The dilemmas of mechatronics business, between customer demands and concepts for product platforms
Paper in proceedings, 2016
The paper aims at studying quandaries between customer demands and internal aims of product development and product platforms in mechatronics companies. This is done by developing a frame of understanding for product and business development, viewed as an intertwined technical-business phenomenon. The framework brings together product innovation/new product development, operations management and business model innovation. Recent business model innovation contributions emphasize that company performance derives from a precise customer value proposition. Many companies have therefore focused on the customer side. Yet other contributions point to product- and production platforms that standardize and optimize company internal products and processes (Simpson et al. 2014). These tensions can be conceptualized through the engineering design customer order decoupling point (E-CODP). The decoupling point was originally understood as a single point in production. Characterizing production forms as engineer-to-stock, engineer-to-order and adapt-to-order. A two-dimensional CODP recognizes the presence of engineering-related adaptation. Further research has suggested the use of several and/or floating CODPs.
The research approach is exploratory and qualitative. An expert workshop identified main issues and potential companies. Empirical material was gathered and analyzed using interviews and desk studies of five West Swiss automation and machine tool companies.
The case companies experience variants of customization of their product (“engineer to order”) and a low to medium level of standardization. One company maintains a highly customer-oriented approach. Through large sales, two other companies have reached a possibility of standardizing their products in product lines and platforms, while they still need adapt to customers. Two companies have a dynamic approach to both product platforms and customer orders. In several cases, the ECODP are thus floating or multiple according to product areas. Some companies view it as impossible to realize platforms or standardized elements. There is therefore a need for developing business models with requisite decoupling of the customer.
customer order decoupling point