If I want to say that a holding company owns and operates a number of oil-processing plants, all interlinked in the business sense but spread across different locations, what words/phrases could I use? In Russian, we use the word complex, like complex of oil-processing plants, but in English complex seem to imply the presence of its elements at a single location or their physical connection (complex of roads), but not their connection in the sense of product streams.
Am I right that “complex of plants” or even “complex of enterprises” (as one Russian dictionary suggests) will sound and look strange to a native speaker?
I looked for synonyms and found “system, network”. Are these O.K. and what other words/phrases could be used to the same effect?
“According to the plan, the Holding’s network/system of oil processing
plants will process some 8 mn tonnes of crude next year.”
I have a client, as a matter of fact, who operates a couple of dozen oil processing plants. (It’s vegetable oil, not petroleum, but that’s much of a muchness.) When they refer to the enterprise as a whole they call it a system.
In their case, however, it actually is a system, integrated both horizontally and vertically. All the activities of all the facilities–purchase of raw oilseed, board hedging, crushing, refining, packaging, sales, interstate and international transport, marketing, R&D, personnel, financing–are closely coordinated to align local capabilities and market bases with national and global markets.
This is a comparatively recent development; until ten or fifteen years ago centralization was confined to a handful of financial functions, and each plant was operationally responsible for its own inputs and outputs, purchases and sales and transport, even if its primary supplier or customer was another plant owned by the same corporation. At that time the enterprise might have been better described as a network of related but more or less autonomous production facilities and economic divisions.