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The impact of product attributes and emerging technologies on firms’ international configuration

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Rezk, R 
Singh Srai, J 
Williamson, PJ 


International business literature has largely explained the international dispersion of firms’ activities as a choice based on trade-offs between cost minimisation, knowledge seeking, managing transaction costs and maintaining control. By incorporating insights from operations management, we propose a framework that explicitly takes into account products’ physical and knowledge attributes that constrain the viable international configuration options available to firms. Linking the characteristics of a product to the scope for horizontal and vertical decoupling in a value network allows us to re-frame recent discussions in the literature about fragmentation of activities vs tasks and to develop an overall picture of the way industry-specific peculiarities characterise (and also constrain) viable international configurations. We show how our framework can be used to interpret data on the scope for decoupling and dispersion collected from industry experts and elucidate the relationships between configuration options and measures of product characteristics. We then utilise this framework to predict how emerging technologies will reshape the international configuration options available to firms.



value chain, supply network configuration, product attributes

Journal Title

Journal of International Business Studies

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (TS/I000275/1)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/E001769/1)