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Integrating knowledge with suppliers at the R&D-manufacturing interface

David T. Rosell (Department of Management and Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)
Nicolette Lakemond (Department of Management and Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)
S. Nazli Wasti (Department of Business Administration, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 25 February 2014




Many manufacturing firms source components and subsystems from suppliers. Consequently, the suppliers' product and manufacturing knowledge is a central concern at the interface between R&D and manufacturing. This paper aims to specifically investigate how supplier knowledge is integrated and what role trust plays in knowledge integration with suppliers at the R&D-manufacturing interface.


The study is based on qualitative case studies of two different collaborations with suppliers at one firm.


Two distinct processes are identified. First, capturing represents knowledge integration through decoupling, for which a basic level of trust specifically with regard to the competence of the supplier is necessary. Capturing can take place through interactions that are limited in time and scope. Second, joint learning represents a coupled knowledge integration process and takes place during a more extended period of time preceding and following the R&D-manufacturing interface and builds on relational-based trust.

Practical implications

The interface between R&D and manufacturing needs to be extended to include a focus on suppliers' contributions in terms of product and manufacturing knowledge. The choice for suitable knowledge integration processes needs to be guided by concerns about the level of trust and the character of the supplier contributions.


The paper adds new insights to previous literature by distinguishing between different types of knowledge integration processes and levels of trust. It bridges the gap between innovation and operations management and clearly shows that the interface between R&D and manufacturing crosses organizational borders.



This paper is part of the special issue on “Managing the Manufacturing – R&D Interface” Guest Edited by Thomas Lager and Jean-Philippe Rennard.

The authors are very grateful for the access provided by CARCOM to gather data about their product development project and collaborations with suppliers. This study forms part of the research project KIC – Knowledge Integration and Collaboration with Suppliers – which is funded by the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA) and Ragnar Söderberg Foundation, whom the authors would like to thank.


T. Rosell, D., Lakemond, N. and Nazli Wasti, S. (2014), "Integrating knowledge with suppliers at the R&D-manufacturing interface", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 240-257.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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