The moderating role of trust in manufacturer-supplier relationships

Sungmin Ryu, Soonhong Min, Nobuhide Zushi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to verify the moderating role of trust in the relationships between environmental uncertainty and a manufacturer's propensity for vertical control over its supplier, and between environmental uncertainty and the manufacturer's satisfaction with the supplier performance. It also confirms a threshold effect of trust, i.e. the moderating role of trust is present up until a threshold value of trust is reached. Design/methodology/approach - Survey research was conducted to collect data from manufacturers; structural equation modeling was used to purify measurement scales, and multiple regression was conducted to test the hypotheses. Findings - This study confirmed that a manufacturer's perception of a supplier's trustworthy behavior weakens the justification for a higher degree of vertical control over its supplier's key decisions. Trust also reduces the manufacturer's discontent with its supplier's performance. Research limitations/implications - Traditional transaction cost analysis (TCA models) put too much emphasis on rationality and seldom consider the complexity of inter-firm control in social contexts. This study demonstrates that considering trust in TCA supplements the explanations offered by TCA on buyer-seller behaviors. Practical implications - Manufacturers should determine the level of needed vertical control after assessing the level of inter-firm trust to avoid unnecessary vertical control, which is as costly as, if not costlier than, supplier opportunism. Manufacturers should also realize the importance of formalizing continuous, two-way information flow to further reduce supply market uncertainty, which cannot be done by trust beyond the threshold value. Originality/value - This study considers both social embeddedness and TCA to enhance the explanatory power of the TCA framework. Additionally, this study shows that the moderating effect of trust is statistically significant at lower levels while the effect fades away at higher levels of trust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-58
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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