Making sense of high value manufacturing : relating policy and theory

Paton, Steve and Ates, Aylin and Sminia, Harry and Smith, Marisa (2023) Making sense of high value manufacturing : relating policy and theory. Production Planning and Control, 34 (4). pp. 359-370. ISSN 0953-7287 (

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Government policy agendas in high-cost economies focus on manufacturing competitiveness promoting what they term High Value Manufacturing (HVM). HVM is seen as the solution to the problem of manufacturers in high-cost economies being outcompeted by those in low-cost economies. Despite the ubiquity of the term HVM, there is little academic engagement with it leaving HVM an under-theorized, emerging phenomenon lacking in academic legitimization. Our purpose is therefore to gain a ‘theoretical foothold’ to allow the phenomenon of HVM to be characterized. Policy documents from the UK and German governments and the European Commission are empirically analysed to determine the themes within their arguments. A literature consultation is conducted to reveal the underlying theoretical strands informing these arguments. A synthesis follows that relates the themes within the policy documents to the identified theoretical strands. We find that policy uses a plurality of multi-disciplinary, randomly drawn elements. However, despite this, some patterns can be identified with elements drawn from operations strategy, supply chain management and innovation. By defining these elements, this article makes sense of the policy rhetoric and builds a clearer understating of HVM so facilitating sharper and more structured research into its nature and its contribution to contemporary manufacturing competitiveness.