The modular platform strategy of automobile manufacturers: The impact in manufacturing network strategic outputs

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2015)


(Context of the study, research question and hypotheses, research object and main results)

The development of product families based on platforms has been widely applied in the sector. The sector has seen great development of its products mainly in the late 1990s, resulting from the use of a ‘standard platform’ for different models in the same segment. This milestone has led to greater efficiency in design and development processes, as well as greater economies of scale in production and procurement due to greater standardisation. Today, the platform strategy is being reviewed with the development and adoption of what are known as modular platforms, which offer a new scalable design allowing models in different segments to be produced on a single modular platform. This incipient modular strategy entails extensive internal changes in the sector’s production organisation, especially in the manufacturing network of automobile manufacturers.

The purpose of this research was to analyse the changes in the strategic outputs of automobile manufacturers’ networks resulting from the implementation of modular platforms, to replace the standard platforms used to date, with a special emphasis on changes relating to network coordination: scale and scope economies (thriftiness ability) and operational flexibility (manufacturing mobility).

The hypotheses proposed were:
H1: Operational flexibility (manufacturing mobility) is greater in a manufacturing network with a modular platform than with a standard platform
H2a: Economies of scope (thriftiness ability) in a manufacturing network are greater with a modular platform than with a standard platform.
H2b: Economies of scale (thriftiness ability) in the manufacturing network are greater with a modular platform than with a standard platform.
The research methodology consisted in two parts. The first was the revision of literature and summarises the key theoretical issues behind the modular platform strategy and the strategic outputs of manufacturing networks. The second was the empirical study in the European manufacturing network of automobile manufacturers. A questionnaire, requesting information about the implementation of modular platform, was sent to the team managers of seven manufacturers during de period from October 2013 to March 2014. A descriptive and statistic analysis was made in order to obtain de results.
The main results are that this modular strategy offers a new standard that allows for the optimisation of global manufacturing networks. Manufacturers that do not adopt this modular strategy in the short term will be at a disadvantage in terms of operational flexibility (manufacturing mobility) and economies of scope and of scale (thriftiness ability), so will be less competitive. In addition, the overcapacity which previously was distributed among several standard platform networks, will now be concentrated in a single modular platform network. This, together with the greater operational flexibility of these networks for transferring resources, will facilitate processes of restructuring and rationalisation on a global level.

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