Inter-firm knowledge transfer in international supply chain management

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School of Economics | Master's thesis
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International Business
Kansainvälinen liiketoiminta
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OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The primary objective of this thesis is to assess whether, both in theory and practice, knowledge transfer can be implemented into the supply chain management context, and more practically, whether collaborative supply chain management practices can be utilized to effectuate inter-firm knowledge transfer between intermediaries in a supply chain. A secondary objective is to investigate whether knowledge transfer between autonomous companies is sought after and beneficial to firms. Emphasis is laid on the international aspect of both knowledge transfer and supply chain management. METHODOLOGY The study builds on an extensive literature review and a qualitative empirical investigation. In the literature review the two concepts of knowledge transfer and supply chain management are first presented separately and then consolidated. The literature review also includes the discussion of a theoretical model addressing the secondary research objective. For the empirical research a broad online survey has been chosen as research instrument, providing both quantitative and qualitative data. The survey has been sent to more than 200 supply chain management professionals yielding 20 extensive sets of answers. FINDINGS Both the theoretical and empirical parts of this study have shown that inter-firm knowledge transfer is sought after and can be beneficial to all intermediaries in the supply chain. As its main contribution, the study proposes a selection of several concrete tools for effectuating knowledge transfer. The results of the empirical investigation suggest that the supply chain management context is an appropriate environment for sharing various types of knowledge as well as for knowledge transfer with different supply chain partners and in different directions. However, there seems to be a slight tendency towards operational knowledge and reciprocal knowledge transfer with key suppliers. Survey respondents seem to have a proactive and optimistic approach towards managing international relations. The findings serve as a foundation for further research, especially related to the actual effectiveness of suggested practices.
knowledge transfer, supply chain management, inter-firm collaboration
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