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Interdisciplinary integration in complex product development: managerial implications of embedding software in manufactured goods
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Machine Design (Div.).
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

Incorporating electronics and software systems into manufactured goods is becoming very common in manufacturing companies. New technical functions, increased flexibility, and compensation for mechanical design weaknesses are some key drivers of this technological change in our everyday products. The automotive industry exemplifies this trend, since approximately 80–90% of new functions in cars are based on electronics and software, and it is expected that at least a third of the total cost of a car will eventually be accounted for by electronics and software. However, one of the main downsides of this technological trend is the increasing number of quality issues related to these new technologies, something usually claimed to be a result of the increased product development complexity.

Previous research into product development management has mainly concentrated on either physical products or software systems, but not concurrently on both. Additionally, much of the research has concentrated on issues of integrating marketing, R&D, and manufacturing in these companies, and has treated the engineering disciplines in R&D as a homogenous group. Motivated by this change in technology content and the lack of research into complex product development and especially into integration between engineering disciplines, the present work investigates how to increase operational performance in multidisciplinary engineering organizations. This work has especially focused on interdisciplinary integration and the feasibility of various so-called integration mechanisms, such as building common physical facilities, job rotation programs, the implementation and use of information and communications technology, and computer-aided engineering tools.

Both qualitative and quantitative research has been performed, involving 11 different companies and over 300 respondents. Supported by the present findings, it is demonstrated that interdisciplinary integration is a crucial factor to consider, and it is concluded that certain integration mechanisms stand out as more important than others. Organizational structure, work procedures and methods, training, social systems, and computer-aided engineering were the five types of mechanisms that displayed the greatest potential for improvement.

It is further concluded that the ability to successfully match the body of practices to current products is essential, since there is a high risk of current practices becoming out-dated with respect to the technology content. Furthermore, inadequate identification of or managerial ability to establish the currently most important interfaces complicate the choice of trade-offs between various technologies that are found to be essential to cope with the inherent dynamic complexity. The organizational powerbase is often re-positioned in the studied organizations, and the loss of decisive power can result in a demoralizing ignorance of newly established disciplines and their design practices. Additionally, rigid structures and counterproductive traditions can reduce the potential gains accruing from new boundary-spanning innovations, so organizational responsibilities and mandates must be declared unambiguously, in many cases differently from how they have been in the past.

Based on these conclusions, it is suggested that managers in organizations like those studied must be able to do the following: cultivate software knowledge in all parts and levels of the product development organization; reassess their recruitment strategies; organize for interdisciplinary collaboration; articulate and communicate the technology fusion strategy to all disciplines; and realize and disseminate the fact that product launches do not only concern manufacturability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Maskinkonstruktion , 2007.
Series
Trita-MMK, ISSN 1400-1179 ; 2007:04
Keyword [en]
Complex product development, interdisciplinary integration, technology fusion, systems engineering, new product development
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4379ISBN: 978-91-7178-610-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-4379DiVA: diva2:12035
Public defence
2007-06-01, Sydvästra galleriet, KTHB, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100621Available from: 2007-05-16 Created: 2007-05-16 Last updated: 2012-03-19Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Model-based development of mechatronic systems — Reducing the gaps between competencies?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Model-based development of mechatronic systems — Reducing the gaps between competencies?
2004 (English)In: Proceedings of TMCE 2004: The fifth international symposium on Tools and Methods of Competitive Engineering / [ed] Horvath I, Xirouchakis P, Rotterdam: MILLPRESS SCIENCE PUBLISHERS , 2004, Vol. 1(2), no 405-414, 405-413 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents the results of a multiple case study performed within the Swedish vehicle industry. The objective of the study was to explore and describe how modeling affects collaboration within multidisciplinary product development from the perspective of developers. Most research on mechatronics design is focused on technology and/or is limited to one or a few of the disciplines involved. By contrast, the focus of this study is on collaboration between and integration of different technical disciplines. A total of 21 semi-structured interviews were conducted during a period of five months. The criterion for a valid case was that it concerned a development project including distributed functionality and multidisciplinary teams. The main conclusions are that a higher degree of competence integration is needed as complexity increases, that a mutually agreed language is needed within an organization, that the modeling approach within an organization should be aligned, that the tasks where different technical disciplines meet must be identified in order to achieve early system integration, and that short-term co-locations would increase understanding and problem solving efficiency. This research has many similarities with earlier research performed on integrated product development, hut has a different focus level. Instead of on marketing-manufacturing-R&D, the focus is on the technical disciplines within R&D.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Rotterdam: MILLPRESS SCIENCE PUBLISHERS, 2004
Series
Tools and methods of competitive engineering, 1-2
Keyword
mechatronics, system integration, competence, integration, collaborative engineering, distributed functionality
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7115 (URN)000239453500039 ()90-5966-018-8 (ISBN)
Conference
5th International Symposium on Tools and Methods of Competitive Engineering Lausanne, SWITZERLAND, APR 13-17, 2004
Note
QC 20100621Available from: 2007-05-16 Created: 2007-05-16 Last updated: 2011-11-02Bibliographically approved
2. Challenges and outlooks for software and electrical engineering in traditional mechanical engineering companies: an investigation into workforce implications
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Challenges and outlooks for software and electrical engineering in traditional mechanical engineering companies: an investigation into workforce implications
2006 (English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
National Category
Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7116 (URN)
Note
QS 20120316Available from: 2007-05-16 Created: 2007-05-16 Last updated: 2012-03-16Bibliographically approved
3. Management of mechatronics engineering: reflections and propositions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Management of mechatronics engineering: reflections and propositions
2005 (English)In: Proceedings of 12th International Product Development ManagementConference, vol. 1, 2005, Vol. 1(3), 35-48 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7117 (URN)
Conference
12th International Product Development Management Conference
Note
QC 20100621Available from: 2007-05-16 Created: 2007-05-16 Last updated: 2012-03-19Bibliographically approved
4. The relative effectiveness of different mechanisms for integrating engineering disciplines in complex product development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The relative effectiveness of different mechanisms for integrating engineering disciplines in complex product development
2007 (English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
National Category
Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7118 (URN)
Note
QS 20120316. A previous version of the submitted paper appears in the proceedings of the 13th International Product Development Management Conference, EIASM, June 11–13, 2007, Milan, Italy.Available from: 2007-05-16 Created: 2007-05-16 Last updated: 2012-03-16Bibliographically approved
5. Understanding the importance of interdisciplinary integration in complex product development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Understanding the importance of interdisciplinary integration in complex product development
2007 (English)Report (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2007
Series
Trita-MMK, ISSN 1400-1179 ; 2007:03
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7119 (URN)
Note
QC 20100621Available from: 2007-05-16 Created: 2007-05-16 Last updated: 2012-03-19Bibliographically approved

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