The role of product architecture in manufacturing firms is well described in this article. After defining the term “product architecture” it goes on to describe its definition, its characteristics and process, an example of it when applied in a manufacturing firm, advantages when compared with other approaches for developing products and finally how to identify opportunities when applying Product Architecture. All these are useful bits of information when considering using product architecture in place of traditional ways. It also provides you with some references at the end which you can use if necessary.
The following are some points I have pulled out from the article-
- A valid product architecture includes detailed descriptions for all parts required to build the product
- The key objective behind creating a product architecture is to identify existing and required parts, their connections and interfaces
Creating a Product Architecture enables the product development team to find opportunities for improvement and optimization. The product architecture should support the introduction of new products or variants without having to make changes to other products in the portfolio. Considering potential future requirements results in identifying gaps between where you are today and where you will be tomorrow. By filling those gaps, you create your target state.
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The following table gives an overview of the different tasks in each phase. Manufacturers like Apple, Microsoft or Samsung are known to be very secretive about their products and their architecture. However, there are some publicly available insights into product architecture for smart phones, electronic wristwatches (e.g., Pebble) and tablet PCs (Windows 8). The following sections show examples of existing architectures for these three categories with focus on the Smartphone category. Since Microsoft has not made any official information public concerning its upcoming Windows 9 operating system, no example can be given for this category at this point in time.
Roles of product architecture in manufacturing firms are:
1. Processes that are performed by specific functional units, such as finance, marketing and purchasing, need to be coordinated. Product architecture facilitates the coordination of all these processes by creating a master plan for the physical realization of products.
2. Different business units in a company may have their own visions on what kind of product they want to offer. This leads to conflicts about concepts for new products between different parts of the company or even across different companies within an industry or sector. Product architecture mediates this conflict, incorporating different concepts into one unified design strategy which is then used to realize this strategy through system engineering activities.
3. New types of products often require that several technologies are integrated into one single product family. These technologies very often come from different companies. Product architecture ensures that all desired product features are incorporated into the actual product design, without limiting other possibilities for future product development or leading to sub optimized designs leading to unnecessary waste of resources.
4. Because of globalization and outsourcing, products are nowadays more frequently outsourced to third party companies for manufacturing processes or parts thereof which leads to even higher complexity in the integration of technology into one single product platform. Product architecture is used as a guiding tool to provide transparency on issues like compatibility between platforms within an industry so that outsourcing partners can be integrated successfully without wasting money on research and development efforts for solutions not needed by others downstream. And last but not least, product architecture facilitates differentiation among products within an industry.
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The product architecture is a representation of a platform’s physical entities and their relationships based on the logical functions performed by the subsystems which are mapped to physical parts, materials, and manufacturing processes. In addition, this can be extended to include information about where these system elements originate from or end up as part of a systems’ life cycle from creation via production through use and disposal. This represents one level deeper into understanding the potential areas of outsourcing. By mapping out specific tasks for subsystems it becomes clear which activities need to be done inhouse and therefore might warrant efforts for developing new technology or integrating existing technologies with other suppliers/partners who can provide suitable capabilities at competitive cost. It also allows the development group responsible for the design and development of the product to identify potential areas where integration with other subsystems can be leveraged to avoid redundant efforts.
In order to achieve optimal value from an outsourcing relationship, four key areas need to be taken into consideration: the customer’s business environment, past experience in relation to similar outsourcing initiatives, their future plans for expansion or further development and finally their financial status. In addition, other criteria may be required by certain customers while deciding whom they would like to outsource/outsource specific activities. These criteria may include factors such as minimum number of employees working at a site, or a requirement that a supplier should have a registered office in a certain country.