Supporting the utilization of a platform approach in the engineer-to-order supplier industry
Sammanfattning: Manufacturing companies are continuously faced with requirements regarding technology novelty, shorter time to market, a higher level of functionality, and lower prices for their products. This is especially true of suppliers that develop and manufacture highly customized products within the automotive industry. It is not uncommon that a request for a new product or subsystem goes out to several suppliers and that the one that can deliver the product most quickly and at the lowest price receives the contract. It is therefore vital for any supplier to answer to quotation requests rapidly and with a high level of precision while also ensuring that company assets are used efficiently. Other issues that apply to suppliers in the automotive industry are heavily fluctuating requirements during development projects, each customer’s individual preferences, and the ever changing interfaces with the OEM product with which the supplier’s product is to be integrated. Platform strategies have been widely accepted in industry to serve a wide product variety while maintaining business efficiency. However, the challenge of applying a platform strategy at the supplier level in the face of the reality described above has not been fully investigated. Platform approaches tend to require a focused development of the platform, which in turn requires some knowledge about which future variants are to be derived from the platform. The research presented in this thesis investigates the state of practice in industry regarding the challenges, needs, and current use of platforms. To respond to the identified need, a platform approach is proposed that expands the scope of what a product platform has traditionally contained. This is undertaken to aid in the development of highly customized products when physical modules or component scalability does not suffice. The platform approach provides a coherent environment for heterogeneous design assets to be used in product development, supporting both the activity of designing and off-the-shelf solutions. The approach is based on identifying and modelling generic product items that are associated with descriptions governing their design. By describing the outcome of technology and product development like finished designs, design guidelines, constraints, etc., in a standardized format, the platform continues to evolve. To aid in using the platform approach, a support system called Design Platform Manager is introduced at a company active as a secondtier supplier in the automotive industry. The system enables the creation of generic product items that can be structured, instantiated, and associated with descriptions, which aids in realizing product variants. The aim of the platform approach and tool is to support the quotation and continued design processes by identifying valid knowledge to use as circumstances, such as requirement changes or new design iterations, warrant. The support tool and overarching model have been evaluated by company representatives, who reported good results.
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