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Technological Determinism and Modularity: Lessons from a Comparison between Aircraft and Auto Industries in Europe

  • Vincent Frigant
  • Damien Talbot

Initial studies of modular manufacturing processes have shown that this dominant design required a fundamentally novel organisational structure of the industries. The underlying hypothesis of technological determinism merits a deeper exploration. The first part of the present paper aims at presenting the logic of this argument while making a distinction between the technological and organisational aspects of modularity. Based on this we then attempt a study of the manner in which the transition to modularity takes place in the aircraft and automobile industries. Our main conclusion is that while it may be possible to posit a convergence between these two industries, the paths followed are still quite clearly opposed.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Industry and Innovation.

Volume (Year): 12 (2005)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 337-355

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Handle: RePEc:taf:indinn:v:12:y:2005:i:3:p:337-355
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  1. Timothy J. Sturgeon, 2002. "Modular production networks: a new American model of industrial organization," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(3), pages 451-496, June.
  2. Richard N. Langlois, 2003. "The vanishing hand: the changing dynamics of industrial capitalism," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 351-385, April.
  3. Schaefer, Scott, 1999. "Product design partitions with complementary components," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 311-330, March.
  4. Langlois, Richard N. & Robertson, Paul L., 1992. "Networks and innovation in a modular system: Lessons from the microcomputer and stereo component industries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 297-313, August.
  5. Vincent Frigant, 2005. "Vanishing hand versus Systems integrators - Une revue de la littérature sur l'impact organisationnel de la modularité," Revue d'Économie Industrielle, Programme National Persée, vol. 109(1), pages 29-52.
  6. Bonaccorsi, Andrea & Giuri, Paola, 2001. "The long-term evolution of vertically-related industries," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(7), pages 1053-1083, July.
  7. Langlois, Richard N., 2002. "Modularity in technology and organization," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 19-37, September.
  8. Ulrich, Karl, 1995. "The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 419-440, May.
  9. Frenken, Koen, 2000. "A complexity approach to innovation networks. The case of the aircraft industry (1909-1997)," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 257-272, February.
  10. Richard N. Langlois, 2004. "Competition through Institutional Form: the Case of Cluster Tool Standards," Working papers 2004-10, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  11. Vincent Frigant, 2002. "Geographical proximity and supplying relationships in modular production," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 742-755, December.
  12. Brusoni, Stefano & Prencipe, Andrea, 2001. "Unpacking the Black Box of Modularity: Technologies, Products and Organizations," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 179-205, March.
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