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Unpacking the Black Box of Modularity: Technologies, Products and Organizations

  • Brusoni, Stefano
  • Prencipe, Andrea

This paper explores the issues of knowledge and organizational coordination that stem from the adoption of modular product architectures. Modularity is a common characteristic of the products we have studied: aircraft engines and chemical plants. In contrast to much current research on product and organizational design, we argue that knowledge and organizational coordination cannot be achieved by relying only on automatic mechanisms enabled by the modular product architectures. Rather, the achievement of knowledge and organizational coordination demands interactive management of the actors and activities involved. This coordination role is played by companies that we define as "systems integrators". We contend that achieving knowledge coordination demands that systems integrators be able to span capabilities over a range of technological fields that is wider than the range of activities that they actually perform in-house. Copyright 2001 by Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Industrial & Corporate Change.

Volume (Year): 10 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 179-205

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Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:10:y:2001:i:1:p:179-205
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