Appraising interdisciplinary contributions to theory for collaborative (manufacturing) networks: still a long way to go?

Dekkers, R. and Kühnle, H. (2012) Appraising interdisciplinary contributions to theory for collaborative (manufacturing) networks: still a long way to go? Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 23(8), pp. 1090-1128. (doi:10.1108/17410381211276899)

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Purpose – Progress in theory building in the field of collaborative networks in manufacturing is preponderantly seen in contributions from disciplines outside manufacturing science. Interdisciplinary research is one way of accelerating the development of appropriate theory for this emerging domain where industrial practice has moved beyond the state of the art of scientific knowledge for establishing workable, competitive solutions. The purpose of this paper is to examine to what extent interdisciplinary research has contributed to a better understanding of collaborative (manufacturing) networks.

Design/methodology/approach – To find out more about provenances of on-going studies, to identify clusters of contributions and to provide direction for future work of researchers in this domain, publications of the past 22 years have been evaluated. To retrieve these contributions, a structured literature review has been undertaken by applying keywords to selected databases and using a strictly defined stepwise procedure. In total, 202 publications of all kinds have been evaluated.

Findings – From the analysis of the results, it appears that most interdisciplinary contributions to collaborative (manufacturing) networks rely on one original outside discipline for either developing solutions or advancing theoretical insight. Consequently, and after further analysis, it seems that researchers in collaborative networks hardly resort to multi-disciplinary approaches, unless “natural”; further advances might arrive from stimulating these multi-disciplinary avenues rather than sticking to more mono-disciplinary, and less risky, takes on both applications and theoretical insight. A more detailed investigation of the value of contributions reveals that efforts to make interdisciplinary advances are either difficult or limited. Also, the findings indicate that researchers tend to follow a more “technical” approach to decision making by actors in networks rather than searching for a shift in paradigm.

Originality/value – While setting out these directions for future research and guiding research, this first-of-its-kind review introduces the collaboration model as a systematic approach to collaborative (manufacturing) networks. This model might serve as a reference model to integrate disciplines for addressing the characteristics of Collaborative Networks. Its use in the review led to the finding that typical traits of networks, such as changeability, supplementary assets and decentralisation of decision making, are under-researched.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dekkers, Dr Rob
Authors: Dekkers, R., and Kühnle, H.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management
ISSN (Online):1758-7786

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