The risk of not being vertically integrated is illustrated by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The risk of not being vertically integrated is illustrated by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the US government held BP responsible for the disaster, BP cast at least some of the blame on drilling rig owner Transocean and two other suppliers: Halliburton Energy Services (which created the cement casing for the rig on the ocean floor) and Cameron International Corporation (which had sold Transocean blowout prevention equipment that failed to prevent the disaster). In April 2011, BP sued these three firms for what it viewed as their roles in the oil spill.

The 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig cost eleven lives and released nearly five million barrels of crude oil into the

Gulf of Mexico.

Wikimedia Commons – public domain.

Vertical integration also creates risks. Venturing into new portions of the value chain can take a firm into very different businesses. A lumberyard that started building houses, for example, would find that the skills it developed in the lumber business have very limited value to home construction. Such a firm would be better off selling lumber to contractors.

Vertical integration can also create complacency. Consider, for example, a situation in which an aluminum company is purchased by a can company. People within the aluminum company may believe that they do not need to worry about doing a good job because the can company is guaranteed to use their products. Some companies try to avoid this problem by forcing their subsidiary to compete with outside suppliers, but this undermines the reason for purchasing the subsidiary in the first place.

8.3 Vertical Integration Strategies 254

Backward Vertical Integration

A backward vertical integration strategy involves a firm moving back along the value chain and entering a supplier’s business. Some firms use this strategy when executives are concerned that a supplier has too much power over their firms. In the early days of the automobile business, Ford Motor Company created subsidiaries that provided key inputs to vehicles such as rubber, glass, and metal. This approach ensured that Ford would not be hurt by suppliers holding out for higher prices or providing materials of inferior quality.

To ensure high quality, Ford relied heavily on backward vertical integration in the early days of the automobile industry.

Wikimedia Commons – public domain.

 

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