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What exactly is Product Modularity? The answer depends on who you ask


  • Fixson, Sebastian K.


'Product modularity' has recently experienced a significant increase in interest in the academic literature. While the concept of product modularity is used across a wide range of academic research areas, substantial variations exist in the ways in which the concept is described and interpreted. In this paper, I develop a framework to represent the similarities and differences that appear across these variations of the concept of product modularity. Next, through an extensive literature search I construct a set of 85 references representing the use of product modularity in the engineering and management literature over the past 30 years (1975€Ӳ006). With help of the framework I then analyze the use and interpretation of product modularity in every reference in the set. The analysis demonstrates that the product modularity concepts taken together really encompass a bundle of product characteristics rather than a single condition, and individual research areas exhibit certain preferences in which they define and operationalize product modularity. I conclude with some recommendations for future research. Overall, this paper strives to provide a vocabulary to improve cross-disciplinary understanding of product modularity.

Suggested Citation

  • Fixson, Sebastian K., 2007. "What exactly is Product Modularity? The answer depends on who you ask," Working papers 37285, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:sloanp:37285

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    Cited by:

    1. Cabigiosu, Anna & Zirpoli, Francesco & Camuffo, Arnaldo, 2013. "Modularity, interfaces definition and the integration of external sources of innovation in the automotive industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 662-675.

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    Product Modularity; Concept Ambiguity; Product Architecture; Interfaces; Multidisciplinary research; Review;

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