To read this content please select one of the options below:

Internalization Theory and the Governance of the Global Factory

Multinational Enterprises, Markets and Institutional Diversity

ISBN: 978-1-78441-422-1, eISBN: 978-1-78441-421-4

Publication date: 25 October 2014



This chapter discusses the global factory paradigm. We show how mainstream international business (IB) thinking, namely, internalization theory, can guide multinational enterprise (MNE) strategic decision-making in the context of a global factory network.


We identify the key assumptions made in the global factory paradigm about the fine slicing of economic activities and the related implications for the ownership status and location of each activity. In order to overcome the global factory paradigm’s relative lack of predictive capacity, as compared to internalization theory, we propose an asset-bundling approach. This approach uses a clear and unambiguous criterion, namely, the tradability of resources (and resource combinations) to determine which sets of activities can best be left to external market contracting or should on the contrary be internalized on the basis of efficiency considerations.


We describe the enhanced role of developing/transition countries in the functioning of the global economy and show that these countries represent an increasing share of worldwide economic activities. Given this macrolevel development, the global factory, as a complex organizational form governing both internal activities and contracts with external parties, is rapidly gaining in importance. We describe, at the conceptual level, the strengths and weaknesses of the global factory and propose a “decision dynamics” matrix to support global factory, senior managers’ strategies in the realm of ownership status and location.

Research implications

Future research on the MNE should focus on in-depth analysis of firms that embody “global factory”-type characteristics in order to understand better the evolution of this type of company and to capture the close requisite links among the focal firm, external contracting parties, and the broader environment. Such research should also lead to a better understanding of innovative resource combination processes and the transferability of non-location-bound firm-specific advantages (FSAs) across the global factory network.

Practical implications

In the global factory, the MNE head office assumes the role of resource orchestrator and is responsible for key strategic decisions on ownership status and location. Here, the head office must assess critically the operations that are part of the MNE’s value chain and reflect on the firm’s international dispersion of economic activities on an ongoing basis, given a myriad of broad environmental changes and changes in external competitive pressures. Our “decision dynamics” matrix provides a simple but effective managerial tool supporting MNE ownership status and location decisions, but the head office’s capability to make these decisions should not be overestimated.


We explicitly link internalization theory with the global factory paradigm and explore unresolved issues in the relevant literature. Internalization theory prescribes the optimal ownership status and location for each economic activity considered. The theory focuses on the bundling of firm-level resources and complementary ones held by external parties, for each fine-sliced economic activity. It also considers explicitly the nature of the linkages among these activities.



Hillemann, J. and Verbeke, A. (2014), "Internalization Theory and the Governance of the Global Factory", Multinational Enterprises, Markets and Institutional Diversity (Progress in International Business Research, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 27-48.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited