• Are modular and customizable smartphones the future, or doomed to fail? A case study on the introduction of sustainable consumer electronics

      Hankammer, Stephan; Jiang, Ruth; Kleer, Robin; Schymanietz, Martin (CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology, 2018)
      Mass Customization (MC) has become a major trend in the consumer goods market in recent years. While the economic chances and threats are already described very well, the social and environmental impact of MC products remain unclear. Phonebloks, a design study of a modular smartphone launched in 2013, created a vision about fostering sustainability through MC. Teaming up with Google’s Project Ara, a modular and customizable smartphone approach seemed very likely to reach market maturity. In 2016, Google canceled Project Ara shortly before the awaited market introduction. Analyzing the rise and fall of the first large scale MC based business model that was initially designed to foster sustainability in the consumer electronics market, gives us the opportunity to revise the economic, social and ecologic potential of modular and customizable smartphones in general. Furthermore, with constantly growing consumer requirements for new product iterations in shorter time frames, traditional measures for success, such as time-to-market, could change inherently as we are moving closer towards iterative product development processes and much shorter product life-cycles. This, in turn, leads to major changes for ramp-up processes. Using a qualitative case study approach based on expert interviews at two different stages of the Project Ara development process (2015 and 2017), we shed light on the future of modular and customizable smartphones and their economic, social and ecologic sustainability potential. We show that while Project Ara failed in the end, it had the economic potential to outperform its competitors in the field of modular smartphones. We find that an MC approach could lead to longer smartphone or, at least, component life cycles. Finally, we affirm a positive potential for influencing sociocultural behavior in the long tail of the smartphone market.
    • Collaborative value creation from a degrowth perspective

      Hankammer, Stephan; Kleer, Robin (Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018)
      The concept of degrowth aims fundamentally at reducing material and energy throughput equitably, while questioning the desirability of further economic growth. In order to achieve this reduction of society’s throughput, radical changes in the ways goods and services are produced, distributed and used are required. In this think piece, concepts of consumer integration into the value creation process and (new) enabling technologies are discussed as possible constituting elements of alternative organizational models in a degrowth society. To date, collaborative value creation concepts, such as crowdsourcing and mass customization, have been discussed almost exclusively as business model patterns for companies in economies that are set to grow. The same applies to the assessment of (new) technologies, such as additive manufacturing, web-based user interfaces for co-creation, and other flexible production technologies that allow for collaborative and individualized production. Potential positive and negative effects of these concepts and technologies with regard to the objectives of degrowth are discussed in order to initiate a debate about the inclusion of CVC for the design of alternative organizational models that are in line with degrowth thinking. This think piece illustrates that several elements of collaborative value creation and its enabling technologies coincide with degrowth objectives but do not lead per se to their attainment. Thereby, a starting point for future (empirical) work in this area is generated.
    • Degrowth and collaborative value creation: Reflections on concepts and technologies

      Hankammer, Stephan; Kleer, Robin (Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018)
      The concept of degrowth aims fundamentally at reducing material and energy throughput equitably, while questioning the desirability of further economic growth. In order to achieve this reduction of society’s throughput, radical changes in the ways goods and services are produced, distributed and used are required. In this think piece, concepts of consumer integration into the value creation process and (new) enabling technologies are discussed as possible constituting elements of alternative organizational models in a degrowth society. To date, collaborative value creation concepts, such as crowdsourcing and mass customization, have been discussed almost exclusively as business model patterns for companies in economies that are set to grow. The same applies to the assessment of (new) technologies, such as additive manufacturing, web-based user interfaces for co-creation, and other flexible production technologies that allow for collaborative and individualized production. Potential positive and negative effects of these concepts and technologies with regard to the objectives of degrowth are discussed in order to initiate a debate about the inclusion of CVC for the design of alternative organizational models that are in line with degrowth thinking. This think piece illustrates that several elements of collaborative value creation and its enabling technologies coincide with degrowth objectives but do not lead per se to their attainment. Thereby, a starting point for future (empirical) work in this area is generated.