The Product Development-Production Interface in a Dispersed Setting - Implications for Product Development Management
Licentiate thesis, 2008
Obtaining an efficient and effective product realization process demands a well-managed interface between the product development process and production process. Coordinating the process becomes however more difficult if the production site is located in one country and engineering design department in another. A dispersed setting like this is a reality for many manufacturing companies today.
The product development-production (PD-P) interface is defined as the inter-dependencies between product development process to the production process and the studies indicates that the PD-P interface consist of four components; Technology, Organization, Scope, and Task. The product technology is dependent on the production process technology. The organizational component is the dependency between the product development process and production in terms of organizational structure, culture and the dependencies between the people involved. Production is dependent on prototypes, CAD-files and other information transferred from product development to secure the process which leads to the Scope component. The activities in product development are strongly dependent on the production activities and vice versa, which is the Task component.
Three case studies were performed to study the PD-P interface in a dispersed setting. Identified problems in the PD-P interface were categorized in the four components mentioned above and then discussed from a product development management perspective. The cases indicate that communication becomes much more difficult in a dispersed setting. Not only can communication-hinders cause conflicts, but also inhibit the use of development tools such as DfA (Design for Assembly).
There is also an uncertainty in choosing a coordination mechanism due to the dispersed setting. The need for formalized structure can increase in a PD-P interface because of a dispersed setting. However, increased formalization has a number of drawbacks, which suggest that different coordination mechanisms could be beneficial depending on which phases the project is in. A dispersed setting means cultural differences, time zones, and distances between project members.
In addition to information and communication, and formalization, trust are also discussed as important to coordinate product development activities and manage the PD-P interface in a dispersed setting. Trust is seen as a foundation for good working cooperation and once established it has an effect on e.g. project commitment. However, due to the dispersed setting there is a challenge to reach high trust between project members.