Starting from the Need
True modularization is a framework for achieving symbiosis and reducing waste through the entire value-chain. It is accomplished by reuse, improvements in small steps, standardized interfaces and continuous verification – creating lasting profitability, quick flexible adaptation and sustainability.
From a cost efficiency perspective, most people would agree that the best thing would be to eliminate variation everywhere in the company. A company completely ruled by this idea – standardization – would produce one product for all customers. However, most people would also agree that this strategy in most cases would leave the company with too few – or not very satisfied – customers. Offering no variation at all simply means neglecting the fact that the customers are different from each other. At the other extreme, developing an entirely new product for each and every individual customer is usually not feasible either as it would incur very high costs.
Cost is central to keep in mind and one of the primary cost drivers in industrial systems are the number of unique part numbers that need to be developed, administered, planned and produced within the system. Modularization takes advantage of the fact that the product structure has depth – i.e. the products are made up of subcomponents – and width – with a product range you can find similarities and reuse parts between products in the range. Modularization is simply a systematic way of achieving variation at the lowest possible cost. Rich ends from simple means.
Modularization is first and foremost a way of thinking rather than a methodology. It is important to understand both how and know why we modularize our product program. Everyone involved in developing the (yet to be) modular product program need to have a thorough understanding of modularization and its principles in order to achieve a good result.
The creation of a common view, from the strategic level down to the single developer, is of crucial importance. This requires training and an on-going dialogue on what modularization is, what the goals are and how to achieve them.
Modularization begins and ends with the customer. Therefore, the most important starting point for modularization is to understand customer needs and operational factors. The modular design is then used to compose a balanced toolbox with components that can be configured to meet each customers specific needs.
Modularization is not simply a recipe you just read and apply. It is as much a journey and culture change where we step by step grow into a more modular approach.