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Boundary negotiations: a paradox theoretical approach for efficient and flexible modular systems

Philip Davies (Business Informatics, Systems and Accounting, Henley Business School, University of Reading – Whiteknights Campus, Reading, UK)
Glenn Parry (Centre of the Digital Economy (CODE), Surrey Business School, Guildford, UK)
Laura Anne Phillips (Exeter Business School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)
Irene C.L. Ng (Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 10 May 2021

Issue publication date: 13 August 2021

329

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the interplay between firm boundary decisions and the management of both efficiency and flexibility and the implications this has for modular design in the provision of advanced services.

Design/methodology/approach

A single case study in the defence industry employs semi-structured interviews supplemented by secondary data. Data are analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings

The findings provide a process model of boundary negotiations for the design of efficient and flexible modular systems consisting of three phases; boundary ambiguity, boundary defences and boundary alignment.

Practical implications

The study provides a process framework for boundary negotiations to help organisations navigate the management of both-and efficiency and flexibility in the provision of advanced services.

Originality/value

Drawing upon modularity, paradox and systems theory, this article provides novel theoretical insight into the relationship between firm boundary decisions and the management of both-and efficiency vs. flexibility in the provision of product upgrade services.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the funding contributed as part of the EPSRC iCase award [EP/L505730/1]. Without this funding and access to the case organisation, this research would not have been possible.

Citation

Davies, P., Parry, G., Phillips, L.A. and Ng, I.C.L. (2021), "Boundary negotiations: a paradox theoretical approach for efficient and flexible modular systems", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 41 No. 5, pp. 574-597. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-08-2020-0543

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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