December 9, 2023

Compete or Collaborate with Competitors? Which One is Better?

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of business, the concept of competition has been deeply ingrained. You are often encouraged to outperform your rivals, to dominate the market, and secure higher profits.

However, as the global business landscape continues to transform, a new perspective has emerged – one that emphasizes collaboration over cutthroat competition.

In the realm of supply chain management, the age-old question arises: Should you compete fiercely, or can you find a mutually beneficial middle ground through collaboration?

This blog post explores the dichotomy between competition and collaboration in supply chain management and delves into the potential benefits of cooperative approaches.

But, before we delve deeper into this topic, make sure you have also followed my LinkedIn account to gain more insights on supply chain management.

The Competitive Landscape

Historically, competition has been a driving force for your innovation, efficiency, and market expansion. You strive to create unique value propositions, optimize processes, and ultimately outshine your competitors.

While competition can indeed spur your growth and innovation, it often leads to a zero-sum game where your gain comes at the expense of another company’s loss.

This mindset can inadvertently foster adversarial relationships that hinder the overall efficiency and resilience of your supply chain.

In this competitive environment, the focus is frequently on individual gains, which might hinder collaborative efforts that could benefit all parties involved.

The Case for Collaboration

Collaboration, on the other hand, challenges the notion of a zero-sum game.

It encourages you and other companies to work together to achieve common goals, realizing that you can collectively create value that far surpasses what you could achieve individually.

In the context of supply chain management, collaboration offers you several compelling advantages.

Risk Mitigation

Collaborating with your competitors allows you to share risks.

By diversifying suppliers and sharing resources, you and your fellow businesses can reduce your vulnerability to disruptions such as natural disasters, geopolitical events, or supply chain bottlenecks.

Compete or Collaborate with Competitors? Which One is Better?

This means that the impact of such challenges can be less severe when borne collectively.

Cost Optimization

Your collaborative efforts can lead to cost-sharing and economies of scale.

You and your fellow companies can jointly invest in technologies, infrastructure, and research, driving down costs and enhancing efficiency.

This way, you can achieve cost savings that might not have been possible on your own.

Innovation Acceleration

Pooling resources and knowledge through collaboration can accelerate innovation.

You and your peers can collectively develop new products, processes, and solutions that none of you could have achieved independently.

The combined expertise and insights can lead to groundbreaking innovations that might have taken longer to develop individually.

Market Expansion

Collaborative partnerships can open doors to new markets and customer segments.

You and your fellow companies can leverage each other’s strengths and networks to tap into previously unexplored opportunities.

This expanded market reach can result in increased sales and growth for all parties involved.


Collaborative supply chain initiatives can also address sustainability challenges more effectively.

By sharing best practices and resources, you and your counterparts can collectively work towards environmentally responsible practices that benefit all stakeholders.

This united effort can contribute to a more sustainable future for your industry and beyond.

In embracing collaboration, you recognize that the collective benefits achieved by working together can outweigh the competitive disadvantages of going it alone.

By aligning your efforts and resources, you and your industry peers can create a more robust, innovative, and sustainable supply chain ecosystem that benefits everyone involved.

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Types of Collaboration in Supply Chain Management

Collaboration among you and your competitors doesn’t necessarily mean full integration or merging of operations.

There are various levels and types of collaboration that you can explore, each offering unique benefits.

Information Sharing

Sharing data and insights on market trends, demand forecasts, and supply chain performance can lead to better decision-making for all involved parties.

Compete or Collaborate with Competitors? Which One is Better?

By exchanging crucial information, you and your fellow companies can collectively adapt to market changes more effectively.

Joint Procurement

You and your competing companies can pool your purchasing power to negotiate better deals with suppliers, reducing costs for both parties.

This collaborative approach enables you to access bulk discounts and improved terms that might be difficult to secure individually.

Shared Logistics

Collaborating on transportation, warehousing, and distribution can optimize resources and reduce overall operational expenses.

By working together to streamline logistics processes, you and your peers can achieve cost savings and enhanced efficiency.

Cooperative R&D

Joint research and development efforts can lead to innovative breakthroughs while minimizing individual risks and expenses.

By combining your research capabilities, you can accelerate the development of new products or technologies that benefit all participants.

Strategic Alliances

Forming strategic alliances allows you and other companies to collaborate on specific projects or initiatives while maintaining your independence in other areas.

This type of collaboration lets you leverage each other’s expertise and resources without sacrificing your individual identities.


You and your competitors can come together to promote common causes or industry-wide campaigns, benefiting the entire sector.

By pooling your marketing efforts, you can raise awareness, create stronger industry branding, and attract more attention than you could achieve individually.

As you explore these different forms of collaboration, you’ll find opportunities to strengthen your industry’s resilience, innovation capabilities, and competitiveness.

By focusing on the collaborative potential within your sector, you can tap into collective strengths that may yield substantial benefits for all involved parties.

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Case Studies in Collaboration

Numerous real-world examples highlight the potential benefits of collaboration in supply chain management.

Let’s take a closer look at how these instances can inspire and guide your own collaborative efforts.

Automobile Industry

In the automobile industry, auto manufacturers often share components and technologies even while competing in the market.

This collaboration benefits you by reducing costs through shared resources and knowledge.

Moreover, it accelerates technological advancements as you collectively drive innovation, leading to safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly vehicles.

Pharmaceutical Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the power of collaboration in the pharmaceutical industry.

During this crisis, pharmaceutical companies joined forces to collaborate on vaccine development.

This example shows you how cooperation can lead to rapid scientific progress, benefiting humanity as a whole.

While you compete in the market, collaborative efforts during critical times can bring about life-saving solutions.

Airline Industry

In the airline industry, airlines frequently collaborate through code-sharing agreements and alliances.

This collaboration benefits you as a traveler, enabling you to access a wider range of destinations and services seamlessly.

By working together, airlines provide you with more options, convenience, and a better travel experience.

Technology Industry

The technology industry showcases the power of open-source software initiatives.

Multiple companies collaborate by contributing to a shared codebase, resulting in powerful software solutions accessible to all.

This collaborative model enhances your ability to create innovative software products while leveraging the combined expertise of a larger community.

These case studies illustrate how collaboration can be strategically integrated into different sectors.

By understanding the benefits and successes of collaboration in these industries, you can identify opportunities within your own supply chain management practices to reap the rewards of collective efforts.

Just as these examples have showcased, collaboration can lead to cost savings, accelerated innovation, enhanced customer experiences, and even contributions to broader societal goals.


In the modern business landscape, the dichotomy between competition and collaboration has gained prominence, challenging traditional notions of rivalry.

While competition undoubtedly drives your innovation, collaboration presents a compelling alternative that can lead to greater mutual benefits and shared prosperity.

In the realm of supply chain management, the choice between competing and collaborating isn’t always black and white.

Instead, it’s a matter of finding the right balance that aligns with your company’s goals, values, and the needs of the market.

You must recognize that by embracing certain collaborative practices, you can achieve remarkable outcomes that transcend the limitations of individual competition.

Whether through information sharing, joint procurement, or strategic alliances, the potential for innovation, cost reduction, risk mitigation, and market expansion through collaboration is undeniable.

As the global supply chain landscape continues to evolve, you as a company that can navigate this balance effectively will be better positioned to thrive in an interconnected and interdependent world.

The ability to harness the power of collaboration while retaining your competitive edge is a strategy that can propel you toward sustained success in the dynamic business environment.

Hope it is useful!

Please share this article with your colleagues as well, so that they can also benefit from it. Follow my LinkedIn account for more insights on supply chain management. All articles on this blog are free for you to use for any purpose, including commercial use, without the need for attribution.

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Dicky Saputra

16+ years of experience in supply chain management. I help companies improve their end to end supply chain performance.

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