Specialization and commonalization in multi-branded manufacturing corporations

Christer Karlsson (Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Martin Sköld (Centre for Innovation and Operations Management, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Publication date: 2 January 2018



The purpose of this paper is to identify areas and issues for management to consider in balancing specialization and commonalization in large manufacturing corporations with multiple brands from a strategic R&D and manufacturing point of view.


Three global manufacturing corporations from the automotive sector are used as a strategic sample composing three sequential clinical research projects. The data come from complementary data-gathering methods combining documents and interviews and workshops with top executives, project leaders, platform managers and product brand managers, thus enabling triangulation.


The study shows that managing manufacturing corporations with multiple brands is not just on a scale between full specialization and full commonalization but instead has its own logic of categorizations and portfolio formations. In order to develop the value of the brand portfolio, management must simultaneously embrace and address a number of highly integrated corporate values and highly differentiated brand company values.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes primarily by relating economy of scale in relation to the need for differentiation of products and brands that have different values, customers and market positions. A model for balancing commonalization and specialization provides several opportunities for further research and development; however, generalizations are issue and context specific.

Practical implications

The critical issues in balancing how to deal with specialization and commonalization in a company with multiple brands are explored and summarized in a framework for the practitioner to use in analyzing a real situation.


Previous literature focuses on the maximization of synergies within one brand, missing the specific dynamics of large manufacturing corporations with many entities, such as individual products and brands. This paper adds knowledge regarding how to balance synergies from commonalization with important objectives to preserve the specialization and distinctiveness of each product brand.



Christer Karlsson and Martin Sköld (2018) "Specialization and commonalization in multi-branded manufacturing corporations", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 67-89

Download as .RIS


: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-01-2016-0045



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