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Superior position equal to greater influence? The moderating role of technological complexity

Yaowu Sun (Business School, Hunan University, Changsha, China)
Xiaoye Gong (Business School, Hunan University, Changsha, China)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 28 February 2020

Issue publication date: 26 November 2020



Technological standardization can promote the development of complex products and systems (CoPS) (e.g. large aircraft, high-speed trains). Many studies argue that a superior network position contributes to improving a firm's ability to innovate; however, few studies have considered the aforementioned line of research as falling under the purview of CoPS standardization. This study focuses on CoPS integrators, which hold the most important enterprise roles in CoPS manufacturing and innovation, to analyze whether the two types of superior positions (i.e. the central position and the brokerage position) help the integrator influence the standardization process in a process moderated by technological complexity.


Considering the outstanding market performance of the railway transportation industry in China, the abundance of cooperative activities in this industry, and data availability, we adopt integrators from this industry as samples for the empirical analysis in this study. A negative binomial regression analysis with random effects was conducted to analyze the acquired panel data.


The results show that the central position has an inverted U-shaped effect on the integrator's ability to influence standardization and that the brokerage position has a positive effect. We also find that the underlying mechanism of the two types of network positions impacts the integrator's ability to influence standardization and that it has two modes: knowledge integration in related domains and knowledge integration in nonrelated domains. Moreover, technological complexity attenuates the effect of the central position and strengthens the effect of the brokerage position on the integrator's ability to influence standardization.


This paper contributes to the theoretical research on CoPS manufacturing and innovation and complements knowledge-based theory. The results could prove enlightening for integrators facing complex technological environments, allowing them to establish a reasonable external knowledge search strategy and choose appropriate cooperation partners according to their knowledge domains.



We sincerely thank Sai Yayavaram, Jian Li, Peizhen Chen, and Jinyan Wen, who gave us very helpful advice. This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant numbers 71472061, 71872063].


Sun, Y. and Gong, X. (2020), "Superior position equal to greater influence? The moderating role of technological complexity", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 31 No. 7, pp. 1457-1480.



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