Managing Variety for Assembled Products: Modeling Component Systems Sharing

Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2003

Batten Institute Research Paper No. 2003 R 1

Posted: 9 Sep 2009

See all articles by Kamalini Ramdas

Kamalini Ramdas

London Business School - Department of Management Science and Operations

Marshall Fisher

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Karl T. Ulrich

The Wharton School

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

Component sharing - using the same version of a component across multiple products - is an approach adopted by many assembled product manufacturers to achieve high final product variety with lower component variety and cost. This paper presents a methodology for determining which versions of a set of related components should be offered to optimally support a defined finished product portfolio. We develop optimization models that determine which versions of each component should be introduced and which of these versions each product should use so as to minimize design and production costs. This approach is appropriate for components with a relatively low impact on consumers’ perceptions about product differentiation, which can be shared across a set of products if they meet the most stringent performance requirements in the set. We illustrate our procedure on automotive braking systems, but also discuss it applicability to other components and industries. Finally, we consider organizational issues and identify three conceptually different approaches to component sharing: a coordinated projects approach that requires higher-level organizational echelons above the individual project, a project-by-project approach that does not, and a hybrid partially coordinated approach. We use our model to show that the gain from the coordinated projects approach relative to the project-by-project approach is increasing in the number of component versions in consideration and warrantee and complexity costs, but does not vary systematically with product demand variability. Further, we use our model to highlight the risk of using simplistic heuristics to determine design sequence within a component system in a partially coordinated approach. We find that this approach is not always superior to the project-by-project approach, despite requiring greater coordination.

Suggested Citation

Ramdas, Kamalini and Fisher, Marshall and Ulrich, Karl T., Managing Variety for Assembled Products: Modeling Component Systems Sharing (2003). Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2003 , Batten Institute Research Paper No. 2003 R 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1442889

Kamalini Ramdas (Contact Author)

London Business School - Department of Management Science and Operations ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

Marshall Fisher

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Karl T. Ulrich

The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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