Internationalisation of logistics firms through knowledge flows

Jeong-Yang Park, Hee-Yong Lee, Dong-Wook Kwak, Harris Simon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


Purpose of this paper: The purpose of this paper is to investigate how organisational knowledge flows can support and contribute towards the internationalisation of logistics firms. Global supply chain management entails the internationalisation of logisticscompanies to establish subsidiaries or international joint ventures in the global markets. The role of knowledge flows facilitates these internationalising logistics firms to be better embedded into a local market across borders. Specifically, this research examines four types of knowledge flows being integrated in theinternationalisation process of global logistics firms to achieve internal integration.

Design/methodology/approach: An exploratory approach employing qualitative multiple case studies are adopted for this research. Seven South Korean logistics firms operating in the UK were identified and studied. The contribution of South Korea and UK to international trade and logistics is similar, but their industry contexts and cultures are quite differed. These seven firms are the entire population of Korean logistics firms which have a subsidiary in the UK. The case firms encompass two liner shipping companies, three international freight forwarding, 3PL companies and two airlines. In total, 17 in-depth semi structured interviews were conducted in each firm with current UK subsidiary managers as well as top and middle managers deployed to the UK subsidiaries and local staff. Within-case and across cases data analysis were carried out and the analysis was facilitated through pattern matching and systematic case comparison.

Findings: The findings reveal that the existence of diversity and complexity of logistics firms’ headquarters and subsidiary relationship within international networks of organisational knowledge flows. Five types of organisational knowledge flows were identified in each seven logistics firm: knowledge flows from subsidiary to headquarters, knowledge flows from location to subsidiary, knowledge flows from subsidiary to location and knowledge flows from headquarters to subsidiary. In addition, externally sourced knowledge flows were identified to be important in the process of internationalisation.

Value: Within the logistics domain, this research provides further theoretical insights and a framework into internationalising logistics firms by building on internationalisation process, knowledge management and network disciplines.

Practical implications (if applicable): This research provides implications for the mangers of both global logistics firms and their subsidiaries. The findings imply that global logistics firms need to have different ways of devising organisational knowledge flows effectively. More holistic perspectives for internationalisation strategy can be developed and the top and middle managers of global logistics firms can obtain useful lessons from this study.

Research limitations/implications (if applicable):

This research suggests key implications for our theoretical understanding of the internationalisation process by integrating the network of knowledge flows and how knowledge flows facilitate operation of logistics firms internationally.However, this research is not without limitations. First, given the findings of this study are based on seven logistics firms, it limits the generalizability of the results toward other industries and countries. Second, emanating from its exploratory qualitative nature, the findings could be tested more systematically through a quantitative approach.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Proceedings of 21st International Symposium on Logistics (ISL 2016)
Subtitle of host publicationSustainable Transport and Supply Chain Innovation
EditorsK. S. Pawar., K. M. Tsai
Place of PublicationNottingham
PublisherNottingham University Business School
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780853583172
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
EventInternational Symposium on Logistics 2016 - Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Province of China
Duration: 3 Jul 20166 Jul 2016


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Logistics 2016
Abbreviated titleISL 2016
Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China


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