Article ID: ISIJINT-2020-033
In this study, supply chain patterns of steel products are investigated from the viewpoints of quality assurance responsibility and understanding of physical phenomena in steel. This study focuses on the differences in supply chain patterns between steel nails for common use and valve springs for the automotive industry. In the supply chain of steel nails for common use, which takes a conventional pattern from raw materials to final products, the quality of each supplier's product is guaranteed just by the Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS), and no supplier takes quality assurance responsibilities beyond its business range. By contrast, in the supply chain of valve springs for automotive use, each supplier takes quality assurance responsibilities for the final product beyond its business range, and the suppliers cooperate with one another to fulfill stringent quality requirements by automotive manufacturers. Therefore, the supply chain pattern of valve springs is different from the conventional pattern of common use steel products like steel nails. It was also found that the supply chain pattern of valve springs can be caused by the insufficient understanding of physical phenomena in steel, martensitic transformation and hardening in this case. This study suggests that the conditions that determine the supply chain pattern of a steel product could be business practices for quality assurance, namely based on standard specifications or users' requirements, and the natural scientific understanding level about physical phenomena in steel. Although this study focuses on steel nails and valve springs, this finding is applicable to other steel products.