What is Value Chain Analysis?

Value Chain Analysis

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Value Chain Analysis

Value Chain Analysis is a strategic tool used to examine and evaluate the interconnected activities within an organization that contribute to the production and delivery of products or services. Developed by Michael E. Porter in his 1985 book “Competitive Advantage,” the analysis aims to identify where value is added at each stage of these activities and how they contribute to the overall value of the product or service.

The main objectives of a value chain analysis are:

  • To Understand How Value is Created: The primary goal is to understand how a company takes raw materials and other inputs and transforms them into a product or service that has value for customers.
  • To Identify Competitive Advantages: By understanding which activities provide unique value or efficiency, a company can gain a competitive advantage over rivals.
  • To Optimize Costs and Investments: The analysis can help pinpoint where costs can be reduced, and where investments should be made to improve value.
  • To Uncover Partnership and Outsourcing Opportunities: The analysis may reveal stages where a partner could add more value than the company can achieve on its own.

Steps for Performing a Value Chain Analysis

  1. Identify Primary and Support Activities: As a first step, segment the company’s operations into its primary (Inbound Logistics, Operations, Outbound Logistics, Marketing & Sales, and Service) and support activities (Technology, HR, Infrastructure, and Procurement).
  2. Analyze Each Activity: Examine each activity to understand how it adds value to the final product or service. Evaluate elements like cost, efficiency, and effectiveness.
  3. Assess the Interconnections: Consider how the activities are connected. The interconnections often hold the key to creating unique value or can be a source of inefficiency.
  4. Determine the Cost of Each Activity: Knowing the cost involved in each stage helps in optimizing the overall cost and setting the right price for the final product.
  5. Evaluate the Customer’s Perspective: Consider what aspects are critical from the customer’s point of view. This will guide you on which activities should be prioritized.
  6. Formulate Strategies: After identifying strengths and weaknesses along the value chain, develop strategies to optimize it. This could include outsourcing non-core activities, investing in technology, or forming strategic partnerships.

Example of Value Chain Analysis

Let’s delve into a simplified example using a fictional bicycle manufacturing company called “CycleCraft” to illustrate how Value Chain Analysis can be performed.

CycleCraft’s Business:

CycleCraft manufactures high-quality bicycles, catering to both everyday users and professional cyclists. They are known for their advanced engineering and exceptional after-sales service.

Steps for CycleCraft’s Value Chain Analysis:

Step 1: Identify Primary and Support Activities

Primary Activities:

  • Inbound Logistics: Sourcing raw materials like aluminum, rubber, gears, etc.
  • Operations: Manufacturing and assembling the bicycle frames and components.
  • Outbound Logistics: Distributing the finished bicycles to retail partners or directly to consumers.
  • Marketing & Sales: Advertising campaigns, in-store displays, online marketing, and direct sales.
  • Service: Providing warranties, after-sales repairs, and customer support.

Support Activities:

  • Procurement: Negotiating contracts for raw materials.
  • Technology Development: Research and design of new bicycle models.
  • Human Resource Management: Employee training, benefits, and retention programs.
  • Firm Infrastructure: Company leadership, financial accounting, legal support.

Step 2: Analyze Each Activity

  • Inbound Logistics: CycleCraft has strong relationships with ethical suppliers but finds that it’s dependent on a single source for high-quality aluminum.
  • Operations: The manufacturing process is highly efficient but lacks scalability.
  • Outbound Logistics: The company has well-established relationships with retailers but struggles with direct-to-customer shipping speed.
  • Marketing & Sales: The brand is well-recognized in the cycling community, but its online presence is minimal.
  • Service: Exceptional after-sales service is a big selling point but is also a cost center.

Step 3: Assess the Interconnections

  • Supplier Reliability: The single-source dependency for aluminum impacts both production scalability and cost.
  • Online Sales and Logistics: Improvement in online marketing should align with a more efficient direct-to-customer shipping strategy.

Step 4: Determine the Cost of Each Activity

  • Precise costing reveals that shipping and after-sales service are major cost centers that need optimization.

Step 5: Evaluate the Customer’s Perspective

  • Customer surveys reveal that quick shipping and availability of customization options are key areas where customers would like to see improvement.

Step 6: Formulate Strategies

  • Strategies:
    • Diversify suppliers to reduce dependency and risk.
    • Invest in scalable manufacturing technology.
    • Optimize the direct-to-customer shipping process.
    • Enhance the online sales platform and offer customization options.
    • Automate some aspects of customer service to reduce costs without compromising quality.


By performing this value chain analysis, CycleCraft identifies its strengths and weaknesses in each activity. It formulates a strategic plan that includes diversifying its raw material suppliers, investing in scalable manufacturing technology, and optimizing its online sales and shipping process. These strategies are aimed at not just reducing costs but also improving the overall value proposition to customers, thereby giving CycleCraft a competitive edge in the market.

This example should give you a good idea of how Value Chain Analysis can be applied in a real-world context to make informed business decisions.

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