Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Influential Factors of Collaborative Networks in Manufacturing: Validation of a Conceptual Model

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Influential Factors of Collaborative Networks in Manufacturing: Validation of a Conceptual Model

Article excerpt

Introduction

The study uses the "network" metaphor in a broader perspective to describe the integral and networked organization that connects its employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. According to Addleson (2013), a network is a "hodgepodge of people with varying interests, motives, and levels of commitment, as well as diverse specializations, who may report to bosses with different agendas" (p. 38). Boot and Reynolds (1997) suggest using a multifaceted concept such as "network", rather than viewing organizations in terms of groups, to reflect the dynamic nature of work organizations and the way learning is organized. It enables researchers to think fundamentally about any manufacturing organization as a network that supports patterns of activities related to manufacturing operations. The increase of outsourcing and intricate supply chain also creates more dependence on networks (Basu, 2001). According to Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh (2006a), a network consists of a variety of entities that are autonomous, geographically distributed, and heterogeneous in terms of their operating environment, culture, socio-capita, and goals, yet their interactions are well supported by computers to collaborate and to achieve common goals.

These connections have to be recognized and negotiated before employees can work at collaborating (Addleson, 2013). Figure 1 illustrates the transformation from individual learning to learner-expert mentoring (or an apprenticeship scheme), and finally to the emergence of a collaborative network.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Collaborative networks form an integral part of individual and organizational learning, contributing information and knowledge in their different roles and reference domains. In this context, collaboration promotes interactions between one learner and another, between learners and content experts, and between a learning community or workgroups and their learning resources through information communication technology (Brophy, 2001; de Laat, 2006; Goodyear, 2000; Goodyear et al., 2004; Goodyear et al., 2005; Jones & Esnault, 2004). The term "collaborative networked learning" (CNL) reflects the essence of learning in an organization using computer networks to share information and knowledge. This concept is notably supported by Jones and Esnault (2004) and Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh (2006a), and hence serves as the basis for this study.

Research Problem

There is a lack of study in the area concerning collaborative networks in manufacturing. At present, the theoretical foundation is borrowed and adapted from other disciplines such as collaborative learning. Many scholars agree that studies on collaborative networks need to be firmly grounded in appropriate theoretical approaches and analytic perspectives to increase its rigor and relevance (de Laat & Lally, 2004; de Laat et al., 2006; Hakkinen et al., 2003; Hodgson & Watland, 2004; Stahl, 2004). Theoretical grounding and empirical research from other disciplines may not be directly applicable to manufacturing.

Research Objective

The primary aim of this study is to identify influential factors in the use of collaborative networks within the context of manufacturing. At present, there is a lack of knowledge concerning the factors that promote the sharing of information and collaboration in the manufacturing industry. Henceforth, the objective of this study is to identify influential factors in the use of collaborative networks and to bridge the gap between theory and praxis. In order to achieve this objective, the study needs to pay close attention to numerous events, activities, and tasks that motivate employees in diverse manufacturing organizations to share information and to collaborate.

Literature Review

In today's manufacturing environment, there is a significant emphasis on multi-organizational collaboration, thus knowledge sharing is becoming part of an intricate network, unrestricted by geographical boundaries. …

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