A social capital perspective on knowledge exchange in supplier-buyer relationships: the Indonesian automotive industry case

  • Indria Handoko

Student thesis: Phd


The recent focus on knowledge exchange in the interfirm network has undoubtedly been of advantage to organisational studies. However, the existing literature still gives little attention to the exploration of knowledge exchange in an organisational context which involves a highly bureaucratic system, such as the supply chain of the manufacturing industry. Moreover, most empirical supply chain studies mainly discuss knowledge at company level, with minimal elaboration of interaction at internal-hierarchical levels. As a result, many things remain unknown, for example, how knowledge exchange across levels and boundaries occurs in a strict supply chain mechanism, and what factors form a supply chain mechanism which enable or inhibit the occurrence of knowledge exchange in the chain. This thesis attempts to address these questions. By focusing on the case of knowledge exchange in production activities in the automotive component industry in Indonesia, this research applies a social capital perspective to shed light on how relationships between actors in a supply chain network provide particular benefits for those actors in terms of knowledge acquisition. The research data was collected using a comparative case study method involving semi-structured interviews, observation, and focus group. About 130 participants were interviewed (with interviews totalling more than 150 hours) in four Indonesian automotive suppliers. This study does not aim exclusively to investigate companies dealing with a strict supply chain mechanism (i.e. component-making suppliers), but also those which deal with a less strict mechanism (i.e. machine-making suppliers). The data was analysed using within-case and cross-case analyses with no a priori of hypotheses. The main arguments suggested in this research are two-fold. Firstly, knowledge exchange in a supply chain relies on how governance arrangements and effects of power which shape a supplier-buyer relationship influence the development of social capital to facilitate knowledge exchange. Secondly, interaction (in either a formal or informal setting) at one level of analysis can impact on interaction at other levels, and can determine the strength of social capital between levels to facilitate (or constrain) knowledge exchange across levels. If there is an imbalance in power-dependence relations, formal governance dominates a relationship, and connections between parties are very hierarchical, then knowledge exchange is at times influenced by social-cultural norms. The shifting context surrounding the activation of social capital (which is the result of a complex combination of governance arrangements, power-dependence relations and social-cultural norms) thus affects the different emerging situations either to facilitate or constrain knowledge exchange in a supply chain.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorYanuar Nugroho (Supervisor) & Michael Bresnen (Supervisor)


  • supply chain
  • knowledge exchange
  • social capital

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