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Olin, Jack G.; Greis, Noel P.; & Kasarda, John D. (1999). Knowledge Management across Multi-Tier Enterprises: The Promise of Intelligent Software in the Auto Industry. European Management Journal, 17(4), 773-781.


The automotive industry is at a critical juncture in its evolution. Vehicle manufacturers are merging horizontally into large portfolio-oriented companies focused on assembly and marketing while reducing their in-house development and manufacturing depth in favor of a multi-tier supplier base. This realignment has increased organizational flexibility and global technology access, but concerns have been raised about the industry's ability to manage complex product programs across multi-tier interfaces — and about knowledge leaks to competitors. In this paper we argue that these virtually integrated enterprises are not well served by hierarchical planning tools and dedicated communications networks. Instead, distributed intelligence in an open-architecture and secure enterprise network provides the connectivity needed for successful product development and delivery. Emerging software tools such as intelligent agents or applets, common in Internet applications such as assisted personal computing, are well-suited for coordinating complex product management processes in multi-tier enterprises. As these new information technologies advance, competitive success will depend on the intertwined evolution of these embedded software tools and the new business processes that they are creating.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

European Management Journal


Olin, Jack G.
Greis, Noel P.
Kasarda, John D.