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Why new IT tools for modularization rarely succeed

Buy new a software to successfully modularize your products and then magically develop modular product architectures? In the MB Collaborations blog you will learn:

  • why these software solutions do not lead to the desired success in the development of modular systems and product architectures despite seductive advertising messages.
  • what strategic considerations should be made before investing in a software.

Inflexible IT tools for unique approaches and different goals

The one right method to help your organization develop a modular system overnight?  There is no such thing. You may already know this from our workshops on modularization.

What is true for the methods is also true for software support by specialized IT tools. After all, when you select a software, you automatically commit yourself to an approach that may not be suitable for the procedures and goals of your organization.  

What's more, you need a high degree of flexibility to be able to deal efficiently with changes, especially in the early phases of product development. This flexibility is usually not provided by optimization tools. As a consequence, employees develop workarounds that are stored locally.

No modular system thanks to IT tool, but thanks to the people in the organization

The temptation is great and the advertising messages are seductive: Buy a software solution and the modular system develops more or less by itself. Unfortunately, the reality is different.

Modular product development differs significantly from conventional, sequential product development, where one variant is developed after the other (copy&paste approach).  In addition, you cannot download the implementation and thus the qualification of your employees from the App Store. First of all, your organization – and in the first step your pilot group – must understand how modularization, complexity management and variant management work and above all what implications they have for your organization. 

Before this, it is impossible to know YOUR requirements for a new IT tool. That's why you should focus on your goals and their implementation, especially at the beginning. There's a lot to do. And the focus of your approach is decisive for the success of the project.

Too complex products for a simple IT tool

At MB Collaborations, we have found that IT tools for optimizing modular systems often only work with simple products. They are often overwhelmed when applied to complex products. This means that the solution works if you have only a few product variants in your portfolio and need to configure a manageable number of components accordingly.

This is usually not the case today. Here are almost infinite configuration variants of your products and often more than 10,000 components that have to be developed and configured. Tools often reach their performance limits and vanish into a bottom drawer.

Parallel worlds for existing IT tools due to sub-optimal interfaces

Your organization already has an ERP solution, you use a PDM/PLM system and need a CAD environment. All these software solutions usually come with extensions. These can be, for example, extensions in the area of requirements management and various extensions from the area of variant management (for example, the SAP variant configurator).

Driven by individual customer requirements, many organizations today also have at least one product configurator that supports product configuration by creating configuration models.

All these software tools have their raison d'être. However, there is today already a lot of information that has to be managed in parallel in the corresponding tools and integrated as seamlessly as possible. If specialized consultancies now bring along additional software, functionalities that are already available in your software environment are often also duplicated in their tools. Examples of this can often be found in the area of product configuration: Variant drivers, for example, are nothing more than customer properties that are mapped by defining rules using configuration models in your existing product configurator.

The highly praised interfaces often do not fit your specific challenges and parallel worlds generally lead to increased efforts for data maintenance and inconsistencies between the systems.

Why specialized consultancy for modularization sell IT tools

Let us now talk about an open secret: Have you ever wondered why management consultancies are increasingly selling software tools?

The background is the business model of any management consultancy: When a management consultancy sells its services, sales increase proportionally to the number of people working on the project. Once a project is completed, however, no more turnover can be generated.

The sale of software solutions is very attractive at this point – after a project has been completed, further revenues can be generated through license and service fees. This does not always have to be in the interests of your organization.

Conclusion: working toward the goal: a powerful, sustainable and long-term implementation in your own software environment

If possible, it makes sense to work from the beginning in the right software environment with the final solution that builds on your already installed systems. Often this is not possible because your IT environment does not yet reflect a modular approach.

In this case, you can use flexible tools from your existing environment to support a modular system , while you and your organization learn to understand the specific challenges of modular development and the resulting IT requirements.

The goal must be a powerful, sustainable and long-term implementation in your software environment without additional efforts for data maintenance and inconsistencies between the systems.

Another way of providing IT support for modularization projects is tailor-made e-learning, which can support and enhance communication, transparency and knowledge transfer. Learn more about the benefits of e-learning and how to use them.

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