The technology development process and its result - The case of Volvo Aero Corporation
In an explorative study at Volvo Aero Corporation, the intricacies of the technology development process have been studied. The aim has been to map the process, the various steps taken, the main decisions in the process, and the main events or circumstances that have contributed to or hindered the development. This has been done through a descriptive study, in which three innovations have been mapped in retrospect and results have been compared to find similarities and differences. Different data sources have been used, but the primary source has been a series of semi-structured interviews. The empirical results are compared to selected innovation and technology management literature, engineering design theory, and systems engineering theory.
We can conclude that a basic need, and a vision of a conceptual solution meeting this need, has defined and driven the technology development. The need for new technology is not fully known beforehand; rather, it evolves and grows into a need-solution tree in a highly iterative process. Customers are involved from an early stage in testing different ideas and contributing to decision making. Mutual trust and confidence is built through common demonstrators, and, at the same time, the competitive position of the supplier is created. Through this exploration and development, a technology platform is built from which a series of different products can be generated. The iterative process builds knowledge concerning the applicability of the technology, thereby mapping the bandwidth of the developed platform.
Despite differences in aim and scope between technology development and product development, theories and methods from product design and systems engineering can be used to reason about the technology development process and its contents. Based on analogies to product design, phenomena seen in technology development can be explained.