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CEP discussion paper
Managing Global Production: Theory and Evidence from Just-in-Time Supply Chains
Frank Pisch
April 2020
Paper No' CEPDP1689:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: F10; F14; F23; D23; L23

Tags: just-in-time; global value chains; supply chain management; multinational firms; vertical integration

This paper examines the structure of international Just-in-Time (JIT) supply chains. Using information about JIT supply chain management for a large panel of French manufacturers I first document that JIT is widespread across all industries and accounts for roughly two thirds of aggregate employment and trade. Next, I establish two novel stylized facts about the structure of JIT supply chains: They are more concentrated in space (1) and more vertically integrated both domestically and internationally (2), than their ‘traditional’ counterparts. I rationalize these patterns in a framework of sequential production where failure to coordinate adaptation decisions in the presence of upstream and demand shocks leads to inventory holding. In JIT supply chains, information about downstream demand conditions is shared throughout the supply chain, which facilitates coordination. The associated inventory saving effect is stronger when firms are close to each other, so that the supply chain reacts quickly to changes in demand; and when they are part of the same company, so that incentives for adaptation are aligned. Guided by further predictions of the model, I present empirical evidence that these organizational complementarities depend on inventory holding costs, demand persistence, and the ability to push inventories upstream via contractual penalties. Finally, I discuss long term implications of Brexit and COVID-19 for the structure of international supply chains based on my findings.