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Integrating knowledge with suppliers at the R D manufacturing interface

Wasti Pamuksuz, Syeda Nazlı
Purpose - Many manufacturing firms source components and subsystems from suppliers. Consequently, the suppliers' product and manufacturing knowledge is a central concern at the interface between R&D and manufacturing. This paper aims to specifically investigate how supplier knowledge is integrated and what role trust plays in knowledge integration with suppliers at the R&D-manufacturing interface. Design/methodology/approach - The study is based on qualitative case studies of two different collaborations with suppliers at one firm. Findings - Two distinct processes are identified. First, capturing represents knowledge integration through decoupling,for which a basic level of trust specifically with regard to the competence of the supplier is necessary. Capturing can take place through interactions that are limited in time and scope. Second, joint learning represents a coupled knowledge integration process and takes place during a more extended period of time preceding and following the R&D-manufacturing interface and builds on relational-based trust. Practical implications - The interface between R&D and manufacturing needs to be extended to include a focus on suppliers' contributions in terms of product and manufacturing knowledge. The choice for suitable knowledge integration processes needs to be guided by concerns about the level of trust and the character of the supplier contributions. Originality/value - The paper adds new insights to previous literature by distinguishing between different types of knowledge integration processes and levels of trust. It bridges the gap between innovation and operations management and clearly shows that the interface between R&D and manufacturing crosses organizational borders.