An exploratory investigation on modularity adoption in design and production through a case-based research in a Brazilian automaker
Many companies in the automotive supply chain have increasingly adopted the concept of modularity. Modularity can be defined as a way of building complex products or processes from smaller subsystems that can be designed independently and yet function together as a whole. There are many dimensions of modularity and the most common ones are: modularity-in-design and modularity-in-production. In addition, there are potential tradeoffs between these dimensions, but this issue has not yet been extensively explored in the literature. In this sense, the purpose of this paper is to empirically investigate to what extent the adoption of modularity varies according to such tradeoffs. Case-based research is employed as the methodological approach. The unit of analysis is a business unit of an international leading manufacturer of trucks and buses, being the latter within the scope of the present investigation. The findings describe various challenges and managerial implications that characterize various views on modularity with respect to design and production faced by the investigated organization. There is a clear distinction between the application of the concept of modularity in design and in production. Potential gaps in the literature are also proposed for further research.