Transferring knowledge of manufacturing techniques within a subsidiary of a multi-national corporation


With the growth of the multi-national corporation (MNCs) has come the need to understand how parent companies transfer knowledge to, and manage the operations of, their subsidiaries. This is of particular interest to manufacturing companies transferring their operations overseas. Japanese companies in particular have been pioneering in the development of techniques such as Kaizen, and elements of the Toyota Production System (TPS) such as Kanban, which can be useful tools for transferring the ethos of Japanese manufacturing and maintaining quality and control in overseas subsidiaries. Much has been written about the process of transferring Japanese manufacturing techniques but much less is understood about how the subsidiaries themselves – which are required to make use of such techniques – actually acquire and incorporate them into their operations. This research therefore takes the perspective of the subsidiary in examining how knowledge of manufacturing techniques is transferred from the parent company within its surrounding (subsidiary). There is clearly a need to take a practice-based view to understanding how the local managers and operatives incorporate this knowledge into their working practices. A particularly relevant theme is how subsidiaries both replicate and adapt knowledge from parents and the circumstances in which replication or adaptation occurs. However, it is shown that there is a lack of research which takes an in-depth look at these processes from the perspective of the participants themselves. This is particularly important as much knowledge literature argues that knowledge is best viewed as enacted and learned in practice – and therefore transferred in person – rather than by the transfer of abstract and de-contextualised information. What is needed, therefore, is further research which makes an in-depth examination of what happens at the subsidiary level for this transfer process to occur. There is clearly a need to take a practice-based view to understanding how the local managers and operatives incorporate knowledge about manufacturing techniques into their working practices. In depth qualitative research was, therefore, conducted in the subsidiary of a Japanese multinational, Gambatte Corporation, involving three main manufacturing initiatives (or philosophies), namely 'TPS‘, 'TPM‘ and 'TS‘. The case data were derived from 52 in-depth interviews with project members, moderate-participant observations, and documentations and presented and analysed in episodes format. This study contributes to our understanding of knowledge transfer in relation to the approaches and circumstances of adaptation and replication of knowledge within the subsidiary, how the whole process is developed, and also how 'innovation‘ takes place. This study further understood that the process of knowledge transfer could be explained as a process of Reciprocal Provider-Learner Exchange that can be linked to the Experiential Learning Theory.

Divisions: Aston Business School > Operations & Information Management
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Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: knowledge transfer,subsidiary in MNC,in-depth practice-based view,Malaysia
Completed Date: 2013
Authors: Alias, Jamsari


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