Managing the transition to platform-based product design in project business - Case study: Product platform planning at company X

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
92 + 3
Objectives: As customer demands drive new product development and service orientation in technology companies, project business is becoming increasingly important. Different from mass production, project business face trade-offs between product customization and high volume. This results in substantial demand for a more modular way to manage multiple projects and technology renewal. The focus of this work is to understand the boundary of modularity and product platform theories in the context of project business. Most research in platform project topic has drawn best practices from extensive case studies of high volume products, but less empirical research has focused on how project businesses cope with modularization. Therefore, this research aims to address the gap by examining characteristics of project business and identifying challenges in adopting current modularization theories. Methodology: The research employs a qualitative single case study to generate in-depth, context-defined insights. The case study at company X examines challenges and concerns the company is facing when executing modular product design and planning platform-based product design. The company is a typical project-based business. As outcomes of the case study, the author identifies (1) characteristics of project business hindering high product modularity, (2) the strategic decisions faced in developing product platform and ultimately, (3) limitations of modular platform theories in supporting platform building at the company X. Findings: The research discussed the characteristics and thereby implications of the project business on product modularity. The implications were observed, such as sequential engineering and project processes, ad-hoc problem solving, low product knowledge deployment, sales configuration complexity, and on-demand material handling. The platform theories are considered to mitigate and transform these impacts. A set of alternative modularity tactics are discussed under the constraints of current project business condition. The successful transition, from full customization to platform-based project management, requires development in multiple areas: product design, product knowledge management, sales configuration and material handling strategy. Theoretical contributions are insights into how the company handles customer expectations as the degree of product customization changes.
Thesis advisor
Valikangas, Liisa
project management, product platform, modularity, project business
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