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Function-technology platforms improve efficiency in high-tech equipment manufacturing: A case study in complex products and systems (CoPS)

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Purpose ‐ Success in manufacturing industries often depends on the ability of a firm to apply product platforms. In speeding up product development, platforms often enable companies to benefit from scale effects by reusing existing components in the development of new products. In the delivery of complex products and system (CoPS), however, platforms are frequently modified since components have to be changed within their life cycle to meet additional customer-specific engineering demands and evolving innovations in technology. In this article, it will be illustrated that intangible design elements can be used as platforms in firms that deliver CoPS. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Through extensive fieldwork at a leading supplier of science-based lithography machinery, a modified platform concept was developed and tested that is labelled as the function-technology (FT) platform. The longitudinal data, collected on site, demonstrate positive effects of applying FT platforms. Findings ‐ The results show that an important explanation for firm's success in delivering lithography machinery with attractive performance is their ability to deliver variants that are specific in terms of physical modules, but common in terms of functions and technologies. Based on the results, it can be argued that establishing an FT platform will allow the efficient creation of variants within a family of CoPS. Originality/value ‐ The findings add considerable insight to the existing literature on operations management by explaining how intangible design elements, instigated during development, can be reused in the delivery of CoPS. Moreover, it enables development managers to more easily structure and reuse complex development tasks.
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Keywords: Case study; Complex products and system; Flexibility; Innovation; Lithography manufacturing; Management of technology; Modularity; New product design; New product development; Product platforms

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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