaker Oats Company would probably
have a hard time in assigning his costly scientific staff s time to take over analytical
tests to comply with FDA regulations instead of using their time in developing new
products to capture new markets.
* Additional expertise. Large companies can benefit from having access to a vast
legion of experienced and knowledgeable human resources. Knowledge and
experience of meeting government approvals such as Food and Drug
Administration or U.S. Department or Agriculture requirements or compliance
standards such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Good Laboratory
Practices (GLPs) can be important assets that labs offer.
5 Overhead is an operating expense, more in detail it is the expense of maintaining property (e.g., paying
property taxes and utilities and insurance); it does not include depreciation or the cost of financing or
income taxes (www.cogsci.princeton.edu).
On the other hand, outside the U.S., most food firms in developing countries are
quickly adapting and modernizing themselves to participate in an increasingly globalized
world economy. Food firms in these countries resort to outsourcing services to the U.S.
independent food-testing laboratory industry mainly for three reasons: (1) many can't
afford the kind of personnel and installations needed to do in-house testing, (2) for those
that could afford it; the problem is such personnel, installations, and equipment are not
easily found in their home countries, and (3) U.S. based independent laboratories would
be expected to be more familiar with the regulations and testing needed to import foods
to the U.S. There are also potential negatives for a company to consider when
outsourcing. These are
* Sharing of information. Some food companies are not exactly happy when
realizing they have to share test-methods and information with outside labs.
Especially when these labs do some work for the competitors.
* Outsourcing results in loosing some control. For example, food companies may
have to depend on independent laboratories' turnover and quickness when priority
tests are needed.
18.104.22.168 The U.S. food safety system and the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory
Much of this section was extracted from the FDA/USDA's U.S. food safety system
Country Report. The section describes the U.S. food safety system and how it influences
demand in the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry.
The United States Constitution dictates the responsibilities of the executive,
legislative and judicial branches with regards to the food safety system. The congress
enacts statutes and authorizes executive branch agencies to implement them by
developing and enforcing regulations.
The system is guided by 5 principles: (1) only safe and wholesome foods may be
marketed; (2) regulatory decision-making in food safety is managed according to risk
assessments and is science-based; (3) the government has enforcement responsibility; (4)
manufacturers, distributors, importers and others are expected to comply and are liable if
they do no; and (5) the regulatory process is transparent and accessible to the public.
The principal federal regulatory organizations are the Department of Health and
Human Services (DHHS), Food Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The FDA is responsible for protecting the public from impure, unsafe, and
fraudulently labeled food other than in areas regulated by FSIS. FSIS is responsible for
ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled.
EPA's mission includes protecting public health and the environment from risks posed by
pesticides and promoting safer means of pest management.
The major food safety authorizing statutes in existence are the Federal Food Drug,
and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), the Poultry
Products Inspection Act (PPIA), the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA), Food Quality
Protection Act (FQPA), and Public Health Service Act (PHSA). The Nutritional Labeling
and Education Act (NLEA) should also be considered, since it also generates demand for
the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry.
Regulations are a tool to help FDA in enforcing compliance with food safety acts.
Such regulations usually translate into increased demand for food-testing services. For
example, on November 8, 1990, President George Bush signed the Nutritional Labeling
and Education Act, which intended to enable consumers to select a healthier diet by
providing accurate and reliable information about nutritional content. This act amends the
Food Drug & Cosmetic Act and as such falls under FDA's jurisdiction. Taken from Muth
et al. (2003), Figure 4-2 gives an overview of the process by which the labeling
information and graphics on food and dietary supplement products may be changed as a
result of a regulation. Once a regulation is determined to affect a food or dietary
supplement product, the manufacturer may conduct analytical testing to decide whether
to reformulate the product or re-label it. The manufacturer then chooses between doing
analytical testing and reformulation in-house or by outsourcing services from food-testing
Food or dietary supplement label
Determine which products are
If necessary, conduct
F- Ii' 11. 11 F? *~.i I-JI
Maintain existing Y
labels Determine whether to i *i .i -
N |Product development ^
activities Consumer evaluation
F Graphic design characteristics
Plate or cylinder
engraving and color
T matching s
Print new packaging
Figure 4-2. Overview of the label change process in response to regulation.
Obtained from Muth, K. Mary, Erica C. Gledhill, and Shawn A. Karns.
"FDA Labeling Cost Model." RTI Project Number 06673.010. Research
Triangle Park, NC: Research Triangle Institute, 2003.
In 1993, the FDA estimated the new NLEA would cost food processors between
$1.4 billion and $2.3 billion over the next 20 years. A conservative estimate, calculated
using FDA's Labeling Cost Model developed in the Research Triangle Institute by Muth
et al. (2003), shows that at least 10% of such extra costs for food processors would be for
analytical testing. This example shows how demand in the food-testing laboratory
industry is closely linked and dependent on the creation of new government regulations.
At the same time, government regulations respond to expressed needs and concerns from
the public. Examples of food related regulations or statutes responding to public needs
are: health concerns and the NLEA, consumer safety related to dietary supplements6 and
the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
4.1.2 The U.S. Food Supply Chain and the U.S. Independent Food-Testing
Supply chains are also known as value chains or demand chains. Supply chains can
be defined as all the links involved in managing the flow of products, services, and
information in the agro-food system from seed to table (Wysocki 2000a). The U.S. food
supply chain and its major alternate marketing channels are depicted in Figure 4-3.
Retail Food Stores are classified according to the North American Industry
Classification System (NAICS) under subsection 445 (U.S. Census Bureau 2002).
Establishments in this subsection usually retail food and beverage merchandise from
fixed point-of-sale locations, they own special equipment for display (e.g., freezers,
refrigerated display cases) and employ trained staff for the processing of food products to
guarantee proper storage and sanity required by regulatory authority (Food Institute
6 Dietary Supplements Terms such as functional foods or nutraceuticals are widely used in the
2003). Supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and fresh produce markets are
all included in this sub-sector. For years 1998 to 2001, the industry grew at an annual
average rate of 4%. Growth suffered a slump in 2002 (2.8%). Data gathered from U.S.
Census Bureau (2003), shows the industry seems to be recovering its growth pace with
sales for 2003 that scaled up to $505,933 millions, a 3.08% growth compared to 2002.
Food Service Outlets (NAICS subsection 722) prepare meals, snack and beverages
to customer order for immediate on-premises and off-premises consumption. Full-service
restaurants (e.g., Applebee), limited-service restaurants (e.g., cafeterias, fast food), snack
bars (e.g., coffee or frozen yogurt shops), food service contractors, caterers and drinking
places (retailing alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption); all fall under this
Food Manufacturers and food processors (NAICS 311) transform livestock and
agricultural products into products for intermediate or final consumption. The industry
groups are distinguished by the raw materials (generally of animal or vegetable origin)
processed into food products. The food products manufactured in these establishments
are typically sold to wholesalers or retailers for distribution to consumers (U.S. Census
Bureau). Many multimillion and billion dollar companies comprise the food processing
industry. In the period 2001-2002, the top ten food manufacturer companies summed up
$236,302 millions in sales. This includes companies like Nestle S.A. ($46,628), Kraft
Foods Inc. ($38,119), PepsiCo Inc. (26,935), Diageo plc7 ($16,644) and Mars Inc
($15,300). Some other companies not included in the top ten are Tyson Foods, Kellogg
Co and Sarah Lee Corp (Food Institute 2003). Most food manufacturing companies sell
Owner of the subsidiary Burger King
their diversified products to wholesaling companies that place them both in national and
Food producers, manufacturers, and distributors are also under increasing public
and regulatory pressure to assure the quality of their product. Without performing
analytical tests, the potential for contamination exposure to the consumer is unknown. It
only takes one negative event of contamination or a recall to destroy brand image and
customer confidence. The result of a recall could translate into millions of dollars in
losses for food manufacturing companies. Many of these are very well known companies,
all managing very strong lines of brands. Accountants would attribute an important
portion of the value of these companies to their goodwill accounts. Brand strength and
constant quality are important features for any food manufacturer wishing to stay in the
game for a long time. Thus, reliable test results are a must for independent food-testing
laboratories that plan on increasing or maintaining their customer base.
Every link in the U.S. food supply chain is required by law to perform some sort of
testing activity that ensures their product to be safe and adequate for consumption. The
U.S. independent food-testing lab industry has the capability to provide testing and/or
research services for all the links involved in the food supply chain. For example: food
manufacturers require product development services to speed up some of the steps in
placing new products in the market or nutritional content testing to develop labels for
their products; processors require chemical-analytical testing to avoid toxin poisoning
and comply with maximum levels of pesticide residue; agricultural producers in the beef
industry require tests for the presence of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow
disease); retailers and wholesalers are constantly sampled by the FDA to test for
microbiological pathogens (e.g., Salmonella, E. Coli); food importers require GMO
testing to discard worries about contamination from altered species; all levels of the food
supply chain require HACCP programs be put in place.
RETAILING Retail Food Specialty Food Service
Stores Retailers Outlet;
Integrated Non-Integrated Non-Integrated Integrated
Grocery Grocery Food Service Food Service
Wholesalers Wholesalers Wholesalers Wholesalers/Distributors
FURTHER p Food Manufacturers Purchases
S Initial Food Procesors
PRODUCTION Agrcultural Producers -
INPUT Agricultural Input
Figure 4-3. Major alternative marketing channels of the U.S. food system
Obtained from Wysocki, A. "Major Alternate Marketing Channels in the
U.S. Food System." Food iTT7ildcling & Retail Marketing. Extension
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences: University of Florida. No. 2 &
3. (April/May 2000b).
In addition, the FDA's Bioterrorism Act and the USDA's Country of Origin
Labeling provisions mandate that every business entity that comes into contact with food
should know where it came from and where it is going. This one-step backward, one-step
forward concept compels the whole U.S. food supply chain to maintain strict records of
their output, while the new ability to trace food safety failures to the responsible entity
will probably increase the number of food safety tests demanded across the whole supply
With this system in operation; in the case that a food safety failure takes place; it is
probably food processors and food manufacturers who take the biggest hit. Retailers
might end up having to recall product they had in their shelves; however, there is an
option to point fingers backward and the volume of product recalled is minimum
compared to the volume that manufacturers would have to recall if found in fault. On the
other hand, total product volume and product value from manufacturers is in most cases
larger than producers and packers.
4.1.3 Factors Influencing Demand in the U.S. Independent Food-Testing
As shown in Section 4.1.1 and Section 4.1.2 of this chapter, the relationships and
interactions between the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry and the
different links in the U.S. food industry are many. A number of factors that influence
demand for the laboratory industry and the food industry are
1. Role of government regulations. As discussed in Section 22.214.171.124, new
regulations translate into increased demand from food companies for services
from independent food-testing laboratories.
2. Public or private research translates into new technologies, new tests, and
new services to be offered by independent food-testing laboratories. For example,
on June 2001, USDA's Agricultural Research Service (2001), announced
researchers had new information about the genetic makeup of Listeria, a
bacterium that causes serious food-borne illnesses. Today, laboratories are
expectant on FDA's new Listeria regulations and ready to make the first move
and be the first ones to offer Listeria tests as part of their services and products.
3. Consumer concerns, mainly health concerns in the present. Consumers play
an important role in the development of regulations. They directly affect which
regulations are put in place. For example, the NLEA was a response from the
government to consumer concerns for eating healthier foods and to be well
informed about what they eat. Today, the FDA is responding to consumer
concerns about the safety of their foods in the presence of the threat of terrorist
4. Homeland security and terrorism. Currently, only state public health
laboratories that are part of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) are
permitted to identify or rule out bioterrorism agents in food products. Although
independent commercial food-testing laboratories are not allowed to do such
testing, the possibility of a terrorist threat has increased the level of alertness and
the strictness of all food safety regulations. This of course means more business
for independent food-testing laboratories.
5. International trade regulations and food imports. Similarly to FDA, article 5
of the WTO's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary
Measures requires all import restrictions made to protect or improve human
health, animal health or phytosanitary condition in any of its member countries, to
be based on scientific evidence and risk assessment. Regulations placed on food
imports entering the U.S. also generate demand for testing services from foreign
companies wanting to place their output in national territory.
6. New Product Development. Inside the independent laboratory industry, product
development is understood as the analytical testing aspect, stability and shelf life
testing, packaging design, and other physical and chemical aspects of the product
development process. Many independent food-testing laboratories offer product
development services in addition to their list of testing services. The rationale
behind this is that food companies spend most of their time and resources in
developing their prototype's functional characteristics and the other aspects of
product development (e.g., idea screening, concept testing, test marketing,
economic analysis, national launching), and would rather outsource the physical-
chemical testing and regulatory aspects to independent laboratories. Kotler (2000)
gathered information from a large consumer packaged-goods company showing
that only 2 of every 64 new product ideas are actually developed into products
that are then launched into national markets. Total cost for every 2 products
launched was $13.9 million, including costs of those ideas that never made the
market. Up to 11.5% of the costs per idea were due to product development only,
while the remaining costs were distributed between idea screening, concept
testing, test marketing, and national launch costs. Kotler also mentions another
estimate of between $20 million and $50 million per new product. The Food
Institute (2003), reports that in 2002, 9,632 new food products were introduced
into the U.S. market. Using Kotler's numbers means the whole food product
development business entails around $66.9 billion spent by manufacturers on a
yearly basis, and $7.3 billion spent only in the functional, physical and chemical
aspects. How much of this business is outsourced and how much is done in-house
is what directly influences demand for independent food-testing laboratories'
services. Considering many products can take months and even years of testing
and re-testing to be ready for the market, long-term business relations between
food companies and independent laboratories can be used by laboratories to
7. Labs operating with Accreditations and Quality Assurance Programs suggest
reliability and can attract more business. As mentioned earlier in Section 4.1.2
in this chapter reliability of test results is a very important factor for independent
laboratories in maintaining business. Giese (2001) identifies four main factors
influencing food companies when deciding which laboratory to choose are: (1)
pertinent accreditations and certifications, (2) means to address needs in terms of
turnaround and communication, (3) appropriate facilities and personnel to do the
required tests, and (4) pricing (see appendix B for the major accreditations in the
8. Unpreventable catastrophes or incidents that have adverse impacts for the
food manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing industries for example, the
finding of a Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) case in the
U.S. are in fact demand generators and thus good news for the independent
food-testing laboratory industry. In such cases, the government develops and
implements regulations that restore public confidence in the U.S. food industry,
while food companies look back for testing services to regain trust in their brands,
comply with new regulations, and bring back customer confidence.
4.2 Forces Influencing the U.S. Independent Food-Testing Laboratory Industry
In a purely and perfectly competitive market, competition among firms in an
industry drives the profit rates to zero. According to theory, we should also expect in a
perfectly competitive market with unsophisticated firms for profits to be evenly
distributed across firms in the industry. However, in the real world competition is not
perfect and in most cases firms are not passive price takers. Several studies have affirmed
that different industries can sustain different levels of profitability; part of this difference
is explained by industry structure. Michael Porter provided a framework that models an
industry as being influenced by five competitive forces: (1) Degree of rivalry, (2) Threat
of substitutes, (3) Buyer power, (4) Supplier power and, (5) Barriers to entry/exit and
threat of entry (Quick MBA 2004).
The next section is an application of Michael Porter's Five Forces framework to the
U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry. Each force is described in detail.
4.2.1 Degree of Rivalry was Moderate
Degree of rivalry is defined as the level of competition observed in an industry. The
intensity of rivalry in the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry is determined
by the following factors and their implications:
* An accelerated market growth due to: (1) an increasing number of food safety
regulations, (2) a high rate of appearance of new technologies and new tests, (3)
increasing health concerns among public and, (4) the globalization of markets a la
par with homeland security concerns for terrorist attacks; decreases the level of
rivalry in the industry.
* A large number of firms participating in the industry increase the rivalry
because more firms compete for market share. Numerous independent labs compete
in the industry for customers.
* Relatively high fixed costs in proportion to variable costs results in economies
of scale that require independent labs to operate close to full capacity to maximize
profits. Laboratory equipment and installations can be very expensive enlarging
fixed costs in the form of depreciation creating this economy of scale effect. Within
the firm, the need for high levels of production increases rivalry among firms that
compete to place their output in the market.
* Low switching costs paralleled with high levels of risk associated for customers
when switching laboratories result in increased rivalry within the independent
lab industry. The high level of risk associated for food firms when switching from
one lab to another for food-testing results may drive wholesalers to perceive
switching costs as high. For example, an erroneous negative result when testing for
Salmonella enteritidis in meat products may result in illness or even death of many
end customers. The monetary loss from dropping sales due to negative image
impact and lawsuits filed for the meat wholesaler may scale up to thousands if not
millions of dollars. Under these circumstances many wholesaling firms remain with
their known reliable laboratories. On the other hand, if the wholesaler has a bad
experience with one laboratory, it is very easy and inexpensive for a wholesaler to
immediately switch to another laboratory. The level of rivalry is increased from
laboratories competing to capture their customer's loyalty with reliable results and
better service. Also, in some cases, distance and location of the laboratories may
increase switching costs for the wholesaler as a result of increased transportation
* High asset specificity results in increased rivalry in the U.S. independent food-
testing lab Industry. The industry presents a high level of asset specificity in
terms of a limited ability to switch the use of their equipment to an alternative
activity if its current activities result in failure. More specifically, human asset
* The standardized characteristics of tests themselves limit the level of
differentiation possible in the industry and increase the level of rivalry. One
alternative to differentiate is to offer reliable results with faster and more
4.2.2 Threat of Substitutes was Low
In Porter's model, substitute products refer to products in other industries.
Economic theory states that a substitute exists when a product's demand is affected
because of a price change or introduction into the market of another product. A close
substitute product constrains the ability of firms in an industry to raise prices (Quick
Under this line of thought, it is possible to say that in-house testing represents a
substitute product for outsourcing services offered by independent food-testing
laboratories. More specifically, the tangible alternative exists for food companies to stop
outsourcing and start using their own labs to do in-house analytical and chemical testing
in case independent laboratories raise their prices excessively. This factor limits the
extent to which independent laboratories are able to increase their prices and widen profit
As a consequence, conditions influencing the level of threat of substitutes result the
same as those seen in Section 126.96.36.199 of this chapter as influencing outsourcing decisions.
Substitution between outsourcing and in-house testing rests on measuring the advantages
from outsourcing (economies of scale, concentration in core business, and additional
expertise) against its disadvantages (sharing confidential information and loosing some
control). The next list offers a detailed assessment of the threat of substitutes in the U.S.
independent food-testing laboratory industry.
* Currently, advantages from outsourcing outweigh the disadvantages due to
high costs of laboratory installations and high need of additional expertise to
keep up with changing regulations; this lowers the threat of substitutes. A
growing outsourcing industry reflects the trend from food companies, operating in
a very mature and competitive industry, to downsize in areas not central to their
business to widen already slim profit margins. Independent labs make better use of
economies of scale by distributing the use of installations and testing equipment
among various food companies.
* Substitution of outsource testing with in-house testing is not an option for all
companies. Independent laboratories targeting small companies as their main
clients do not have to deal with in-house testing as a threat of substitute. While
for large companies in-house testing is an alternative to outsourced testing; for
small companies, doing in-house testing is not viable due to a lack of resources.
* Consolidation and size of operations in the food industry may pose a threat to
independent laboratories. The outsourcing trend in the food industry can be
expected to continue as long as it remains reasonable for food companies to
outsource testing services relying on the fact that independent laboratories make
better use of economies of scale. Consolidation and growth in the food industry
poses a threat to the extent of food companies becoming large enough to use their
own testing equipment efficiently and close to capacity.
4.2.3 Buyer Power was Highest for Large Manufacturers and Lowest for Small
Porter's theory defines power of buyer as the impact that customers have on a
producing industry. Power is defined in terms of bargaining power, the relative strength
of buyers/sellers in influencing the forms of exchange in a transaction. Several conditions
may incline power to the buyer's (food companies) side: (1) buyers are concentrated, (2)
buyers show a credible threat of backward integration, and (3) buyers purchase a
significant portion of output. Other factors may incline the balance to the seller's
(independent labs) side: (1) threat of forward integration, (2) significant switching costs
for the buyer, (3) atomistic or fragmented structure of buyers, (4) producers supply a
critical input for buyers.
As discussed in Section 4.1.2 of this chapter, the U.S. independent food-testing
laboratory industry interacts with several industries across different levels of the U.S.
food supply chain including agricultural producers, processors, manufacturers, imports,
and others. According to the factors outlined in the last paragraph, different industries
across the food supply chain showing different characteristics will have different levels of
buyer power. The following assessment of buyer power in the industry takes into
consideration this thought.
* Independent labs dealing with major food manufacturing companies face a
highly concentrated industry. Concentration lessens gradually while going
down the food supply chain (see Figure 4-3). Food processors are less
concentrated than food manufacturers, and agricultural producers are less
concentrated than food processors.
* Outsourced testing services are critical for small companies, and not so critical
for large companies. Testing for food safety is mandatory for food companies.
Large companies have the option of in-house testing while small companies do not.
* No threat of forward integration exists; the possibility exists for food
companies to integrate backward. Independent laboratories pose no threat of
taking over food companies, but food companies have the option at least of re-
incorporating testing laboratories if economically necessary.
In general, independent labs have a wide range of industries to interact with and in
which to decide to participate according to their desired bargaining power. Independent
labs dealing with major food companies will observe lower bargaining power than those
targeting smaller growing companies.
4.2.4 Supplier Power was High
Supplier power refers to the bargaining power of input suppliers over a producing
industry. For the U.S. independent food-testing laboratory industry some examples would
be chemical agents suppliers, and equipment and technology suppliers.
The Food and Drug Administration's research activities provide the scientific basis
for its regulatory decisions. The FDA is constantly coming up with new and better ways
to test and ensure food safety. Independent laboratories update their testing services and
equipment constantly to keep up with new regulations. Having the latest and most
modern equipment is not inexpensive. In general, new technologies are sold in new
markets and are offered only by a few companies. In this sense, concentration can be
observed on the supplier's side, which shifts some bargaining power away from
4.2.5 Barriers to Entry/ Threat of Entry was Low
Competition within an industry is not only affected by existing rivals, but also by
the possibility of new firms entering the industry. In a perfectly competitive market, firms
should be able to freely exit or entry. However, in reality markets are not perfect. Any
factor limiting entry to an industry is called a barrier to entry, and if it limits exit it is
called a barrier to exit.
Our study identifies several barriers to entry/exit exist in the U.S. independent
food-testing laboratory industry. They are
* Mandatory and voluntary federal quality assurance programs and
certifications function as entry deterring mechanisms. Food safety is a very
important issue for the U.S. government and public. The FDA oversees the
effective operation of independent food-testing laboratories to ensure that food
results presented to them are reliable and that food is actually safe. The larger the
number of laboratories, the harder it is for the government to keep control on them.
Programs like the Good Laboratory Practices (GLPs) and Good Manufacturing
Practices (GMPs) are examples of several mandatory regulations that independent
laboratories have to follow to operate. To some extent this reduces the freedom of
entry to the industry.
* Minimum Efficient Scale and start-up costs are high enough to create an entry
barrier. Economies of scale and large costs involved with owning and operating a
laboratory increase the minimum efficient scale needed Minimum capacity-use
required to achieve minimum unit costs of production.
* Loyalty from food companies to laboratories that have proved their reliability
makes it difficult for new firms to enter the industry. Considering the
importance of reliable testing results, this factor truly creates a barrier to entry.
4.3 Strategic Analysis of XYZ Research Corporation
This section discusses the results obtained from the focus groups and interviews
conducted at XYZ Research Corporation, described in Chapter 3 of our study. Most of
the text and ideas discussed are very similar to the Strategic Report Analysis provided to
XYZ Research Corporation.
Table 4-4 summarizes the results obtained from the interviews. The first column in
the table shows the number of participants that answered each item. The number of
participants varies by each item because participants had the option of leaving any item
blank if they so desired. The second and third columns show the Average and Standard
Deviation obtained from the participants' answers. The fourth column represents the
Average from the answers given by the top management (Dr. Brown and Mr. Hart).
Finally, based on simple subtraction, the fifth column shows the difference between the
Employee Average and the Top Management Average. For example, the difference
between the employee assessment of product/service line breadth and depth top
management assessment was -.69. This means that XYZ employees, on average, scored
this item .69 (on a scale of 1-5) lower than top management. Large differences (larger
than 0.99) are marked with (**) next to the number while medium size differences (larger
than 0.5 but smaller than 0.99) are market with (*). Averages and averages' differences
supported with opinions expressed in the focus groups and interviews will be used to gain
insight into the issues concerning the company and as an indicator of similarities and
differences in perceptions between management and employees.
The rest of this section discusses the results from the focus group interviews
according to the following resource areas: marketing, financial, human,
operation/production, management/leadership, organizational, and informational.
4.3.1 Marketing Resources
With respect to marketing resources, top management and employees agree in their
assessment that customer satisfaction with XYZ's products and services is high and that
this represents a strength (average score of 4) for the company. Meanwhile, both
employees and management agree the company's ability to gain customers versus
competition could be improved (average score of 3). These scores are consistent with
verbal information gathered in the focus groups showing a perception of a weakness in
attracting customers because of the company's inability to compete on price with some
competitors (possibly due to economies of scale differences), but also of a strength in
keeping customers by offering quality-personalized service (volume vs. quality).
The average employees' scores for marketing items (6) advertising and promotion
activities, (7) product/service pricing, (8) facilities and methods used to sell to customers,
and (9) market share, reflect the employees' perception of a deficiency in the marketing
area. Employees' averages on grading marketing resources were in general lower than
top management's scores.
It remains a challenge for management to deal with this employees' perception. It
may be that such perception is due only to a lack of involvement and staff-management
flow of information. Or it may be that employees are indeed aware of both a true
deficiency and an opportunity to improve marketing activities. Perhaps, the situation can
be addressed as a chance to draw ideas from the personnel on ways to improve the
company's marketing effort.
Table 4-4. Summary statistics from the XYZ Research Corporation interviews
Employees Mgmt. Employee Ave-
N=19 Ave Std Dev Ave Mgmt. Ave
I. MARKETING RESOURCES
1. Customer satisfaction with products/services 19 4.00 0.58 4.0 0.00
2. Ability to gain customers versus
competition 19 2.97 0.59 3.0 -0.03
3. Knowledge of market 18 3.72 1.07 4.0 -0.28
4. Product/service line breadth and depth 18 4.31 0.77 5.0 -0.69*
5. Product/service quality in terms of function,
image, place, time, possession, ease of use 15 4.17 0.70 4.0 0.17
6. Advertising and promotion activities 17 2.43 1.15 3.0 -0.57*
7. Product/service pricing 19 3.71 0.84 4.5 -0.79*
8. Facilities and methods used to sell to
customers 16 2.99 0.83 4.0 -1.01**
9. Market Share 15 3.01 0.64 4.0 -0.99**
II. FINANCIAL RESOURCES
1. Strong and recurring operating profits 9 3.61 0.56 5.0 -1.39**
2. Efficient asset management 8 3.66 0.66 5.0 -1.34**
3. Strong and recurring return on investment 2 3.60 0.85 5.0 -1.40**
4. Proper balance of debt and equity 1 5.00 N/A 5.0 0.00
5. Strong and recurring return on equity 2 4.60 0.57 5.0 -0.40
6. Strong and recurring cash flow 3 4.40 0.53 5.0 -0.60*
7. Ready access to outside/new funds 4 3.13 1.03 3.0 0.13
8. Well managed customer credit 7 4.21 0.70 4.0 0.21
9. Well managed supplier credit 6 4.45 0.46 3.5 0.95*
III. HUMAN RESOURCES
1. Adequate number of people to do the work 18 3.14 0.97 3.5 -0.36
2. Adequate quality of people to do the work 17 3.74 1.03 3.0 0.74*
3. Personnel plans 15 2.87 0.40 3.5 -0.63*
4. Job design and descriptions 16 2.76 1.29 3.5 -0.74*
5. Performance standards and evaluation
procedures 18 3.08 1.03 5.0 -1.92**
6. Training programs 17
7. Good morale as evidenced by absenteeism,
turnover, tardiness, complaints, bickering,
employee growth and development 19
8. Compensation system that promotes
and satisfaction 19
9. Equitable and competitive pay 18
10. Equitable and competitive fringes 18
11. Appropriate use of teams 15
12. Work ethic of individuals and teams 18
Differences larger than 0.5 but smaller than 0.99
Differences larger than 0.99
Table 4-4. Continued
Employees Mgmt. Employee Ave-
N=19 Ave Std Dev Ave Mgmt. Ave
IV OPERATIONS/PRODUCTION RESOURCES
1. Quality of facilities to serve customers 19 3.32 1.01 4.0 -0.68
2. Capacity of needed facilities to serve
customers 15 3.14 0.96 4.0 -0.86*
3. Up-to-date and appropriate technology 16 3.07 1.09 3.5 -0.43
4. Effective and efficient physical layout 16 2.56 1.2 2.5 0.06
5. Effective and efficient work flow 15 3.54 0.61 3.0 0.54*
6. Effective and efficient inventory control 12 3.08 1.28 3.5 -0.42
7. Effective and efficient purchasing practices 12 3.48 0.97 3.0 0.48
8. Effective and efficient production practices 16 3.86 0.59 3.0 0.86*
VI MAANAGEMENT/LEADERSHIP RESOURCES
1. Effective management style 17 3.59 0.83 3.5 0.09
2. Timely decision making 17 4 0.81 3.0 1.00**
3. Effective delegation 16 3.47 0.72 4.0 -0.53*
4. Effective participation 16 3.63 0.97 3.5 0.13
5. Effective risk taking 13 3.35 1.11 3.0 0.35
6. Effective leadership 17 3.59 0.81 3.5 0.09
VI. ORGANIZATIONAL RESOURCES
1. Appropriate mix of resources (people,
money, equipment) available 18 3.28 0.81 5.0 -1.72**
2. Resources properly placed to do the job 18 3.33 0.79 4.0 -0.67*
3. Effective interdepartmental communications 19 2.74 0.75 4.0 -1.26**
4. Effective reporting relationships 15 3.53 0.64 4.0 -0.47
5. Firm's public image 18 3.75 0.94 4.5 -0.75*
6. Strong organizational culture (productivity,
honesty, dispute handling, tolerance of
change) 18 3.5 0.87 4.0 -0.50
VII. INFORMATION RESOURCES
1. ApproDriate financial and cost accounting
2. Planning system appropriate for internal
3. Planning system appropriate for external
4. Control system that highlights problems and
generates corrective action 14
5. Information systems that use the best
technology available 14
6. Effective information for strategic decision
7. Effective information for operational
decision making 12
8. Ability to utilize internet and e-commerce 17
Differences larger than 0.5 but smaller than 0.99
Differences larger than 0.99
3.25 0.79 5.0
2.52 0.84 5.0
3.21 0.81 3.5
3.36 0.98 2.5
3.46 1.08 4.0 -0.54
Using verbal information obtained from the interviews, our study identified three
repeatedly expressed perceptions on company and industry issues concerning marketing
activities: (1) that there is an overwhelming quantity of propaganda and magazine
advertising made by the large number of laboratories participating in the industry, and
that this compromises the effectiveness of such marketing methods, (2) that highly
specialized testing personnel is usually not trained to perform marketing activities; while
marketing specialized personnel is unable to effectively promote the company due to
their lack of understanding of chemistry, biology and other sciences concerning the
companies services and products, and (3) considering the high costs per hour of labor and
the personnel's high level of education and specialization, a management type of problem
exists on deciding the most economically efficient way to distribute time between testing
and marketing activities. For example, how much time should a scientist spend on
performing tests and how much on answering the phone?
4.3.2 Financial Resources
The low number of responses obtained from employees suggests that they have
little knowledge about the company's profitability and financial performance. However,
employees did show at least a little knowledge on the some financial resources, such as
strong and recurring operating profits and efficient asset management. Employees rated
these as slightly better than average. In general, employees ranked their answers lower
than top management.
While it is understandable that management may not wish to make financial
numbers public in a privately held company, in some cases the lack of awareness of
employees with respect to the company's performance may pose a threat to the
company's morale, motivation, and stability in terms of turnover, and productivity.
Managers should monitor this particular issue.
4.3.3 Human Resources
The most recurring discrepancy between top management's perception and
employees' perception occurred in the human resource management section. In reference
to performance standards and evaluation procedures, a compensation system that
promotes performance and satisfaction, equitable and competitive pay, and equitable and
competitive fringe benefits, employees rated these human resource management
components considerably lower than top management. While top management rated them
4 and 5 (strengths), employees averaged a rating of 3.08 or lower. Although it is expected
for employees to feel "underpaid", the depth of this feeling and the lack of motivation
resulting from the perception of low pay tied with low ratings for incentives and
evaluation implies a serious underlying problem for the company.
Such results show the need to look more closely at the compensation and incentives
programs in the company. The decrease in productivity that can arise from a low level of
motivation in an organization can adversely impact its performance and profitability. An
effective incentive program should produce higher returns by increasing morale and
productivity and more than offset the costs of such programs.
When examining responses to: adequate quality of people to do the work, personnel
plans, design and descriptions and appropriate use of teams; both top management and
employees rated these items as being average at best (with employee ratings slightly
lower than top management. Ineffective job descriptions can reduce productivity and
efficiency by: (1) over-lapping job duties leading to duplication of efforts, (2)
inefficiencies of assigning more people than needed to a given job, and (3) unclear job
responsibilities leading to confusion as to who is responsible for a given area. As
expressed in the interviews, the very specific nature of tasks in the company's area of
business may make it difficult to implement extremely detailed job descriptions.
However, this does not imply that job descriptions should not be used at all. While XYZ
Research Corporation does indeed have job descriptions; many middle managers felt
these job descriptions could contain more details and expectations. Job descriptions can
also be used as evaluation tools by assigning direct tasks and responsibilities to each
4.3.4 Operation/Production Resources
Efficient and effective use of production and operations resources affects
productivity in a very direct manner. As a whole, this section received only average
grades, meaning it is considered neither a weakness nor strength. Most of the items were
answered by more than 75% of the interviewees.
Owners and employees concur in giving average grades to: up-to-date and
appropriate technology (item 3), effective and efficient inventory control (item 6), and
effective and efficient purchasing practices (item 7). Low scores were given to effective
and efficient physical layout (item 4).
According to the interviewees' answers, technology could be kept more up-to-date
in the company. As discussed in Section 188.8.131.52 of this chapter, the FDA and other
executive branch agencies base each of the regulations put in place on scientific
discoveries and the increasing number of better technologies to perform tests.
Laboratories have to keep up with the latest technologies to offer tests required to comply
with the latest federal regulations. Coping with the latest technologies poses a potential
opportunity for having a first-move advantage over other laboratories in offering the
latest and newest tests first. With respect to XYZ, it seems that changing this issue from
not being weakness or strength to being a strength, is more a matter of enabling internal
company processes that speed up managerial decisions to acquiring equipment than a
matter of short cash flows.
With respect to inventory control and purchasing practices, these are two factors
that greatly determine a company's cost structure. Assuming XYZ actually faces
limitations to successfully compete on a price basis (see marketing resources in this
section) with larger companies and that such limitations are indeed a consequence of
economies of scale, it results most important for the company to achieve a cost structure
that is as efficient as possible. Developing written procedures that regulate inventory
control and purchasing practices are recommended by our study as one alternative
solution to this issue.
Two items that scored lower by employees than top management in this section
were: quality of needed facilities to serve customers (item 1), and capacity of needed
facilities to serve customers (item 2). Two items that employees scored higher than top
management were: effective and efficient work flow (item 5), and effective and efficient
production practices (item 8).
The difference in perception between employees and managers on capacity and
quality of installations could be restraining top management from recognizing that
current facilities represent a constraint for the employees' and the company's growth.
Managers believe installations to be a strength for the company, while employees
consider them as average. Some of the employees explained their answers by mentioning
the facilities were not initially designed for its current use but instead adapted, and that
this somewhat affects flow and efficiency. All parties recognized that the current physical
location of XYZ is not the ideal physical set-up for the business as it has grown. It is
possible that top management rated these higher as they are more aware than the
employees of the problems associated with trying to move at this time. Employees did
recognize there were some EPA issues that were involved in selling the current location
that probably prohibited XYZ from selling and moving, but more direct communication
may help employees realize why their firm has not moved into different facilities. With a
better understanding, the employees may still feel that the physical facility is not ideal,
but may lead to increased morale if the employees knew that management would prefer
to move to a new location.
4.3.5 Management/Leadership Resources
For this section, only for items 2, timely decision-making and 3, effective
delegation, were employees' and managers' averages different from one another by more
than a factor of .5. Both groups graded most items in this section as higher than average
meaning leadership resources are perceived as strengths of the company. It is interesting
to note that employees felt that timely decision making was more a strength (4 on a scale
of 5) than top management (3 on a scale of 5). Perhaps this reflects the current level of
satisfaction that employees have with decision making, while management would like to
see more timely decision making by entry-level and middle managers. One general
comment regarding delegation is in order. The average score given by employees was
3.47. Based on a qualitative assessment of the interview responses, most mid-level
managers feel there is a great deal of delegation when it comes to long-range goals and
objectives. However, these mid-level managers would welcome more flexibility when it
comes to some of the day-to-day decisions such as the handling of customer service
Interviewees expressed a concern towards an excessive concentration of the
leadership in the company relying in one single person (Dr. Brown). The question: "What
would happen to XYZ if Dr. Brown wasn't here?" was repeatedly mentioned as posing a
threat to the company given the industry's tendency to pair XYZ's future success with the
presence or absence of Dr. Brown in the company. This included a perception that clients
were beginning to prepare for a time when Dr. Brown was no longer with XYZ, and that
the clients also did not know what to expect, therefore might be making "contingency"
plans to move to other companies. This reiterates the discussed (see Section 4.1.2 and
Section 4.1.3) importance of the role played by trust, experience, and reliability in
generating demand for a given laboratory operating in this industry. In this case, food
companies may observe a large portion of these attributes in the person Dr. Brown, and
not in XYZ the company.
4.3.6 Organizational Resources
Top management scored all organizational resources in the company as a 4
(strengths) or higher while the average employee score for each item in the section was
3.75 or lower. Again, personnel in the company recognize the threat of a possible absence
of Dr. Brown as constraining the firm's public image from being a substantial strength to
being perceived only as little better than average.
While top management perceived there was an appropriate mix of resources (item
1) and that effective interdepartmental communications were operating (item 3), as seen
in their scores of 5 and 4 respectively; employees scored these considerably lower at 3.28
on appropriate mix of resources and 2.74 for effective interdepartmental communications.
Some of the middle managers were finding it difficult to take on marketing and sales
roles in addition to the scientific roles they were trained for. There was some discussion
regarding the relatively high turnover of entry-level positions that may be a result of a
lack of appropriate resources, however, there where no other indications corroborating
Many of the interviewees indicated that interdepartmental communications were in
need of extensive improvement. Interview discussions suggest interdepartmental
communication improvements could be made in areas such as: (1) supply usage and
replenishment, (2) customer contacts, the needs of customers common to multiple
departments, (3) general knowledge of what is going on in each department and how this
related to other departments, and (4) the future direction of XYZ Research Corporation.
4.3.7 Information Resources
Effective information resources are crucial for the timely and efficient evaluation of
business plans being implemented. Large differences were observed between top
management and employees' average scores.
Top management considered that the company makes good use of efficient and
effective financial and cost accounting systems, and has an appropriate planning system
for internal analysis. In contrast, the employees perceived that financial and cost
accounting systems are neither strengths nor weaknesses for the company; and that the
planning system represents a weakness. In referring to the current accounting system, one
employee statement summarizes the impression received from the employee interviews:
"under this system, we are forced to manage to avoid a loss instead of managing to make
Employees rated the planning system appropriate for internal analysis as a 2.52,
while top management rated this as a 5. The general impression from interviews was that
many of the current tools were used more to show what went wrong in a given
department versus what could go right in the future. Another factor affecting this scoring
was a general belief that planning exercises, such as this strategic analysis of XYZ
Research Corporation, have resulted in little change to company culture or operating
A more effective planning system developed and implemented with the
participation of middle management could result in better planning and consequently in
higher productivity and profitability of each project and the company.
In terms of marketing and increasing business through the Internet, the employees
believe there is considerable room for improvement. Many employees believe XYZ
Research Corporation needs a more involved web presence.
4.4 Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis for XYZ
Internal and external forces affect firms; a way to analyze these forces is to conduct
a thorough SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis can be thought of as a balance sheet where
internal strengths represent competitive assets, while internal weaknesses represent
competitive liabilities. Opportunities, which are external, are outside-of-the-firm
situations that can be taken advantage of via strategic moves to improve a company's
competitive advantage over rivals. Threats, also external, on the other hand are factors
that increase the influence exerted by competitive forces acting in the industry and tend to
reduce a company's profitability (Wysocki 1997).
The next SWOT analysis is based on the information gathered through focus
groups and face-to-face interviews with XYZ's personnel (see Chapter 3 for a description
of the questionnaire used) and through extensive readings done by the researcher on
industry related topics. It also summarizes the findings of this study's discussions
regarding the dominant economic traits, key success factors, economic forces influencing
the market, and drivers of change in the industry, which were identified and discussed in
earlier sections of this chapter.
4.4.1 Competitive Advantages (Strengths)
Competitive advantages, or strengths, are ways of doing business that one company
does exceptionally well over its competitors. The term advantage implies that those
"ways of doing business" are desirable for companies in the industry. As mentioned at
the beginning of this section, strengths are internal to the company. The next list
enumerates XYZ's strengths. Strengths were identified with the help of several
employees in the company, the managers, and with our study's in-depth analysis of key
success factors and forces affecting the industry (see all previous sections of this chapter).
* Stable financial structure. XYZ's privileged position in terms of current
profitability and stability has sparked their desire to grow. XYZ is a good example
of a medium-size company that is very profitable. Currently, the company is free of
debts, which offers an advantage in its cost structure and ability to offer better
prices in comparison to many competitors that have incurred in debts to expand
* Reliability and experience are key success factors in the industry. Food
companies will not risk a recall on their products by working with inexperienced
and unreliable labs. XYZ has an advantage over many younger laboratories because
of its business longevity of 37 years of experience in the industry. For example, a
client might choose XYZ over other laboratories because of XYZ's years of
repeated successful business experiences with known food companies. XYZ has
worked for 26 of the 30 largest food companies. Also, as expressed by several
people in the company, XYZ's reputation of offering quality services together
with Dr. Brown's recognized and renowned position in the industry, make
XYZ to be perceived as a very reliable company in the industry.
* Concentrated broad-based scientific expertise, knowledge base and quality
personnel. Food companies look for labs to be a source for additional expertise. In
contrast with multi-site laboratories, XYZ's extensive and complete stock of human
resources is concentrated in a single-location. One client-visit or phone call gives
them access to all of XYZ's expertise.
* Broad range of services offers convenience. XYZ's full-service capabilities offer
an advantage over limited-service laboratories when it comes to serving a client. It
results more convenient for food companies to use one single trusted laboratory to
do all testing instead of using one lab for each test needed. Also, being a full-
service laboratory allows for easier expansion into new areas of business like
nutraceutical, GMO or pharmaceutical testing, compared to limited-service
* Proximity to University of Florida ability to draw resources (labor,
installations) from the university. XYZ's good relations with the university
represent access to a source and stock of social and human capital that many of
XYZ competitors do not have. Joint-programs and partnerships with the university
may enhance XYZ's credibility and reliability.
* Personalized customer service. Flexibility with customers (responsiveness),
personalized service to customers and care for customer satisfaction, are traits that
many too-large corporations lack. XYZ's medium-size operations make it possible
for them to concentrate efforts and effectively offer a personalized service to its
clientele, something their larger competitors might find more difficult due to their
* Large customer base and established clients. XYZ has a large list of clients. This
poses a competitive advantage over many laboratories that depend on a small
number of clients for business. The difficulty observed for new laboratories to
establish themselves as reliable entities in the market, increases the importance of
already having established clients.
* ISO-17025 compliant, biological testing and chemical testing accredited
laboratory. The importance of accreditations in generating demand for a food-
testing laboratory was discussed in Section 4.1.3 in our study.
* Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and quick turnaround.
XYZ offers their clients with easy and quick access to results for their solicited
tests. Verbal information from the interviews estimated a turnaround of only three
hours for the Analytical and Food Chemistry division of XYZ.
Opportunities are circumstances over which the firm has no control. If taken
advantage of, the result may be reducing the effect of competitive forces over the firm
and increasing its profitability. According to Oster (1994), one way a company can earn
higher returns than its similar competitors is by recognizing and seizing new lucrative
opportunities early, before entry intro the industry accomplishes its profit-leveling
function. He calls this activity entrepreneurship.
Taking advantage of opportunities means: (1) recognizing them by understanding
the industry environment surrounding the firm and (2) developing abilities and strengths
within the firm that match up with such opportunities. Below is a list of all the
opportunities facing XYZ. Opportunities were identified by our study with the help of
XYZ's employees and management team:
* Growing market increasing regulations; appearance of new technologies,
increasing trend from the public to consume healthy foods-"smart-eating8"-
concerns for homeland security, and globalization of markets; all seem to point to a
long period of growth in the food-testing market. XYZ is in the right moment to
use its financial momentum to grow.
* Advances in information technology (like progress in internet communications)
can be used to make test results more accessible to the clientele or to strengthen
XYZ's presence in the market by using website promotion. Laboratories that take
advantage of this opportunity will probably have an edge on those that do not.
* Alternative industries to work with seafood, imports, food service, food
brokers, organic, labeling and audits where all identified by XYZ's employees as
alternatives areas of their business into which XYZ could focus to increase demand
for their output.
* Alternative industries to work in even though pharmaceutical and nutraceutical
testing may be considered a business apart, food-testing laboratories are perfectly
capable of performing the analytical process of drug development. For example,
Covance is a laboratory that offers services to both the food and the pharmaceutical
8 Desire from public to learn about the nutritional components of food before consuming it.
industry. However, a whole different line of laboratories that are dedicated solely to
the pharmaceutical industry provide their drug-developing clients not only with
services for the analytical testing aspect of their business but also with the clinical
related and data analysis services needed in the many stages of clinical trials and
the drug development process. For XYZ, seizing this opportunity would mean
developing not one but several abilities that would permit them compete against
specialized pharmaceutical testing laboratories. The nutraceutical testing business
seems more appropriate and closer to food-testing business. Public pressure to the
government has resulted in recent approval of nutraceutical product regulations that
will generate business for testing laboratories.
* Increased concern for homeland security as a result of the recent terrorism
threats. As mentioned in Section 4.1.3 in our study, currently only the state public
health laboratories that are part of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) are
permitted to identify or rule out bioterrorism agents in food products. However,
there is an opportunity for private laboratories to develop collaboration programs
with state-owned laboratories. For example, University of Georgia's partnership
with the food industry to form the Center for Food Safety (CFS9) in Griffin,
4.4.3 Competitive Disadvantages (Weaknesses)
Competitive disadvantages are things a company does worse or poorly in
comparison with its competitors. A competitive disadvantage makes a firm more
vulnerable to industry competitive forces and increases the chances of the firm observing
low levels of profitability compared to the average in the industry. Competitive
disadvantages observed for XYZ Research Company are outlined below. Again, our
study drew from XYZ's personnel feedback to identify the company's weaknesses:
* XYZ could gain in productivity by improving its benefits & incentives
program. Responses to the interviews carried out at XYZ Research Corporations
suggest that there is some room to improve in the area of employee's morale. XYZ
is already a lucrative business; improving personnel's morale can further improve
* Concentrated leadership. It seems the company's image and in some ways its
performance, as employees expressed in the interviews, relies excessively on the
company's CEO. There is a risk in putting all your eggs in the same basket; in this
case the risk is the big shock that expects XYZ when the CEO leaves active
9 Center for Food Safety Website http://www.griffin.peachnet.edu/cfs/
business. Suggestions for XYZ to prevent this from happening will be discussed in
Chapter 5 (Section 5.1) of this study.
* Weak internal communication & organizational system. XYZ can gain from
developing clear and effective written procedures to perform certain activities like
budgeting/planning, inventory control, and purchasing activities. These written
procedures may not result so critical for medium sized companies, but they surely
increase in importance as a company grows.
* Improvable Internet presence and non-aggressive marketing. XYZ can enhance
its marketing effort and presence in the market by directing resources into web
promotion. In comparison to its competitors, XYZ's website has wide room to
improve. Non-aggressive marketing approach leaves XYZ vulnerable to companies
with more aggressive advertising.
* Lack of curb appeal and physical room to expand in current location. Even
though it may not be true to what is in the inside, the outer front face of the
building is the first impression the client gets. XYZ lacks the extensive gardens and
fancy architecture that some of its competitors use to project themselves to their
clients as organized and modem laboratories.
* Absence of project managers. Project manager is the name given by the company
to a position involving technical and management duties. XYZ's management
expressed a difficulty in finding and hiring individuals that excel in both aspects.
* Absence of a customer service department. More than affecting the firm's
customer service quality, this affects its productivity. According to several
employees, by not having a customer service department, the responsibility of
giving customer service falls on them. Scientific personnel ends up divided
between performing tests and answering the phone.
* Price competition limitations against a few very large companies. This is an
advantage for larger companies resulting from the ability to lower average costs by
distributing fixed costs between larger quantities of output. It does not imply that
larger companies are more profitable, stable, or that they offer better services or
more accurate results.
* Being a single location laboratory may represent a disadvantage against multi-
site laboratories in three aspects: (1) to some extent it may limit customer access to
the firm and presence of the firm in the market to a smaller geographic area, (2) it
may result in higher transaction costs like transportation costs of sending results,
and (3) it may increase the turnaround time. However, XYZ's Laboratory
Information Management System (LIMS) reduces number two and three.
Threats are circumstances outside the control of the firm that increase the degree to
which the firm is affected by competitive forces and may result in profits decreasing. A
firm should develop abilities and set up their strategy to minimize the impact of threats to
its business. The following is a list of identified threats facing XYZ Research
* In-house testing trends in industry determined by equipment costs. One reason
for food companies to outsource for testing services is the elevated costs associated
with purchasing and maintaining the needed cutting-edge technology to perform
such tests by themselves. If equipment costs drop, the result may be food
companies finding it more economically logic to stop outsourcing and do in-house
testing. However, considering the fact that cutting-edge technology is usually
expensive, it remains very improbable that this threat would materialize.
* In-house testing trends in industry determined by economies of scale. Another
reason for food companies to outsource is the more intensive use that independent
food-testing laboratories give to testing equipment by repeating the same test for
different companies. It does not make sense economically for food companies to
purchase a machine, perform a test once and then leave the machine in a corner,
unused. However, as food companies become larger and internationalize their
operations, it may be that output and turnover grows to a point where demand for
some tests is large enough to justify purchasing the equipment. If so, that
company's outsourcing for those tests would stop.
* Changes in food regulations. Although the trend is for regulations to increase and
generate more business for testing laboratories, there is always a chance for
regulations to take a path that negatively affects the food-testing laboratory
industry. For example, the government may decide to increase their control over
testing laboratories or may try to reduce the margin of error in food safety tests in
the nation by increasing the number and strictness of quality assurance and good
lab practice regulations. Failure to comply may result in firms going out of
business, and tardiness in complying may result in competitors taking a reliability
edge in the industry over XYZ by complying first.
* Pharmaceutical labs switching more and more into XYZ's type of business.
This is the other side of the opportunity outlined in Section 4.4.2 with regards to
food-testing laboratories moving into the pharmaceutical testing business. As well,
pharmaceutical testing laboratories are perfectly capable of performing many food
related tests. Dealing with this threat would require enhancing and increasing the
number of unique benefits-for example, experience in the food industry-which
food-testing laboratories have to offer to food companies.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
5.1 Recommendations for XYZ Research Corporation
The next recommendations are given on the basis of the work and information
obtained and presented in our study so far. Each recommendation presents a possible
course of action to be addressed by XYZ in the future.
5.1.1 Defining a Strategy
XYZ could greatly benefit from investing time and effort in defining itself and its
competitive strategy in a detailed manner. As discussed in Chapter 4 (Section 4.3.1),
XYZ does a good job in retaining customers due to its personalized service, but seems to
have a hard time getting new customers due to its inability to compete based on price
with larger rivals. This assertion was extracted from the data gathered in the interviews.
In his books, Competitive Strategy (1980) and Competitive Advantage (1985),
Michael Porter identifies three generic strategies that firms in any industry can follow.
Business theorists often categorize business behaviors using Porter's three distinct
strategies. They are cost leadership, differentiation, and focus strategies. Cost leadership
involves concentrating in selling a standardized product at low costs targeting the larger
portion of a price-sensitive clientele (Wright 1987). Cumulative volume of output,
conceptualized by the experience curve, is what allows cost leader strategists to offer
competitively priced services to a large portion of the industry's market through a
combination of economies of scale, capital-labor substitution possibilities and an
incrementally increasing learning curve (Hout, Porter, and Rudden 1982; Allan and
Hammond 1985; Abernathy and Wayne 1983; Boston Consulting Group 1972). Product
differentiators offer an industry-wide unique product or service (e.g., personalized and
fast, quality service) to the larger portion of a price-insensitive clientele. Finally, focus
strategists concentrate in addressing needs of particular buyers in the industry, which are
fewer in number (Wright 1987). It is highly unusual, and equally as unprofitable, for a
company to attempt to excel at more than one strategy at the same time. For example,
Wal-Mart's size allows the company to offer the lowest prices, but it is unlikely to see
Wal-Mart aiming to match the highest quality in the industry. Many argue that pursuing
two strategies at a time may result in a firm ending up in the middle with no competitive
advantage at all.
Wright (1987) further argues that larger firms in an industry with greater access to
resources may primarily compete with cost leadership or differentiation strategies. He
also argues that small firms, on the other hand may only viably compete with the focus
strategy. Using this framework, figure 5-1 shows our study's assessment of XYZ's
Size of the firm and its
access to resources Generic strategies
smaller firms with lesser focus
access to resources
larger firms with greater I cost leadership
access to resources
Figure 5-1. XYZ's size position and available strategies.
Obtained from Wright, P. "A Refinement of Porter's Strategies." Strategic
Management Journal 8(1)(January 1987):93-101.
XYZ's medium-large size operations and privileged financial position allow for
cost leadership or differentiation strategies. However, consideration should be given to
the fact that defining a strategy involves many important factors. For example, a strategy
dictates whom you compete against and how you compete. According to Porter (1980),
different strategies imply different organizational arrangements, control procedures, and
inventive systems. Considering the importance and wide set of economic and
organizational repercussions associated with selecting a strategy, the careful logic-based
approach to picking a strategy should involve XYZ choosing that one that best uses its
internal strengths and best exploits areas of opportunity in the industry; while minimizing
the potential effects of identified weaknesses and probable threats. This is where our
study's detailed Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats Analysis (SWOT) and
Porter Five Forces framework step in.
184.108.40.206 Considerations for XYZ choosing the cost leadership strategy
Cost leadership involves concentrating in selling a standardized product at low
costs targeting the larger portion of a price-sensitive clientele (Wright 1987). Before
taking this road, XYZ should consider the next issues.
* Other labs would have a first-mover advantage in this strategy. For example,
Silliker Labs already seems to operate under this strategy.
* What is the level of price-sensitiveness of the clientele? Our study found
information suggesting that other factors might be as important or more important
than price for food companies (e.g., reliability in terms of accreditations and
accuracy on test results, quick turnaround).
* Growing to take advantage of economies of scale. Cost leadership is achieved by
having the lowest production costs in the industry; this in turn is possible because
of a firm's ability to distribute fixed costs between larger quantities of output.
Given the medium-large size of XYZ's operations, becoming cost leader in the
industry would require increasing market share or demand and building new
facilities to increase output.
* Growing industry allows for firm's growth. There is space to grow in the food-
testing market. Several factors already mentioned in Section 4.2 of Chapter 4
(increasing regulations, health concerns, new technologies, etc) suggest a long-term
period of growth for the industry.
220.127.116.11 Considerations for XYZ choosing the differentiation strategy
Product differentiators concentrate in offering an industry-wide unique product or
service to the larger portion of a price-insensitive clientele (Wright 1987). For XYZ,
important considerations if taking this strategy include.
* How to differentiate? First thing is identifying the value traits desired by food
companies on their outsource laboratory of choice. The standardized characteristic
of tests does not allow for differentiation on the physical quality of the product
other than increased levels of accuracy in results. Differentiation is also possible on
the quality-of-service aspect of the product.
* XYZ's reputation for quality offers a forefront position to pursuing the
differentiation strategy. Results and employees' opinions obtained from the
strategic analysis interviews conducted at XYZ Research were presented in Chapter
4 (Section 4.3) of our study. Results show employees' and management's
perception of XYZ's output quality as a strength for the company.
5.1.2 Aggressive Strategy-Based Marketing
XYZ can enhance its marketing effort. First, by training a group of employees with
the necessary skills to effectively operate in both the scientific and economic areas of the
business. Having this versatile people to interact directly with the clients would increase
productivity by reducing scientific staff s time on the phone and would probably increase
the quality of service offered to the clients. At the present moment, XYZ's management
personnel already shows intentions of pursuing this matter by developing Project
Managers, which are positions involving technical and management duties. A second
way to enhance marketing effort would be by directing and allocating marketing
resources (including Internet) into one identified marketing goal and direction based on
XYZ's chosen strategy. Avoiding vagueness in marketing goals will allow XYZ to
achieve a more aggressive marketing posture with the same resources used now.
5.1.3 Understanding and Shaping the Customer Base
It would be recommended as a next step for XYZ to proceed in analyzing their
customer base as a means to validate the suggested company's performance in attracting
and keeping customers. That is: What exactly does the customer base of XYZ Research
Corporation consist of? What are the various categories of customers by size, by type of
service required, what percent of their business does XYZ Research Corporation get, how
often do they purchase, and how much does each type of customer contribute to the
Analysis done in our study related to buyer's power and threat of substitutes
suggests smaller clients, having no resources to do in-house testing, may result more
steady demand than large food companies which at any moment may switch from
outsourcing to in-house testing if they feel its economically wiser. It would not hurt XYZ
trying to maintain a percentage of their customer accounts destined to this segment of the
market. Potentially focusing on serving this group of smaller food companies that may
not be a priority for large competitors would leave the door open for XYZ to be the first
mover in targeting the segment.
Segmenting the market into different types of clients and analyzing each separately
could give the company a lot of insight into better ways of doing business. For example, a
trend to generalize foreign food companies as debt defaulters was expressed in the
interviews; it would be interesting to group XYZ's customer base using a small- large-or-
foreign criteria and analyze profitability from each group. Another interesting criteria to
group and analyze could be type of business or position in the food supply chain (e.g.,
processors, retailers, manufacturers).
Another important consideration for XYZ and any other laboratory would be
remembering not to place all your eggs in one basket. It is impossible to ignore the
bargaining power that multi-millionaire food companies are able to exert when doing
business. As beneficial as a partnership with one of these companies would be in securing
business, it results risky to dedicate yourself almost exclusively to one company. It would
be interesting to analyze XYZ's 2000 customer base keeping in mind that a large number
of clients contributing evenly to your sales, is a lot safer than creating a dependency by
doing business mostly with one huge client.
5.1.4 Decentralizing Leadership
In addition to deciding on the overall company strategy, management of XYZ
Research Corporation needs to clearly identify and communicate a transition strategy for
the time when the CEO (Dr. Brown) will be less active in the day-to-day management of
XYZ Research Corporation. While formulating a transition strategy and finding the
appropriate personnel to carry out this transition strategy have been a priority for XYZ
Research Corporation management, events have occurred to delay the implementation of
this strategy. Clearly communicating the transition strategy to the entire company would
reduce uncertainty and employee anxiety, and increase morale, and allow for a better
competitive response to questions being raised by current customers and competitor of
XYZ Research Corporation.
5.1.5 Development of a New Incentive Program
Employees gave low ratings for incentives and evaluation in the strategic analysis
interviews. This implies a serious problem. The extent to which an unmotivated
employee can diminish the productivity of a company is surprising. Unmotivated
personnel will result not only in lower productivity but also in a higher rate of turnovers,
leading to the costly process of hiring and training new employees. Retaining valued
employees must be a top priority for any business hoping to succeed over the long-term.
When developing an incentive program one should consider that incentives can be
monetary and non-monetary. Although money often plays an important role in someone's
decision to join or leave a company, it ranks no higher than fifth among the most
important factors for why employees stay with an organization (American City Business
Journals Inc. 2001). XYZ Research Corporation should re-evaluate all of its monetary
and non-monetary incentive programs, as changes could be made in both of these areas.
While it is true that when searching for ajob, every professional looks for financial
security, it is not the only factor. Every person wants to succeed, but being well paid is
not the complete definition of success to most people. Five Alternative Motivating
1. The manager personally congratulates associates who do the job.
2. The manager writes personal notes about good performance.
3. The organization uses performance as a basis of promotion.
4. The manager publicly recognizes employees for good performance.
5. The manager holds morale-building meetings to celebrate success.
All of these address the employee's self-esteem. In other words, the best way to
retain valuable employees is by building personnel's confidence, increasing their self-
esteem and getting people to think that by being in the company they are not only making
money, but also being successful. It is noteworthy to emphasize that although non-
monetary incentives should not be the only focus at XYZ Research Corporation, most
non-monetary incentives cost little or nothing to implement.
Non-monetary motivators are powerful tools and due to their almost inexpensive
characteristics they can have very high rates of return. On the other hand, money can be a
dangerous motivator. When rewarding an employee's effort only with money, we may
end up teaching our employees to stay just for the money and to expect raises after every
achievement or to leave at the soonest, best offer. Development of an incentives program
is an important future step stressed by our study for XYZ Research Corporation.
5.1.6 Tuning Up the Organizational Structure and Accounting System
A number of small things could be done to improve performance related to
organizational structure and the accounting system. For example, this may include
developing clear internal monthly financial reports for departmental managers that
effectively communicate monthly performance, including information on how that
department contributed to the overhead of the company. As stated in Section 4.3.3 of this
study, job descriptions are an important part of evaluation procedures and should be
improved and used as a part of the evaluation process (instead of the evaluation process
using financial statements). Monthly departmental reports of on-going projects and plans
for new projects, a more effective system for handling stocks and supplies, and improved
methods for interdepartmental communication would also be helpful in optimizing the
company's cost structure and increasing its productivity.
5.1.7 On Building New Facilities
In terms of solving some of the issues mentioned above, moving to a new facility
might not be the top priority answer at the moment. Even though both top management
and employees would like to move into a new facility, such a move should only take
place after the company is clear on what strategy it will follow. It is true that moving to a
brand new building will have some effect in the whole company's morale, but it is also
true that if some of the other issues mentioned above are left unsolved this increase in
morale will only be temporary.
5.1.8 Management Training Programs
Management training programs and seminars could be organized to build a more
versatile scientific personnel. Considering the demanding nature of scientific careers, it is
not a surprise to find scientific personnel that is not so well rounded in areas other than
their expertise. In fact, science calls for such high levels of specialization. XYZ's
business however calls for personnel trained in both management and science,
management seminars customized to bring scientists gradually into touch with
management skills would surely have enormous repercussions over the company's
5.2 Recommendations for Further Research
Our study identified several factors influencing demand in the U.S. independent
food-testing laboratory industry. Other than price, some factors that are expected to
influence clientele's demand include: reliability/accuracy of tests, speed of tests'
turnaround, experience and promotional effort. However, the order of importance of these
factors with respect to each other was not analyzed. It would be challenging very
rewarding to pursue customer-preference research for this market. Willingness-to-pay
research using surveys or focus groups to gather information from food companies would
be one option. Goals of such research would include trying to determine the level of
price-sensitiveness of the market, or if price comes before reliability in importance for
customers or vice-versa, and test several accreditation programs to probably conclude
which one projects more reliability to customers.
Returning to the Chapter 1 of this study (Section 1.1), the evolving and adapting
role of the U.S. land grant system was addressed and to some extent questioned. The next
issues where discussed: (1) the U.S. economy has evolved from an agricultural-based
economy to a service-based economy, (2) the U.S. land grant system which was created
to serve a predominantly, dispersed and isolated rural population, now faces a
predominantly urban-suburban, massively communicated and interconnected society, (3)
tighter government budgets in many countries have called for new innovative ways to
fund and operate land grant systems, including private-public partnerships for projects
where benefits are shared, and (4) farms have become more business oriented operating
with cutting edge technology.
Shared benefits are observed in this research. First, the private sector benefits from
the analysis and recommendations presented in our study. Second, the production of
didactic material and opportunity to interact directly with the private sector are benefits
for the public sector, in this case, the University of Florida. Nobel Prize Theodore
Schultz, in his work Investment in Human Capital (1961), showed the immense
contribution of human capital to growing levels of national output in many Western
countries including the U.S. The output rendered by this research should be measured by
the ability of the case study developed to help as a tool in teaching management skills and
increasing national human capital by beginning in the classroom.
Table A-1. Performance assessment
Please assess the overall performance of XYZ Research in the following areas. Performance can
be low or high based on the current situation, comparison to goals, trends for the future, or the
overall satisfaction of company participants.
Customer Satisfaction-ability to attract and maintain customers
1-----2-----3-----4-----5 High Performance
Competitiveness-ability to do better than your competition.
1-----2-----3-----4-----5 High Performance
Pronlctivir -ability to provide products/services efficiently and effectively based on
Internal management processes.
1-----2-----3-----4-----5 High Performance
Profitability-ability to attract resources based on level of return to key stakeholders.
1-----2-----3-----4-----5 High Performance
Which performance concerns (if any) warrant strategic analysis and planning?
Table A-2. Internal checklist
To determine a firm's internal strengths and weaknesses
Directions: For each item below, circle the number on the scale that best corresponds to you
honest assessment of XYZ Research's strength or weakness in the indicated area.
's< n .-i1,
L MARKETING RESOURCES
1. Customer satisfaction with product/services
2. Ability to gain customers versus the competition
3. Knowledge of the market
4. Product/service line breadth and depth
5. Product/service quality in terms of function,
image, place, time, possession, ease of use
6. Advertising and promotion activities
7. Product/service pricing
8. Facilities and methods used to sell to customers
9. Market share
II. FINANCIAL RESOURCES
1. Strong and recurring operating profits (PM*)
2. Efficient asset management (TAT*)
3. Strong and recurring return on investment (ROI*)
4. Proper balance of debt and equity (EM*)
5. Strong and recurring return on equity (ROE*)
6. Strong and recurring cash flow
7. Ready access to outside/new funds
8. Well managed customer credit
9. Well managed supplier credit
*Keyfinancial ratios used to
III. HUMAN RESOURCES
1. Adequate number of people to do the work
2. Adequate quality of people to do the work
3. Personnel plans
4. Job design and descriptions
5. Performance standards and evaluation procedures
6. Training programs
7. Good morale as evidence by absenteeism,
turnover, tardiness, complaints, bickering,
employee growth and development
8. Compensation system that promotes performance
9. Equitable and competitive pay
10. Equitable and competitive fringes
11. Appropriate use of teams
12. Work ethic of individuals and teams
assess these areas
Weaknes .I/ /n I/-- '
Table A-2. Continued
Won-a m c
r>, ,- ,. b/
IV OPERATIONS PRODUCTION
1. Quality of needed facilities to serve customers 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
2. Capacity of needed facilities to serve customers 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
3. Up-to-date and appropriate technology 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
4. Effective and efficient physical layout 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
5. Effective and efficient work flow 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
6. Effective and efficient inventory control 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
7. Effective and efficient purchasing practices 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
8. Effective and efficient production practices 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
V MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP RESOURCES
1. Effective management style 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
2. Timely decision making 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
3. Effective delegation 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
4. Effective participation 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
5. Effective risk taking 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
6. Effective leadership 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
VI. ORGANIZATIONAL RESOURCES
1. Appropriate mix of resources (people, money,
equipment) available 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
2. Resources properly placed to do the job 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
3. Effective interdepartmental communications 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
4. Effective reporting relationships 1-----2---3-----4----5
5. Firm's public image 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
6. Strong organizational culture (productivity, 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
honesty, dispute handling, tolerance of change)
VII. INFORMATION RESOURCES
1. Appropriate financial and cost accounting systems 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
2. Planning system appropriate for internal analysis 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
(assessing strengths and weaknesses)
3. Planning system appropriate for external analysis 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
(assessing opportunities and threats)
4. Control system that highlights problems and 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
generates corrective action
5. Information systems that use the best technology 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
6. Effective information for strategic decision making 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
7. Effective information for operational decision 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
8. Ability to utilize internet and e-commerce 1-----2-----3-----4-----5
Directions: Assess XYZ Research's five most important strengths* using the questions from
above and your own beliefs about your firm. In the final column, cite specific
evidence that supports your believe that the item is a strength or competitive
*Strength: Something a company does well or a characteristic that gives it an important
Table A-4. Weakness analysis
Directions: Assess XYZ Research's five most important weaknesses* using the questions from
above and your own beliefs about your firm. In the final column, cite specific
evidence that supports your believe that the item is a strength or competitive
*Weakness: Something a company does poorly or characteristic that puts it at a disadvantage.
MAJOR QUALITY ASSURANCE PROGRAMS
This list was taken from Research Triangle's Food Testing Laboratory Database.
Quality Assurance Programs are divided into four categories: oversight programs,
national programs, ISO-related programs, and association-sponsored programs:
Oversight Programs (national and international programs assuring uniform standards of
execution for quality programs:
* American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
* Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB)
National Programs (Nationally and state sponsored indicators of laboratory quality)
* Accredited Laboratory Program (ALP)
* Good Laboratory Practices (GLPs)
* Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)
* National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) or State
* USDA-Recognized Laboratory for Pasteurized Egg Products
* USDA Recognized
* State Certification
Trade Association-Sponsored Programs (quality programs such as proficiency testing
and certified laboratory or analyst)
* AOAC International (AOAC)
* American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC)
* American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
* American Oil Chemists' Society (AOCS)
ISO Related Programs (non-governmental worldwide association of 130 countries to
ensure international standardization of several industry sectors)
* ISO 9000 series
* ISO 17025
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Paul Esteban Jaramillo Vega was born in Quito, Ecuador on March 29, 1979. He
graduated from Colegio Americano High School in Quito, in 1997. In December 2000 he
received his Agronomo Degree from Escuela Agricola Panamericana "El Zamorano" in
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he was awarded the Board of Trustees Scholarship for
academic achievement. He graduated from the University of Florida with honors in
August 2002, receiving his bachelor's degree with a specialization in agribusiness, from
the Food and Resource Economics Department in the College of Agriculture and Life