Platform Thinking for Technology Management
Licentiate thesis, 2013
'Platform thinking' is a product development strategy for taking advantage of the opportunities for synergy among a set of products that share certain features. A specific development methodology is needed to efficiently synchronize the design and production of a set of products and both research and industry have been contributing substantially to the development of such methodology. However, a company may develop a wide range of products that for various reasons cannot share components, while still offering opportunities for synergy since they build upon the same technologies and know-how for their development and production. These shared assets cannot be leveraged among products using the same platform development methodology as for physical components and instead of leaving this opportunity for asset reuse to chance, this thesis explores how to systematically support platform thinking for technology development.
As part of this research, two case studies were conducted at a company that operates in the aerospace engine industry. The studies revealed barriers to the reuse of technologies, including (1) the difficulties of locating, transferring and deploying knowledge generated by previous development projects, (2) the uncertainty of forecasting which technologies to develop for future reuse and (3) the need for adapting technologies before introducing new applications.
Besides the empirical case studies, two additional contributions to the study of platform-based technology development are provided. The first contribution is a review of relevant literature existing in various research fields that approached technology reuse from a range of perspectives, including technology planning, engineering reuse and knowledge management. The second contribution is a proposed methodology for development using multiple levels of platform thinking, ranging from physical components to design concepts and technological knowledge. In the product- level of the platform, a range of possible configurations of parts, as well as a spectrum of acceptable design parameters for the parts included, have been prepared to make sure that multiple ways exist to derive products from the platform. For the technology- level, the methodology is supported by an internal software-based catalogue containing information on the technologies used within a corporation. A catalogue prototype was developed using Wiki software, which included basic information about technologies and links to existing reports and contact information to relevant experts within the company. While small-scale tests elicited positive reactions from intended users at the case company, further studies are necessary to validate the usefulness of the catalogue and address concerns raised during the tests regarding the security and validity of information held in highly accessible repositories, such as Wikis.