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Managing uncertain, complex product development in high-tech firms: in search of controlled flexibility
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Project Innovations and Entrepreneurship. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Project Innovations and Entrepreneurship. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4233-5138
2010 (English)In: R &D Management, ISSN 0033-6807, E-ISSN 1467-9310, Vol. 40, no 4, 383-399 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this paper is to delve into the dilemma of managing development projects which are not only highly complex but also include multiple dimensions of uncertainty, i.e. market volatility, technological novelty and changing customer specifications. Particular attention is directed towards managerial challenges and approaches to handle this dilemma. Previous research on the subject indicates that complexity and uncertainty require different approaches, but these studies tend to provide suggestions either on managing complexity in stable industries or on managing uncertainty in less complex projects. This paper rests on an in-depth study of two complex development projects in a company context at the extreme end of R&D intensity and uncertainty.

The paper identifies four managerial challenges: coping with volatile market demands; staying at the technological forefront where technology and product development take place at the same time; responding to rapidly changing customer specifications; and dealing with the implications of very low production volumes of non-standard units. The analysis shows that these challenges can be managed by utilizing a matrix of formal systems, quasi-formalized visualization and informal interaction, which promotes responsiveness and flexibility in a controlled fashion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Blackwell Publishing Ltd , 2010. Vol. 40, no 4, 383-399 p.
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-51878DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9310.2010.00609.xISI: 000281207600004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-51878DiVA: diva2:278021
Available from: 2009-11-23 Created: 2009-11-23 Last updated: 2014-09-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Facing interface challenges in complex product development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Facing interface challenges in complex product development
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this thesis is to contribute to New Product Development-literature by expanding the analysis of the R&D-manufacturing interface in complex product development in three areas, i.e. the outsourcing of manufacturing, uncertainty and time-criticality, and field service. The thesis focuses on interface challenges and solutions which concern three questions:

  1. How does the level of outsourcing of manufacturing affect the management of the R&Dmanufacturing interface in complex product development?
  2. How does the presence of uncertainty and time-criticality affect the management of the R&Dmanufacturing interface in complex product development?
  3. How does the need to consider field service requirements affect the management of the R&Dmanufacturing interface in complex product development?

The background and point of departure is the realization that there are three areas which influence the management of the important, dynamic interface between R&D and manufacturing. First, the level of outsourcing of manufacturing is increasing in many industries, which makes it even more demanding to manage the R&D-manufacturing interface in complex product development. Second, complex product development may also be characterized by uncertainty and time-criticality, and previous research indicates that these factors need to be handled differently. Third, it is increasingly important to consider not only R&D and manufacturing, but also field service requirements.

The research methodology rests on a multiple case study approach where the main case used in this thesis is an extreme case in terms of uncertainty, R&D intensity and volume levels, i.e. Micronic Laser Systems.

The main findings of the thesis revolve around the identification of the challenges and solutions involved in complex product development. Based on five research papers, the thesis identifies challenges associated with each of the three research questions, and all challenges identified revolve around how to identify and understand conflicting requirements, to establish an understanding of changing prerequisites and their implications, and to ensure active involvement and a certain degree of competence overlap between organizational functions (internal as well as external).

The solutions identified for handling these challenges have one thing in common, namely a focus on achieving controlled responsiveness and flexibility based on an understanding of tradeoffs, interaction, and informed decision-making. These solutions differ from those prescribed in conventional product development literature which tends to focus on upfront planning techniques and how to follow plans.

The findings may be of value to a variety of managers in different environments, in particular for project managers who are involved in complex product development. The main reason is that this kind of product development exhibits challenges and solutions different from those described in conventional literature on new product development, at least in cases where there is some degree of uncertainty.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2009. 173 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1278
Keyword
Complex product development, R&D-manufacturing interface, outsourcing, uncertainty, timecriticality, visualization, field service, extreme case
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-51883 (URN)978-91-7393-515-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-11-24, ACAS, Hus A, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-11-23 Created: 2009-11-23 Last updated: 2014-10-08Bibliographically approved

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Olausson, DanielBerggren, Christian

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