Managing Product Variety through Product Architecture
This dissertation deals with the management of product variety in manufacturing companies. Several researchers have identified companies increasing problems and managerial issues associated with managing product variety and they suggest ways of managing the product variety by changing the product architecture. However, the importance of the product architecture when managing the product variety in present literature is limited in its development of decision supports to facilitate product architecture management. Therefore the overall purpose of this dissertation is to develop decision supports that facilitate product architecture management in variant rich products.
The research strategy has been to use case studies in the vehicle manufacturing industry and an in-depth insight into one specific manufacturer. The data have been collected by using product archaeology and interviews. The first part of the dissertation studies the product and its relationship between product architecture and product variety. It is concluded that dependences between elements dominate both the creation and restriction of product variety. Dependences are also important for the visualization model that is proposed in the dissertation. That model visualizes the product architecture including all variants and dependences.
The second part of the dissertation aims at addressing product variety management activities, when companies are to share product architecture between several products. Product planning was found to be crucial for the possibility to share product architecture and managing product variety. First of all the stakeholders requirements must be analysed and translated into variety dimensions that have to be covered. Then decisions must be made regarding what range of the variety dimension is to be covered and by how many variants. In these decisions it is also important to consider how much variety can be offered from one product architecture, without eroding its potential benefits.
The information about the variety dimensions and number of variants is to be used when generating and evaluating the concepts. If the product contains a lot of variety it is necessary to synchronize the variety that should be shared by all products, with the variety that is only used in a few of the products. Finally, the product architecture management is not a one-time job. It needs to be managed for as long as changes are made to products built from the same product architecture.
multiple product development