Virtual Collaborative R&D Teams in Malaysia Manufacturing SMEs
Nader Ale Ebrahim
,Shamsuddin Ahmed, SalwaHanim Abdul Rashid and M. A. Wazed
Department of Engineering Design and Manufacture,Faculty of Engineering, University of MalayaKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Faculty of Manufacturing Engineering andManagement Technology,University Malaysia Pahang,26300 Gambang,Pahang, Malaysia
—This paper presents the results of empirical researchconducted during March to September 2009. The studyfocused on the influence of virtual research and development(R&D) teams within Malaysian manufacturing small andmedium sized enterprises (SMEs). The specific objective of thestudy is better understanding of the application of collaborative technologies in business, to find the effectivefactors to assist SMEs to remain competitive in the future. Thepaper stresses to find an answer for a question “Is there anyrelationship between company size, Internet connection facilityand virtuality?”. The survey data shows SMEs are nowtechnologically capable of performing the virtual collaborativeteam, but the infrastructure usage is less. SMEs now have thenecessary technology to begin the implementation process of collaboration tools to reduce research and development (R&D)time, costs and increase productivity. So, the manager of R&Dshould take the potentials of virtual teams into account.
Keywords-Small and medium enterprises, Collaborative tools,Questionnaires, Virtual teams.
Collaboration in research and development (R&D) is becoming increasingly important in creating the knowledgethat makes research and business more competitive . Theinternet, incorporating computers and multimedia, has provided tremendous potential for remote integration andcollaboration in business and manufacturing applications .Web service technology also provides a unique way toapplication-to-application interaction over the internet .Currently, many R&D organizations and teams use aspecialized knowledge portal for research collaboration andknowledge management . A web-based virtualcollaborative team is enabling authorized users ingeographically different locations to have access to thecompany’s product data such as product drawing files storedat designated servers and carry out product design work simultaneously and collaboratively on any operating systems. Despite computers’ widespread use for personalapplications, very few SMEs use this new phenomenon .On the other hand, small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) which are a major part of the industrial economies needs to reduce R&D time and costs in order to compete inthe competitive market. Gassmann and Keupp  found thatmanagers of SMEs should invest less in tangible assets, butmore in those areas that will directly create their futurecompetitive advantage (e.g., in R&D to generate knowledge,and in their employees’ creativity to stimulate incrementalinnovations in existing technologies). One very importanttrend to enable new knowledge creation and transfer in andto SME's is developing virtual collaborative environmentsand networks to increase their innovation abilities as a singleunit but also the capabilities of the network as a whole .Virtuality has been presented as one solution for SMEsaiming to increase their competitiveness [10, 11]. Virtualteams reduce time-to-market [12, 13]. Lead Time or Time tomarket has been generally admitted to being one of the mostimportant keys for success in manufacturing companies .In line with moving trend to virtual collaborative teamsin SMEs, this paper based on the survey results explore therelationship between the number of SMEs employee and the Net connection facility with virtuality. While, virtuality brings couples of advantages to SMEs, the question is raised“Why SMEs do not use virtual collaborative teams?”. Basedon literature and survey finding future study and suggestionsare advanced.II.
IMPORTANCEThere are many accepted definitions of SMEs, and theclassifications vary from industry to industry and fromcountry to the country . Different countries adoptdifferent criteria such as employment, sales or investment for defining small and medium enterprises . The case studiesemployed the definition of Malaysian manufacturer sector SMEs according to Table I.Economists believe that the wealth of nations and the growthof their economies strongly depend upon their SMEs’ performance . In many developed and developingcountries, SMEs are the unsung heroes that bring stability tothe national economy. They help buffer the shocks that comewith the boom and bust of economic cycles [18, 19]. SMEs
TABLE I. D
BRAHIM ET AL
Category of enterpriseEmployeenumbersTurnover
SmallBetween 5 to 50employeesBetween RM 250,000(~80,000 USD) & less thanRM 10 million (~3.2 millionUSD)MediumBetween 51 to150 employeesBetween RM 10 million(~3.2 million USD)& RM 25million (~8 million USD)
2011 2nd International Conference on Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Technologies (MIMT 2011)
978-1-4244-9265-7 /11/$26.00 2011 IEEE