Investigations of Platform Savings Reveal Systemic Management Challenges

 

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar SeriesBruce Cameron, PhD

Bruce Cameron, PhD
Lecturer, MIT Engineering Systems Division

Date: March 5, 2012

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About the Presentation

Companies from aerospace to white goods use platforming strategies to deliver more variety to their customers while saving internally by sharing parts and overhead. However, many firms fail to earn a return on their investment in platforms—Black & Decker famously dropped its platforming strategy one generation after a landmark tool family design. This webinar will explore whether such failures are the result of flawed strategy or execution challenges.

The challenges will be discussed in the context of industrial case studies conducted over the last six years. These studies have shown that many firms face systematic downward pressure on commonality. For example, in several cases companies set initial commonality goals only to realize less than half of the commonality expected. Using a systems thinking framework of platforms, it can be shown that this divergence in commonality resulted in noticeable erosion of commonality benefits. Notably, the lead variants that bore the platform costs achieved weak investment returns and recaptured few benefits from later variants. The key management methods used in successful product families will be reviewed, along with descriptions of how they helped firms achieve competitive advantages.

About the Speaker:

Bruce Cameron, PhD, is a lecturer in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division and a consultant on platform strategies. At MIT, he ran the MIT Commonality Study, a 16-firm investigation of platforming returns. His current clients include Fortune 500 firms in high-tech, aerospace, transportation, and consumer goods. Prior to MIT, he worked as an engagement manager at a management consultancy and as a system engineer at MDA Space Systems; hardware he built is currently in orbit. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and graduate degrees from MIT.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.