Product Complexity Reduction

Maximilian Pasche
Division of Operations Management, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

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Ingår i: 11th QMOD Conference. Quality Management and Organizational Development Attaining Sustainability From Organizational Excellence to SustainAble Excellence; 20-22 August; 2008 in Helsingborg; Sweden

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 33:80, s. 953-971

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Publicerad: 2008-12-09


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


Introduction: Nowadays many industrial organisations are dealing with more and more complex products to comply with customer demands. This has the positive effects of increasing the market share and enabling manufacturers to enforce higher product prices. However; increased product complexity comprises some drawbacks as well. Most important to mention are increased product cost but also quality problems and prolonged lead times (Galsworth; 1994). Due to those drawbacks there have been made several attempts to reduce product complexity which were more or less successful (Bohne; 1998; Bliss; 2000). However; nowhere it is mentioned that to enable successful product complexity reduction an according organisational culture has to be developed. That is; to be able to implement an innovative product complexity reduction strategy it is important to create a company culture which fits and supports this strategy. If these two issues are in line with each other the chances for realising this strategy are maximised. Therefore; this paper combines classic approaches of product complexity reduction with the cultural aspects necessary inside the organisation to be successful. The result is a comprehensive guideline for fruitful product complexity reduction efforts.

Purpose: It shall be shown how plans and strategies for product complexity reduction can be derived by analysing the actual product structure. Further; it should be pointed out which kind of organisational culture is necessary to realise these strategies. By doing so; a guideline for product complexity reduction will be created including plans for product complexity reduction efforts as well as how an appropriate and supporting company culture should look like. The result is a comprehensive guideline for successful product complexity reduction efforts.

Research method: In this conceptual paper a method is introduced to analyse the actual product structure according to necessary product complexity which is creating customer benefits and the non-necessary product complexity which is not directly linked to increased customer benefits. Based on this analysis plans and strategies can be derived to reduce non-necessary product complexity. Finally; it will be illustrated that a specific organisational culture is needed to reduce product complexity in a meaningful way.

Results/conclusions: Analysing the product structure according to necessary and non-necessary product complexity enables an organisation to develop strategies and plans to reduce product complexity while at the same time keeping customer benefits constant. To be able to divide product complexity into necessary and non-necessary complexity an understanding has to be developed how product complexity is creating customer benefits and what the impacts of product complexity throughout the organisation are. That is; a broad integrated approach is necessary to gather this information. Therefore a cross functional or system focused organisational culture is necessary.


Product complexity; organisational culture; system focus; cross-functionality


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