From Silicon Valley to Singapore: Location and Competitive Advantage in the Hard Disk Drive Industry

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Momentous developments in the global economy over the last two decades have dramatically increased the availability of industrial investment sites and lowered the cost of relocating core activities to new countries. But how should these developments be exploited for competitive advantage? Firms face competing pressures: scale economies and the advantages of proximity push them to concentrate activities in one or only a few locations, while low wages and new markets invite dispersal across several countries. This book examines how location decisions have contributed to the global dominance of U.S. firms in the hard disk drive industry. In analyzing the industry since its beginnings some forty years ago, the book explains how American leadership in disk drives has rested on the formation of two complementary industrial clusters. Fundamental research and product development has been located almost entirely in the United States, principally California. Manufacturing has been concentrated in Southeast Asia (initially in Singapore and later in Thailand and Malaysia as well). This duality has proven key to the successful competitive position of the U.S. disk drive industry. Beyond the particulars of the disk drive industry, the authors present new perspectives on the sources of industrial leadership, the strategic behavior of multinational corporations, the geographic evolution of industry, and the creation and endurance of industrial clusters. Managers will gain insight into how location decisions can contribute to organizational effectiveness, and will learn that globalizing production, while keeping innovative activities at home, can contribute to their firms' competitive advantage. Policy makers will find that first mover advantages may be as important for countries as for companies, since early and systematic efforts to attract a specific industry can generate a critical mass of investments that, over time, will make a location resistant to inducements offered by other countries.