Transferring knowledge of manufacturing techniques within a subsidiary of a multi-national corporation

  • Jamsari Alias

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


With the growth of the multi-national corporation (MNCs) has come the need to understand how parent companies transfer knowledge to, and manage the
operations of, their subsidiaries. This is of particular interest to manufacturing companies transferring their operations overseas. Japanese companies in
particular have been pioneering in the development of techniques such as Kaizen, and elements of the Toyota Production System (TPS) such as Kanban, which can be useful tools for transferring the ethos of Japanese manufacturing and maintaining quality and control in overseas subsidiaries. Much has been written about the process of transferring Japanese manufacturing techniques but much less is understood about how the
subsidiaries themselves – which are required to make use of such techniques – actually acquire and incorporate them into their operations. This research
therefore takes the perspective of the subsidiary in examining how
knowledge of manufacturing techniques is transferred from the parent company within its surrounding (subsidiary). There is clearly a need to take a
practice-based view to understanding how the local managers and operatives
incorporate this knowledge into their working practices. A particularly relevant theme is how subsidiaries both replicate and adapt knowledge from parents
and the circumstances in which replication or adaptation occurs. However, it is shown that there is a lack of research which takes an in-depth look at these processes from the perspective of the participants themselves. This is
particularly important as much knowledge literature argues that knowledge is best viewed as enacted and learned in practice – and therefore transferred in
person – rather than by the transfer of abstract and de-contextualised
information. What is needed, therefore, is further research which makes an in-depth examination of what happens at the subsidiary level for this transfer process to occur. There is clearly a need to take a practice-based view to
understanding how the local managers and operatives incorporate knowledge about manufacturing techniques into their working practices. In depth
qualitative research was, therefore, conducted in the subsidiary of a
Japanese multinational, Gambatte Corporation, involving three main
manufacturing initiatives (or philosophies), namely 'TPS‘, 'TPM‘ and 'TS‘. The case data were derived from 52 in-depth interviews with project members,
moderate-participant observations, and documentations and presented and analysed in episodes format. This study contributes to our understanding of knowledge transfer in relation to the approaches and circumstances of
adaptation and replication of knowledge within the subsidiary, how the whole process is developed, and also how 'innovation‘ takes place. This study
further understood that the process of knowledge transfer could be explained as a process of Reciprocal Provider-Learner Exchange that can be linked to
the Experiential Learning Theory.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMatthew Hall (Supervisor) & David Bennett (Supervisor)


  • knowledge transfer
  • subsidiary in MNC
  • in-depth practice-based view
  • Malaysia

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