The purpose of this paper is to update an article written by the author in the Harvard Business Review almost 50 years ago.
The paper evaluates the present status of the phenomena of modularity (for both product and service components). This is done by reviewing all existing literature on multitudinous facets of the subject and discussing applications with practitioners.
Modularity remains a splintered concept, perhaps because so many different types of application exist. Heterogeneity stymies systemization. Nevertheless, successful applications exist. This International Journal of Operations & Production Management, dedicated to modularity, testifies to significant facets of accomplishment and continued challenges (e.g. optimum shoe sizing and modular construction). Also, production managers have not become boardroom planners (as was expected 45 years ago). Potential cost savings of modularity do not occur because off‐shoring provided another way to dramatically lower production costs – albeit at the expense of quality problems.
All management functions participate in modularity issues. Though marketing does not thrive in a commodity‐environment, it has not advocated modularity as a way to offset commoditization nor as a means of improving quality. Finance has been the cheer leader for off‐shore decisions, but a tipping point may be in sight (i.e. recognizing the hidden costs of off‐shore seduction).
If mass customization, using modularity, develops economic clout, it is likely that production will switch from overseas to domestic bases. The impact on domestic economies will be significant.
The link between modularity and off‐shoring needs to be recognized, researched, and discussed.
Starr, M. (2010), "Modular production – a 45‐year‐old concept", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 7-19. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443571011012352Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited