This study explores how a firm engages in strategic cost management practices during product development, in an effort to change its cost structure with the goal of implementing mass customization from a management accounting perspective. Based on a field study at the Mazda Motor Corporation in Japan, our study indicates that strategic cost management practices play a critical role in the successful implementation of mass customization. One of the key findings of the study shows the company engaged in three different types of cost management practices in order to successfully change its cost structure: target costing at individual product development project level, cost innovation activities for shared component development, and inter-firm collaboration with suppliers. The study also shows that cost engineers play a critical role in strategic cost management practices as cost reduction specialists. Further, the study identifies limitations of target costing in the successful implementation of mass customization, such as the insufficiency to manage shared resources across multiple product development projects, and the increase in the volatility of future product costs. Finally, we observe that the changes in product architecture emphasizing modular designs, component commonality, and process standardization resulted in a change in transaction characteristics such as an increase in task uncertainty, interdependence, and asset specificity. The company also redesigned the buyer-supplier relationship to respond to these changed transaction characteristics and to effectively guide joint product and process designs.
Keywords: Strategic cost management, Structural cost management, Target costing, Mass customization, Product development