Boute, Robert; Van den Broeke, Maud; Deneire, Kristof (2018)
In this article, we present how Barco, a global technology company, used an operations research optimization model, which was supported by an efficient solution method, to implement platforms—common structures from which sets of products could be made—for the design and production of its high-tech medical displays. Our optimization model captures all cost aspects related to the use of platforms, thus, it is an objective tool that considers the input from marketing, sales, research and development (R&D), operations, and the supply chain. This comprehensive view allowed Barco to avoid the excessive costs that may result from the implementation of an incorrect platform. Our model supported Barco in determining the elements that should comprise each platform, the number of platforms to develop, and the products to derive from each platform. The results of the project led to reductions in safety stock and increased flexibility due to the use of platforms: R&D can now introduce twice as many products using the same resources, thus increasing Barco's earnings by over 5 million euros annually and reducing product introduction time by nearly 50 percent.
Van den Broeke, Maud; Boute, Robert; Van Mieghem, Jan (2018)
Product platforms are assets that are shared by multiple products. We study the optimal investment in platform flexibility. Each platform type is characterized by its functionality that determines its R&D investment and unit production cost, as well as the customization cost to produce the end products from the platform. The firm can invest in a portfolio of specialized platforms that align with the functionalities of a specific product and flexible platforms that cover the functionalities of a product range at lower customization cost. We characterize the optimal platform portfolio strategy using an ex-ante investment versus ex-post production customization tradeoff curve and show comparative statics of these costs, demand forecast, and the decision
maker's regret and risk attitude. Flexible platforms provide operational hedging for risk-averse decision makers who thus should invest more than risk-neutral counterparts. In contrast to manufacturing flexibility, the regret of sub-optimal investments increases as demand is more negatively correlated.
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