روند و شکل گیری توانایی یادگیری در روابط خریدار تامین کننده فرامرزی: یک مطالعه موردی کیفی از شرکت های فن آوری تایوانی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|21262||2013||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Business Review, Available online 4 December 2013
This paper examines the alliance learning process from the perspective of local suppliers in a Global Production Network (GPN). After reviewing critical literature in the field, we employed a qualitative case research method to explore alliance learning antecedents, process and outcomes. Six Taiwanese technological firms with different positions in a GPN were examined and we found that these well-performing firms integrate both inter- and intra-organizational learning, as well as a bi-directional learning process. A framework of cross-level knowledge flow is proposed with refined alliance learning antecedents and outcomes. We also extend the typology of GPN positioning level. Propositions are suggested with results discussed for future research.
Recent global shifts have directed much attention to research interests on studying the rising power of enterprises from emerging markets (Mathews, 2006 and Yamin, 2011). Global Production Network (GPN) captures the concept of the interconnected functions and operations in value chains across firm boundaries and national borders (Ernst and Kim, 2002 and Henderson and Nadvi, 2011). Within the literature of GPN, for decades many multinational corporations (MNCs) have gradually given up their in-house operations and increasingly used contractual modes (e.g. contract manufacturing alliances or licensing) to shift their production to local suppliers, especially from emerging markets. Besides being popularly known for their manufacturing capacity, enterprises from emerging markets are also moving upside in the value chain, switching from Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) to Original Design Manufacturing (ODM), and some even to Original Brand Manufacturing (OBM) (Alcacer & Oxley, 2013). In this more and more complex GPN, international players, often MNCs, first started by outsourcing low-value-adding activities such as manufacturing to emerging economies in order to focus on their core business and competence. Gradually this simple manufacture outsourcing was upgraded to more value-adding activity, design, which contained technology innovation elements. Before then, MNCs from developed countries controlled marketing, customer and distribution channels, and key innovative technology as their competitive advantages. However, the emerging powers of MNCs from developing countries have become the new phenomenon in this global scenario. Despite the great interest in better understanding this recent phenomenon, few empirical studies have been performed to achieve this (Fang and Zou, 2010 and Li and Kozhikode, 2008). Specifically, in the literature of GPN, how the international alliance learning process and local capability formation are carried out is under-researched (Ernst & Kim, 2002), not to mention from the perspective of emerging economies’ MNCs and how they went through the process to achieve value upgrading in the GPN positioning. The changing phenomenon in the global production network is forging international strategic alliances (ISAs) of different scopes for the interests of both MNC buyers and local suppliers. Within this context, the learning and knowledge acquisition have been asserted as important rationales for the formation of ISAs, and as critical in the outsourcing process and hence to the ISA performance (Hamel, 1991, Lyles and Salk, 1996, Norman, 2004 and Sluyts et al., 2011). Nonetheless, the drivers and consequences of such an important phenomenon have been less systematically studied from the perspective of suppliers in resource-limited countries (Alcacer and Oxley, 2013 and Ernst and Kim, 2002). Taking this perspective, we attempt to uncover the alliance learning process which assisted technology firms from emerging economies to upgrade their value-adding in climbing the value-chain ladder. Considering that Asia has been a region of economic interest for Western society (Kharas, 2010), Taiwan, as part of Greater China of today's emerging economic zone, and part of the EAGLEs key emerging countries (BBVA, 2013), has been chosen as the focus of our study to examine their indigenous technological firms. The special interest in studying Taiwanese technological firms is due to their major control of global market share in the information technology (IT) industry (Liu et al., 2010 and Mathews, 2006). As one of the most relevant industries in the GPN, the IT industry and its peripheral industries has been the driver for Taiwan's economy, where there is a lack of natural resources and a small domestic market. Given its particular situation in the IT global production network, we expect that the study of Taiwanese technological firms could enhance our understanding of the alliance learning process in this globalizing world. Interest in the evolution of global supply chains is fuelled by the concern that some local suppliers may start to apply their “learning by supplying” experiences to become viable players to produce their own-brand products (Alcacer & Oxley, 2013). For example, Taiwan-based Inventec (among the world's largest manufacturers of notebook computers, PCs, and servers for market leaders such as Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba) recently started to sell computers in Taiwan and China under its own brand name (Khanna & Palepu, 2006). This phenomenon raises an intriguing question: To what extent are these local firms able to leverage their supplying experiences to build capabilities and eventually achieve own-brand's success? Relevant empirical research on this is still limited. In this paper, we aim to remedy this situation by providing new evidence into the debates about the impact of alliance learning on evolving supply relationships. We believe that the literature dealing with antecedents, learning process and alliance learning outcomes has not been integrated in a systematic fashion, leaving gaps in the understanding of the links among the concepts. The questions of how knowledge is created, connected, and applied and how the interplay of the different factors affects capabilities of local suppliers in ISAs remain widely unexplored (Meier, 2011). To bridge this gap, this paper attempts to explore the underlying issues on antecedent factors influencing alliance learning and learning process, which determine the alliance learning outcomes, to further contribute to a convergence between different domains of research. To fill the above research gaps, our study specifically pursues the following research questions: (a) What factors influence a local supplier's ability to develop capabilities? (b) How does a local supplier learn from their MNC buyers? (c) Can a local supplier enhance their capabilities in a quasi-market, and asymmetric alliances? (d) Do the same types of alliance relationships that support product innovation also lead to a successful launch of own-brand products for a local supplier?
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Our study has focused on the type of learning from an alliance partner as classified by Inkpen and Tsang (2007). The results of the qualitative study on indigenous technological firms in Taiwan have highlighted the relevance of learning in ISAs. As a consequence, Taiwanese firms have significantly enhanced their performance, which is evident as shown in Table 1, with their enhancement of capability and network position. Over decades of learning experience from their international partners, Taiwanese technological firms have positioned themselves well in today's global production network with significant market share. Moreover, their traditional position as a learning partner in the alliance partnership has also changed and converted them into a teaching partner sometimes in the alliances in specific technological areas, with capability to jointly develop research with their MNC partners. Regarding our first research question on the factors influencing a local supplier's ability to develop capabilities, most of identified themes coincide with the current literature, though that is not always the case. For example, current literature often uses the term ‘partner characteristics’ for teaching partners’ protection of their knowledge and learning partners’ learning intent and absorptive capacity (Inkpen and Tsang, 2007 and Oxley and Sampson, 2004). In our results, we group these into ‘strategic characteristics’ considering that opening knowledge access is a strategic choice of the teaching partners; in addition, the learning intent is a strategic vision for learning partners, and absorptive capacity is a strategic enabling capability. Regarding some other strategic or partner characteristics, current literature often refers to knowledge protection and transparency for teaching partners, recognizing their opposite positions. For knowledge protection, it has been considered as an important issue in alliance learning since there has been unintended loss of knowledge (Oxley & Sampson, 2004), which potentially creates new and stronger competitors. Due to the increasing awareness in deciding the extent to which knowledge could or should be protected, it becomes more and more a strategic choice of teaching partners in deciding the degree of knowledge openness to share or protect that knowledge. Inkpen and Tsang (2007) refer to transparency as possibly not an outcome of any intentional actions. For instance, Hamel (1991) found that Western and Japanese partners have systematic asymmetries in transparency. In this study, our analysis does not consider them as opposite variables on the same continuum, since factors determining and characterizing them (i.e. knowledge protection versus knowledge transparency) vary significantly. The studied Taiwanese cases also addressed the differences between Western and Japanese partners and this is classified in the subtheme of cultural differences in the theme of partner relationship, based on above-mentioned rationale. In the theme of partner relationship, only trust and cultural difference have been highlighted as antecedent factors. Trust is considered relevant especially in international business given that cultural difference may intervene to create more potential conflict (Zhang et al., 2009). Most studied firms have considered that, especially in the tacit knowledge acquisition process, when the knowledge acquired is often not explicitly specified in the knowledge transfer contract, then the teaching partner is not obliged to make everything completely accessible. Hamel, Doz & Prahalad (1989: p. 134) suggested that successful companies should “never forget that their new partners may be out to disarm them”. This has also been the fear of MNCs as perceived by Taiwanese technological firms. In our analysis, trust is not only a learning antecedent, but also an active participator in the alliance learning process to influence its final outcomes. Together with the intervention of cultural complication in ISAs (Inkpen and Tsang, 2007 and Zhang and Lopez-Pascual, 2012), different tactics were proposed by studied firms in our analysis to enhance the trust relationship within different cultural contexts. In terms of knowledge characteristics, we confirm two dimensions used in current literature: tacitness and specificity. Tacitness has been defined as the extent to which knowledge can be codified and thus transmitted and communicated in a formal and systematic language (Simonin, 1999). Tacit knowledge is proposed to make knowledge transfer more difficult in cross-border alliances (Kotabe et al., 2007, Nielsen and Nielsen, 2009 and Subramaniam and Venkatraman, 2001), while explicit knowledge is much easier to transfer. Our interviewed managers seem to be experienced in handling the tacit knowledge acquisition process and practice this in the knowledge conversion process. Besides using socialization, often this is also resolved by internalizing experienced managers or face-to-face apprenticeship. In terms of specificity, Williamson (1991: 281) defined asset specificity as the degree to which an asset can be redeployed to alternative uses and by alternative users without any sacrifice of productive value. Sometimes, specific investments were needed for a new alliance project. Negotiation on whether these investments could be redeployed for other purposes was necessary to trade off with the investments and profits to be generated from contract alliance. The buyer-supplier relationship is enhanced through such specialized investments. Regarding our research question on how a local supplier learns from their MNC buyers, Fig. 1 illustrates the knowledge flow and learning process in the strategic alliance. Eventually it contributes to our better understanding of the learning process in ISAs. In the alliance learning process, most companies hold product meetings, seminars or training to encourage inter-organizational and intra-organizational interaction across project teams. Through different types of knowledge conversions, knowledge is transferred inter-organizationally and intra-organizationally. In the knowledge conversion process, trust plays an especially relevant role when the knowledge flow is between organizations (Zhang et al., 2009), while the system approach operates when the flow is within an organization. The learning and knowledge transfer are thus upgraded from individual to team and to organizational level. In practice, cross border alliances between global buyers and Taiwanese suppliers are classified into different types of cooperation. One distinction is the supplier's involvement in OEM manufacturing and another distinction is the supplier's involvement in ODM manufacturing. A local supplier enhances their capabilities in a quasi-market and asymmetric alliances through the alliance learning process mentioned above. Although each case has its own particular alliance history, each has acquired technology and learned to innovate incrementally by following a similar route from OEM to ODM. Most firms began with OEM arrangements because local firms were strong in lower-cost manufacturing but lacked their own technological capabilities. ISA learning modes adopt the form of ‘received learning’ in the single direction of knowledge flow from MNCs to local firms since MNCs are more advanced in product technology. Local firms acquire manufacturing-related knowledge, such as process technology, quality control, inventory management, benchmarking of productivity, testing, and product prototyping. Even though these activities do not involve formal R&D, the collaborations with the global firms still facilitate considerable learning and innovation. In the IT industry, the product-life-cycle has been cut to the bare minimum. Speed-to-market requires that key design information be shared more freely between the buyers and suppliers. Local firms learned more about product concept, product design know-how, and product trend. Most of the IT firms in Taiwan became innovative in product design and established themselves as credible ODM suppliers. Indigenous Taiwanese technological firms take the main responsibility for the R&D activities or joint-development with MNC firms under ODM deals. The ISA learning mode has shifted to ‘integrated learning’ to combine each side's knowledge and capability. These findings show that different types of knowledge and learning occur through different modes of collaborations between alliance partners. Thus, our proposed Table 3 extends the existing product development capability transfer's level of Leonard (1995) into a more comprehensive summary for global production network capability enhancement, by adding characteristics of co-development of design and OBM capability. Specifically regarding the types of alliance relationships that support product innovation and also lead to a successful launch of own-brand products for a local supplier, our findings indicate that these are two distinct pathways for technological and marketing capability development. Our results point out that local suppliers enhance their product innovation capabilities as their supply experience accumulates over time. However, evidence on marketing learning is more ambivalent. While most local suppliers attempt to introduce their own-brand products, few have generated large sale volumes. Our findings also reflect Alcacer and Oxley's (2013) perspectives to examine local suppliers’ accumulation of technological and marketing capability separately, since it appears that these two processes stand for different “loci” for supplier learning. From analyzed data, we also detected that managers from different firms coincided in several critical controversies in management. We summarized them into three groups: The first is the controversy from the perspective of multinationals between sharing knowledge and protecting it to keep competitive advantages. Theoretically, MNCs would like to keep their core-technology which is their core competence. But in practice, the investment in a new generation factory which needs high manufacturing volume to keep efficiency and be profitable is very costly; often it is more convenient to outsource the manufacturing part. Thus, it is inevitable to share part of the core technology with suppliers in order to make manufacturing possible. In this trade-off process, negotiation becomes critical to finalize the business deal. The second and the third groups are from the perspective of local suppliers. The second is the controversy between knowledge protection for clients and knowledge disclosure within the organization. On one hand, the confidentiality of clients’ data and knowledge is crucial not only for the business and further trust development for more business deals, but also it is part of the legal agreement as an obligation. On the other hand, gained knowledge needs to be divulged internally in order to enhance overall organizational capability for further development. Thus this controversy needs to be handled with delicacy and sensitivity in order to be able to satisfy both customer and organizational knowledge needs. Often, it is resolved with lead time, restriction in knowledge accessibility, and exchanging knowledge without specifying sensitive data. The third controversy is between moving to a higher GPN positioning and competing with current clients. This is especially important when moving from an ODM to an OBM position, as potentially the firm will compete with current clients who place business orders. However, improving positions in GPN is often considered a performance objective that local suppliers seek to achieve. Our studied firms either chose not to upgrade their GPN position in order to please current clients, or to separate different companies with totally independent management for different activities, in order not to affect previous business in a lower level of GPN position. Due to the importance of economy of scale in the globalized production chain to maintain its efficiency, manufacturers investing in a new generation factory with high production capability and the latest technology have better negotiating power in comparison with decades ago when they principally played a learner role in the GPN. As well, the increasing role played as designers in Taiwanese enterprises also shows that their enhancement of product innovation capability empowers their positions in the negotiation process. Moreover, these three identified controversies and their management highlight the increasing complexity in the knowledge management process with a shifting paradox to uncover. Clear-rule business becomes fuzzy and ambiguous with the rising power of enterprises from emerging and developing markets. The upcoming enterprises from emerging economies upgrade their position in the global production chain with their capability enhanced and they are changing the previously established market rules. Paradoxical management becomes increasingly important in the globalized business world since the augmented complexity reflects no-clear-rule in the market and controversies need to be constantly managed in order to pursue further growth (Chen, 2002).