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Integrating distribution, sales and services in manufacturing: a comparative case study

Torben Juul Andersen (Department of International Economics, Government and Business, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Søren Bering (Department of Strategy and Innovation, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 17 January 2023




The aim of this study is to gain important insights on integration oriented servitization identifying essential dimensions of effective structures, coordination approaches and management controls adopted by manufacturing firms that integrate forward towards distribution, sales and services.


The study adopts a theory-guided qualitative abductive methodology to conduct a comparative case-study of two manufacturing firms in the same industry integrating forward to enhance servitization but with significantly different performance outcomes. The findings are uncovered from a broad spectrum of primary and secondary data spanning two decades.


The consistently high-performing firm puts equal emphasis on production and downstream distribution, sales and services and motivate individuals to engage in entrepreneurial efforts to develop combined product-services offerings that are valued by customers. The underperforming firm prioritizes operating efficiency driven by engineering prowess and managed through planning, standardization, authority and central controls.

Research limitations/implications

The study is based on two representative firms operating in a specific industry context, which has ramifications for the generalizability of results and calls for replication studies to substantiate and extend findings.

Practical implications

Forward integration from manufacturing into distribution, sales and services represents a specific servitization strategy that needs structure and particular coordination approaches to be effective in complex dynamic product-markets. The characteristics of the outperforming case company provide useful insights on effective integrated servitization efforts.

Social implications

Forward integration is a commonly adopted strategy among manufacturing firms that constitute the backbone of modern economies and effective governance of these integration oriented servitization efforts has important implications for societal value creation.


This study builds on rationales from management science including economic theory, corporate strategy and different micro-foundational lenses and thereby hone recent calls for broader theoretical foundations to enlighten studies of the servitization puzzle.



The authors thank the Editor, Tobias Schoenherr for a very effective and constructive review process, and two anonymous reviewers for their many helpful inputs.


Andersen, T.J. and Bering, S. (2023), "Integrating distribution, sales and services in manufacturing: a comparative case study", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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