Collaborative Product Realization - Supply Chain and Integrated Platform Development Issues
Doctoral thesis, 2010
Platforms have been found to be an efficient means to share development costs and manufacturing assets between many products. By using platforms, companies are able to offer high product variety with very limited resources. Companies that use platforms benefit from economy of scale, as larger series are possible for common parts and components shared by a number of products. Over time, customer demands for specialized products have grown, putting pressure on companies to develop platforms that enable high customization at very limited cost. In the automotive industry, platforms are usually represented by a collection of parts or components. While this approach has traditionally been found to be a successful way of representing platforms, it has shortcomings.
Many companies today do not work as single units but are involved in networks of companies consisting of OEMs and several suppliers. In such collaboration networks, the part-based platform often only supports the design engineers at the OEM. It is very difficult for suppliers to use the same approach if their products are to be offered to different OEMs. Furthermore, the part-based description is sometimes not even suitable for collaborations within a company. Departments consider different things to be of interest for reuse. Is it possible to capture different collaborating partners’ needs in a single description of platforms? This thesis focuses on these questions.
Six studies have been performed at five companies. The studies address several problems that are considered difficult to manage in collaborative development projects as well as the way platforms can be described to solve these issues. The support for collaboration is investigated from a supply chain perspective as well as a product development and manufacturing perspective. The results of explorative studies have been used to evaluate and refine a platform model consisting of autonomous and knowledge-based configurable system descriptions.
The studies show that suppliers often have difficulties adopting a part-based platform approach in the same way as OEMs do, as the suppliers’ components have to be offered to several customers in order to obtain economies of scale. Although platforms are often described as interfaces between modules, current tools to describe platforms in this way have deficiencies. Collaborating partners have also found it difficult to exchange information and data. The configurable component approach, i.e., describing a platform as a set of autonomous configurable generic systems that can be interlinked, is tested and refined in this thesis. Problems found in traditional part-based platform development have been successfully addressed with the configurable component approach.