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Knowledge Integration and Innovation in Buyer-Supplier Collaborations
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Project management, Innovations and Entrepreneurship . Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
2013 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Research indicates buyer-supplier collaborations in new product development (NPD) can have a positive impact on innovation. From a knowledge based view, it is argued that suppliers add a complementary knowledge base that is combined with the buyer’s knowledge. But what does the supplier contribution actually consist of? And more importantly: How is this supplier knowledge integrated into the NPD process? This is not clear in the literature. Different supplier inputs may imply different knowledge integration mechanisms and practices.

The purpose of this licentiate thesis is to investigate how supplier knowledge is integrated into the NPD process. The focus is to explore how knowledge intensive manufacturing firms integrate different supplier inputs in collaborative NPD projects by using different knowledge integration mechanisms.

To fulfil the aim of thesis a qualitative approach has been applied and by studying NPD processes in three industrial sectors. An extensive literature review and a focus group meeting are followed by two qualitative case studies that are based mainly on interviews with keyrepresentatives in the buyer-supplier collaborations. The first study investigates different supplier contributions by categorizing different supplier inputs. The second study – which is the largest part of the overall study - investigates how supplier knowledge is integrated in NPD collaborations using different integration mechanisms. Here, six NPD collaborations, representing the automotive, the energy, and the telecom sectors, are studied and compared, in order to understand the integration processes and the different knowledge integration mechanisms. The third study investigates the role of trust in capturing supplier knowledge. Here, two NPD collaborations which can be considered to be polar-cases in terms of scope and depth are compared in order to explore and explain the role of trust in the integration processes.

Altogether these studies lay a foundation for a model of knowledge integration between the buyer and the supplier in NPD collaborations. The model identifies two main strategies for integrating supplier knowledge – knowledge absorption and joint knowledge accumulation.

Knowledge absorption concerns innovation processes where the contribution from suppliers is focused on product- and process improvements, i.e. incremental input. Here, the development is dictated by clear specifications. Supplier contacts take place during a limited period of time and are restricted to certain phases in NPD projects. Thus, the main knowledge integration mechanism used is sequencing. In these situations, the buyer actually tries to capture and absorb the knowledge of the supplier at a specific point in the process. A basic level of trust, based on the reputation the supplier has for competence is sufficient.

Joint knowledge accumulation, on the other hand, is how firms manage more radical input from suppliers, such as new technology or new design. In these cases, knowledge integration strategies extend over a longer period of time, throughout several phases of the NPD project. There is a high degree of interaction between the people involved, to find new solutions. The main knowledge integration mechanism is group problem-solving. Knowledge is jointly accumulated by sharing, combining, and creating new knowledge in open processes. In these cases, a profound level of trust is required.

When integrating supplier knowledge in innovation, management has to consider the possible and preferred outcome of the collaboration; it might be a commercial deal to provide for a temporary access to knowledge, or it might be a long-term alliance, where joint learning is an aim. In the first case, a traditional NPD process with clear specifications, using sequencing and technological interfaces, will be adequate. In the second case, focus should be on interpersonal problem solving between trustworthy individuals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2013. , 87 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1575
Keyword [en]
Knowledge integration, innovation, buyer-supplier collaborations, NPD
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88028Local ID: LiU-TEK-LIC 2013:9ISBN: 978-91-7519-696-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-88028DiVA: diva2:601357
Presentation
2013-02-15, ACAS, A-huset, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-01-29 Created: 2013-01-29 Last updated: 2015-03-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Collaborative innovation with suppliers – A conceptual model for characterizing supplier contributions to NPD
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Collaborative innovation with suppliers – A conceptual model for characterizing supplier contributions to NPD
2012 (English)In: International Journal of Technology Intelligence and Planning (IJTIP), ISSN 1740-2832, E-ISSN 1740-2840, Vol. 8, no 2, 197-214 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

It is widely acknowledged that suppliers contribute positively to innovation in New Product Development (NPD). However, it remains rather unclear what suppliers actually contribute to innovation. Based on a literature review focusing on 80 articles and a focus group meeting with strategic purchasing managers, a conceptual framework is developed categorising different supplier inputs to innovation. This model is formulated by characterising supplier inputs on a component level and an architectural level, related to knowledge extension and knowledge reconfiguration, respectively. Further, supplier inputs can be incremental or radical in nature, resulting in either a dependence on the supplier’s process knowledge or the supplier’s technology knowledge. These situations imply different conditions for knowledge integration.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
InderScience Publishers, 2012
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-68314 (URN)10.1504/IJTIP.2012.048477 (DOI)
Conference
Earlier version presented at the R&D Management Conference, 28-30 June
Projects
Knowledge Integration and Collaboration (KIC)
Available from: 2012-08-27 Created: 2011-05-18 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved
2. Strategies For Managing Supplier Knowledge In Collaborative Innovation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strategies For Managing Supplier Knowledge In Collaborative Innovation
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The concept of open innovation emphasizes the importance of inflow and outflow of ideas and resources for the competiveness of the firm. In fact, firms are becoming more and more dependent on external knowledge and collaborations. Therefore, more insight is required into external knowledge integration strategies in innovation. In this paper we aim to identify, and conceptually characterize, different strategies for integrating supplier knowledge in open and collaborative innovation. Six buyer-supplier collaborations in new product development (NPD) are studied. These cases represent explorative and exploitive processes for integrating supplier knowledge in the mid- and high-tech manufacturing industry. The findings indicate that traditional sequential NPD strategies and practices are not sufficient for managing open and collaborative innovation processes. Different strategies and additional practices need to be considered. In this study, two main strategies to manage supplier knowledge in innovation are identified and characterized, namely knowledge absorption and joint knowledge accumulation. The first strategy emphasizes technical interfaces for the access of knowledge and the second strategy the joint learning between the buyer and the supplier.

National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88026 (URN)
Available from: 2013-02-19 Created: 2013-01-29 Last updated: 2015-03-04Bibliographically approved
3. Capturing Supplier Knowledge in New Product Development: The Role of Trust
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Capturing Supplier Knowledge in New Product Development: The Role of Trust
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Purpose – When manufacturing firms source components and subsystems from suppliers, the R&D – manufacturing interface becomes not only a company internal matter, but crosses organizational borders. Consequently, suppliers fulfill and important role in the interface between R&D and manufacturing as their knowledge needs to be accessed and used. Trust has been found to be important for integrating suppliers´ knowledge in new product development (NPD). This paper specifically investigates the role of trust for capturing supplier knowledge in NPD in different situations.

Design/methodology/approach – The study is based on qualitative case studies of two polar NPD collaborations at one company, in order to study the role of trust in different situations. Findings - Different types of trust promote different types of knowledge integration, either capturing supplier knowledge by accessing it or accumulating new knowledge by joint knowledge integration.

Practical implications - In order to manage the interface between suppliers and manufacturing firms, management has to consider the prerequisites provided by the type of trust and the requirements of the development project. When interfaces with suppliers need to be based on joint learning, a profound level of trust is necessary as the interface relies on interpersonal contacts between trustworthy individuals. In contrast, a basic level of trust is a prerequisite for an interface designed around a commercial deal. In this situation, technological interfaces might be adequate as supporting mechanisms.

Originality/value - The paper contributes and adds new insights to previous literature that emphasizes the importance of trust in NPD collaborations by distinguishing between different levels of trust in different interfaces with suppliers. It also bridges the gap between innovation and operations management, and clearly shows that the interface between R&D and manufacturing crosses organizational borders. Accessing and integrating suppliers’ knowledge is emphasized as an important challenge.

Keyword
Trust, Knowledge integration, Supplier collaboration, New product development, Buyer-supplier interface
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88027 (URN)
Available from: 2013-02-19 Created: 2013-01-29 Last updated: 2015-03-04Bibliographically approved

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