The paragon electronics group case study


Supply chain management (SCM) is very important tool for any business, due to the impact that it can make on any business if gone in either right or wrong way.

You can control your profit, inventory, KPI, performance, customer relation, and many more just by applying the right tool and concept to your business.

"SCM" methods and techniques vary from industry to anther, as for example the methods and tool that you would use in food industry will be different from the ones you use in electronics, automotive, or public sectors etc.

For these reasons in the last two decades many companies are constantly exploring the new ways for total customer satisfaction and the road map to achieve this by suppliers' development and working as partnership which I will be covering in my report.

In section "A" in my report, I will be talking about "SCM" definition, "SCM" key element, Analysing the key elements, and some of the leading supply chain methods that been implemented by "Dell, and Harley Davidson" .

In section "B" I will be talking about the company that I work for "Paragons Electronics Group", and how they implemented some of the "SCM" methods in business to keep the success and to go towards being "world class" customer/Supplier.

Third part will be the conclusion and lessons learnt from the module and case study, with a brief comparison between the theory and the practice.

Section A

Supply chain Management definition:

Supply chain management (SCM) is the management of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision of product and service packages required by end customers. (Harland, 1996).

"Supply chain management (SCM) is the term used to describe the management of the flow of materials, information, and funds across the entire supply chain, from suppliers to component producers to final assemblers to distribution (warehouses and retailers), and ultimately to the consumer". Refer to Silver, Pyke, & Peterson (1998).


In contrast to multiechelon inventory management, which coordinates inventories at multiple locations, SCM typically involves coordination of information and materials among multiple firms. Supply chain management has generated much interest in recent years for a number of reasons.

Many managers now realize that actions taken by one member of the chain can influence the profitability of all others in the chain.2

Firms are increasingly thinking in terms of competing as part of a supply chain against other supply chains, rather than as a single firm against other individual firms. Also, as firms successfully streamline their own operations, the next opportunity for improvement is through better coordination with their suppliers and customers. The costs of poor coordination can be extremely high. In the Italian pasta industry, consumer demand is quite steady throughout the year.

However, because of trade promotions, volume discounts, long lead times, full-truckload discounts, and end-of-quarter sales incentives the orders seen at the manufacturers are highly variable (Hammond(1994)). In fact, the variability increases in moving up the supply chain from consumer to grocery store to distribution center to central warehouse to factory, a phenomenon that is often called the bullwhip effect (see Figure 2 as an example). The bullwhip effect has been experienced by many students playing the "Beer Distribution Game." (Sterman (1989); Sterman (1992); Chen & Samroengraja (2000); Jacobs (2000)) The costs of this variability are high -- inefficient use of production and warehouse resources, high transportation costs, and high inventory costs, to name a few. Acer America, Inc. sacrificed $20 million in profits by paying $10 million for air freight to keep up with surging demand, and then paying $10 million more later when that inventory became obsolete.3

It seems that integration, long the dream of management gurus, has finally been sinking into the minds of western managers. Some would argue that managers have long been interested in integration, but the lack of information technology made it impossible to implement a more "systems-oriented" approach. Clearly industrial dynamics researchers dating back to the 1950's (Forrester (1958); Forrester (1961)) have maintained that supply chains should be viewed as an integrated system. With the recent explosion of inexpensive information technology, it seems only natural that business would become more supply chain focused. However, while technology is clearly an enabler of integration, it alone can not explain the radical organizational changes in both individual firms and whole industries. Changes in both technology and management theory set the stage for integrated supply chain management. One reason for the change in management theory is the power shift from manufacturers to retailers. Wal-Mart, for instance, has forced many manufacturers to improve their management of inventories, and even to manage inventories of their products at Wal-Mart.

While integration, information technology and retail power may be key catalysts in the surge of interest surrounding supply chains, eBusiness is fueling even stronger excitement.

E-Business facilitates the virtual supply chain, and as companies manage these virtual networks, the importance of integration is magnified.

Firms like are superb at managing the flow of information and funds, via the Internet and electronic funds transfer. Now, the challenge is to efficiently manage the flow of products.

Some would argue that the language and metaphors are wrong. "Chains" evoke images of linear, unchanging, and powerless. "Supply" feels pushy and reeks of mass production rather than mass customization. Better names, like "demand networks" or "customer driven webs" have been proposed by many a potential book author hoping to invent a new trend. Yet, for now, the name "supply chain" seems to have stuck. And under any name, the future of supply chain management appears bright.

  • Much of the material in this article is based on Chapter 12 of Silver, Pyke, & Peterson (1998) and Johnson & Pyke (2000a).
  • Certain industries use other terms in place of SCM. For example, many grocery industry executives are pursuing efficient consumer response (ECR), the equivalent of just-in-time distribution or "continuous replenishment." We consider initiatives such as ECR to be aspects of supply chain management.
  • See Business Week (September 30, 1996), pg. 72. See also Towill & DelVecchio (1994); Berry, Naim, & Towill (1995); and Buzzell & Ortmeyer (1995).

Key Components of Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management is an enormous topic covering multiple disciplines and employing many quantitative and qualitative tools. Within the last few years, several textbooks on supply chain have arrived on the market providing both managerial overviews and detailed technical treatments. For examples of managerial introductions to supply chain see Copacino (1997), Fine (1998) and Handfield & Nichols (1998), and for logistics texts see Lambert, Stock, Ellram, & Stockdale (1997) and Ballou (1998). For more technical, model-based treatments see Silver et al. (1998) and Simchi-Levi, Kaminsky, & Simchi-Levi (1998). Tayur, Magazine, & Ganeshan (1999) is an extensive collection of research papers while Johnson & Pyke (2000b) is a collection papers on teaching supply chain management. Also, there are several casebooks that give emphasis to global management issues including Taylor (1997), Flaherty (1996), and Dornier, Ernst, Fender, & Kouvelis (1998). Introductory articles include Cooper, Lambert, & Pagh (1997b), Davis (1993), Johnson (1998a), and Lee & Billington (1992). to help order our discussion, we have divided supply chain management into twelve areas.4 We identified these twelve areas from our own experience teaching and researching supply chain management, from analysis of syllabi and research papers on supply chain, and from our discussions with managers. Each area represents a supply chain issue facing the firm. For any particular problem or issue, managers may apply analysis or decision support tools. For each of the twelve areas, we provide a brief description of the basic content and refer the reader to a few research papers that apply. We also mention likely Operations Research based tools that may aid analysis and decision support. We do not provide an exhaustive review of the research literature, but rather provide a few references to help the reader get started in an area. For a moredetailed review of recent research and teaching in supply chain management see Ganeshan, Jack, & Magazine (1999) and Johnson & Pyke (2000a) respectively.

4 See Johnson & Pyke (2000a) for a list of teaching cases and popular press articles that fit within each area.

Suppliers Development, is Part "B" Paragon Electronics Group case study


The Paragon Electronics Group is a leading provider of contract electronics manufacturing services (EMS) and electronic component supply chain management solutions.

Established in 1991, with annual revenues now in excess of £30m, Paragon has evolved into an integrated group of specialist electronics companies employing over 300 people based in its facilities in the UK and The Czech Republic.

Paragon has provided EMS services for over 12 years and has developed a refreshingly different approach that revolves around two key elements; firstly 'decoupling' the supply chain from the assembly and secondly, multiple assembly locations in the UK, Central Europe, North Africa and China, selected on a best-fit basis for each product. This approach provides significant benefits for Paragon's customers including flexibility, quality, lead-times, continuity of supply and cost.

In addition to providing a range of integrated EMS (electronics manufacturing services) solutions, the Paragon Electronics Group of companies also includes a specialist electronics test business and a technical distributor of Radio Frequency Identification Technology.

The group operates 'central' functions including finance, IT, quality, logistics and marketing in order to optimise the benefits of consolidation and to ensure consistency and exceptionally high levels of customer care are maintained across the group.

The company operates in two ways. The first way is as a supplier to an end user (Customer), and the second way is as a Customer for a Supplier, and in both ways there are many examples and ways of Supply Chain Management.

The services that Paragon delivers as customer or supplier are:

  • Paragon Kitting and Supply Chain Management
  • Paragon Electronics Manufacturing Management (EMM)™
  • Paragon Test Solutions
  • Radio Frequency Identification Technology.

Paragon believes in being "A world Class Company" in both ways as customer and supplier by introducing the best supply chain and customer service practice.

So in the next stage, I will be going through each of the key services, and how it is compared with the Supply Chain Theory. Refer to for most of the information provided in the text above.

"Paragon" services "As a Supplier/Customer":

Paragon Kitting and Supply Chain Management:

Paragon started as just a kit supplier to electronics industry. The owners had the idea when they were working in electronics industry and knew the important effect of suppliers on deliveries on time to customers, products quality, and inventory reduction which will lead to more profit.

They wanted to convince their customers to use the "Pull when needed" in the supply chain management. Normally in electronics industry, if there is a company want to build batch or boards, or products, they create a BOM (Bill of material) and send it out for a quote to get the best price. Then this kit of all parts arrives, booked in to stores, and picked out when needed for production.

Normally this operation from sourcing component to pick it for production may require talking to different suppliers, freight companies, and hold inventory because of MOQ "Minimum order quantity" if it is exist.

In one job order the PCB for example could be from a supplier and other items in the BOM from anther. And depends on the complexity of a job, special components, distributors network, and amount of component, you could end up dealing with a lot more suppliers.

So "Paragon" realised the importance of reducing sourcing time, amount of suppliers, inventory, and increasing quality for businesses and offered the kitting management which have many benefits that mainly the result of practicing of good supply chain methods.

The service in short notes are as below:

  • Customers contact "Paragon" with components required "BOM", required date, and any special requirements or specifications.
  • Paragon organise all component and crate a valid "BOM"
  • Paragon contact all components supplier in the market for the best price and quality, price, lead time.
  • Paragon plan order components, and organise it when received in kits of parts where 1 kit will built 1 item "included in the kit all the waste factors and extra components that might be needed".
  • Paragon quality check all kits before organising them, and send it to customer, so quality is high and risk of fault at production line is low.
  • Paragon do all the communications to suppliers regarding delivery time, quality, and any other issue may raise.

This service gives "Paragon's" customers, the benefits below:

  • Reduce amount of suppliers and deal only with one "Paragon".
  • Delivery on time is always maintained and no line delays.
  • Dealing with 1 point of contact "Reducing supplier" and reduce time wasted chasing supplier or dealing with issues.
  • Reduce inventory stock by ordering enough for what is required in production, which will result in increasing profit.

Paragon Electronics Manufacturing Management (EMM) ™:

Electronics Manufacturing Management is nearly new to "Paragon" after the feeling of success in Kit and Component Management; they started to look around for a growth opportunity.

Due to the change in technology, effort spent to make small items that fit bigger applications, "Small PCB to fit a car for example" some customers decided to move their sub assemblies to be made at a special supplier and concentrate their effort making the main product. So paragon seen it as chance for growth and increased the level of service by not just supplying the kit required for build, but supply the full assembly built to be ready to fit the application.

After some years dealing with manufacturing sites, and seeing that sometime they don't have control due to fault in line, or capacity, they decided to buy their supplier " The manufacturing site", to be able to control the kit/assembly management business to their end customers. Reference to module notes, guest lecturers, and lectures The "EMM" customers had exactly the same benefits of delivered on time, when needed, high quality, and reduced inventory as kiting customers. And big benefit is, they are dealing with 1 person for any issue.

"Paragon" Test Solutions and Radio Frequency Identification Technology:

These extra services added to fulfil the requirement by some customer need extra care. So it is a complete service, under our control, to manage the time, cost, and quality and be able to offer a complete "World Class Service".

What "paragon" has done to reach to this level of success?

The role that "Paragon" play is double sided rule. They act as suppliers of kits or assemblies to the end user, and in the same time they act as customers for all sorts of components and applications they sell to the end customers.

The result of this is they must maintain a good supply chain to be able to meet the end customers' requirement. And to be able to do this, they must apply some criteria and procedures in both roles as "Supplier" and "Customer"

"Paragon" as a customer:

Paragon as a customer had to be very careful with choosing its suppliers as the main service it do, is to act on behalf of its customers with all the suppliers.

They had in mind few rules, which they then implemented in a procedure format to base their supplier selection on it. Refer to "Harley Davidson" case study video

They wanted:

  • Delivery on Time
  • Less Supplier network to be easy to manage
  • High quality components
  • Reducing their stock value to maintain high profit.
  • Try to go for local suppliers to reduce on shipping cost/time.

As we can see in flow-chart below "Flow-Chart (1)", the steps that "Paragon" follows to approve a new supplier.

So by looking at the chart, we can see that they check first if the supplier criteria meet, which are: Refer to internal document "OP_004 Supplier Relationship Management", by Iain Taylor, Iss4, 28/10/08

  • Service and trading terms
  • Customer recommendation
  • Historical or track record of supplier
  • Compliance with a recognised quality standard (such as ISO 9000)
  • Review of supplier's published data
  • Evaluation of samples

Once approval has been granted the supplier details are entered onto the accounts data base. A separate list of "Tier 1" suppliers is issued and maintained by the Strategic Purchasing Manager Audit and assessment of supplier's systems, processes and facilities.

Supplier performance is monitored at the goods received stage and all supplier errors are formally recorded. Refer to the diagram below.

"Diagram 5- measuring all key suppliers deliveries" Refer to internal monitoring report at "Paragon"

Supplier performance is reviewed by the management team on monthly basis, and if any problem identified, a corrective action is carried out in accordance with procedure.

Where it is deemed appropriate to form a long term business relationship with a supplier, the supplier is defined as a Tier 1 supplier.

Objectives and performance criteria for "Strategic suppliers" is defined and agreed through formal review meetings and, where appropriate, site visits.

So after following all the above, the company can be sure of how strong supplier are, and can be confident in dealing with them in the future.

Supplier Relations and development:

Paragon always though about how to keep its supplier in a strong position, and how to reduce time, waste, and improve communications with supplier. They have different methods and techniques to improve suppliers.


One of the methods is to keep communication with suppliers, up to date, and give them a clear forecast to allow them enough time to get items on time.

The software development team at "Paragon" has done a great effort, connecting "Paragon's" own stock monitoring and MRP system with the most of Paragon's customers to allow both sides see live feed of the stock, price, demand.

This software link helped paragon in many different ways: Reference "SCM" lecturers

  • It made price break updated automatically over night, which result in accurate pricing to "Paragon's" customers.
  • Helped paragon to reduce their inventory by holding the stock at the supplier base and have a virtual stock window with in the customer real stock.
  • Easier purchasing way based on real availability at supplier stock, which will reflect delivery on time.
  • Getting best price break by multiplying orders over against specific item that been required by different departments, including monthly monitoring to value each component order level to start requesting better price break for it.

Monthly visits:

Paragon believed that monthly visits either at "Paragon" head office or at the supplier location will create a friendly relation beyond emails and phone calls, and will make the suppliers sales teem more friendly and better understanding of "Paragon" requirements. Also they had a way of treating suppliers by sending some gifts or cards in Christmas time and some other occasions to keep and maintain a friendly, warm and honest feeling with all suppliers as this will result in increasing the trust and understanding.

MRP Reporting:

MRP team play a vital role in keeping in touch with MRP departments at all our suppliers locations as they keep in touch with them everyday to generate a "Status Report" to show what is happening with every order to plan the work on accurate information.

These report also measures the delivery time agrees, quality issues, and any other related matter by generating a report to log and discuss the related jobs between us and each supplier or customer at later stage. This report is called "FROCK" which a stand for "From receipt of clean kit"as can been see in the "snap shot 1" on page 35. Refer to Internal report document "FROCK" at "Paragon".

This report then get emailed to all related department/personnel at paragon and Supplier to update it accordingly, or to take a specific action to solve a problem and for the important of keeping the communication at the top level, "Paragon" employed 1 person which is dealing with this report in full time with all customers/suppliers.

Strategic Suppliers:

If a supplier fall of in an area of "Strategic Supplier" as I mentioned before, then it is the time when "Paragon" will look at all its products and services, and see how it could increase demand from this supplier to get better price break, and to increase relationship with this supplier and give him the confident, that there is a progression and more revenue by keeping the good work with "Paragon" and that would be by cancelling some of the contract with the bad suppliers, and move it to more good/strategic supplier.

"Paragon" always measures suppliers to apply the right development method

Using power:

Using the power of the amount of orders is one of the ways that "Paragon" use, but not in a big scale, due to the effect it could make in the relation between them and suppliers. The reason is they have a contract agreement between them and suppliers to get the best price, and if it happened they found a cheaper price or they have a challenging contract that they need to have lower price to win it, they rather work with suppliers to reduce prices using the power of the order value, so they both share the profit. I can see this method working as it make the suppliers feels, that they are a part of the challenge and they price reduction request not to give "Paragon" more profit, but to give both "Paragon" and suppliers good long term contracts, and profit.

"Paragon" as "Supplier":

"Paragon" as supplier is working very hard to satisfy its customers, because they understand customer needs, and also understand what a "World Class Supplier" should deliver.

They set the same tight rules, which control the relation between them and their customers to develop better understanding and long term relationship as they not just wait for the customer to measure them, but they measure themselves, by putting a target line for what they want to achieve putting in mind, what most customers are looking for.

Below is the most wanted by any customer to trust a supplier and treat them as "Strategic or Key supplier".

On time delivery:

One of the most important keys in supply chain as it can make a huge impact on any business if it is gone wrong.

With no doubt most companies now try to use the "Pull" method to reduce inventory, increase profitability, or even they have a good ongoing contracts that need constant supply.

If at any point this supply is not delivered on time, they customer may lose the contract, stop line and pay operator fees while there is no production, or pay fines for late deliveries etc.

So "paragon" realise the importance of delivering on time to get the trust which will develop the relation between them and customers, and of course increase the opportunities and profitability to both customer and "Paragon".

They always measure their performance to be able to act quickly to any changes or circumstances that may happen. They set a performance target then monitor it to keep the same level of service all the time, and to allow them to improve it when necessary.

The diagrams below show that the monitoring level, type over one year for Supplier/Customer performance.

"Diagram 3- Customer Request date "CRD" Vs Paragon Delivery date" Refer to internal monitoring report at "Paragon".

"Diagram 4- Paragon promise date "PAD" Vs "Paragon actual Delivery date" Refer to internal monitoring report at "Paragon".


Quality is also a very important factor to make customer happy, and "Paragon" always maintain it with its suppliers, so if there is an issue with a quality for a supplier, a stop note is placed, and the matter investigated.

Once the reason of the cause are clear, Paragon put a quality procedure to test every item for that supplier who caused the problem, until he return back to the normal level, and that shows once again the vital role for supply chain management, and how communications with your supplier could save any business.

Meeting demands:

Every customer has their own demand with regard to deliveries, ordering method, scheduling order period, and many more.

"Paragon as a supplier, wanted to make all customers demands affordable and understandable by holding meeting face to face, planning ahead, developing software links between its system and customers system, measure performance and offer solutions to any problem or product development.

This area can make any customer satisfied with their supplier, and mark the supplier as a "World Class Supplier" that any business can relay on.

Theory VS Practice analysis

Looking to all mentioned above with regard to what Paragon have done to raise its profile as "World Class" customer and supplier, we will notice that didn't come by luck or a trial.

All the procedures which was followed has came from a wide range of theory methods that been in place by some of the supply chain experts and researchers. Analysing "Paragon" procedures and methods we will see that they have used all the methods that could fit their business from the points of supplier/customer.

The table in the next page "Table??" is stating a comparison between the theory methods and the practice side with regard to what Paragon applied. I will also put a hint for the example I gave in the case above, then we could have a better understanding of the analysis


  2. "Paragon" Internal monitoring report at "Paragon", by DS, 2009
  3. "Paragon" internal "FROCK" weekly report by CM, 2009
  4. "Paragon" internal document "OP_004 Supplier Relationship Management", by Iain Taylor, Iss4, 28/10/08
  5. "Inventory Management and Production Planning and Scheduling", by Silver Edward, Pyke David F., Peterson Rein, John Wiley & Sons, 1998, ISBN: 9780471119470.

Essential reading

  • Operations management / Nigel Slack, Stuart Chambers, Robert Johnston
  • Manufacturing operations and supply chain management: the LEAN approach / David Taylor and David Brunt.
  • Logistics and supply chain management: creating value-adding networks / Martin Christopher.
  • Operations management / Nigel Slack, Stuart Chambers, Robert Johnston
  • Managing business relationships / David Ford [et al.]

Recommended Reading

  • Lean thinking: banish waste and create wealth in your corporation / James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
  • Logistics and supply chain management [ELECTRONIC RESOURCE] : creating value-adding networks / Martin Christopher.
  • Lean thinking [Sound recording]: banish waste and create wealth in your corporation / James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
  • Logistics and supply chain management: creating value-adding networks / Martin Christopher.
  • Built to last: successful habits of visionary companies / James C. Collins [and] Jerry I. Porras
  • Managing business relationships / David Ford ... [et al.]
  • Supply chain redesign: transforming supply chains into integrated value systems / Robert B. Handfield [and] Ernest L. Nichols.
  • Lean thinking: banish waste and create wealth in your corporation / James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
  • Managing to learn./John Shook
  • Kaizen Express./Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook
  • Inside the mind of Toyota: management principles for enduring growth / Satoshi Hino, foreword by Jeffrey K. Liker; translated by Andrew Dillon.
  • The TWI workbook: essential skills of supervisors / Patrick Graupp and Robert J. Wrona.
  • Birth of lean./Koichi Shimokawa and Takahiro Fujimoto, (Eds)
  • Getting the right things done./Pascal Dennis
  • Training within industry: the foundation of lean / Donald A. Dinero.
  • Gold mine./Freddy Balle and Michael Balle
  • Hoshin kanri for the lean enterprise: developing competitive capabilities and managing profit / Thomas L. Jackson.
  • Making hospitals work./ Marc Baker, Ian Taylor and Alan Mitchell
  • Lean healthcare: improving the patient's experience / David Fillingham ; [foreword by Daniel T. Jones].


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Web Sites

CAPS Research

Links to reports including, Krause D R and Handfield (1999) Developing a world class supply base

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