Product Platform Replacements: Challenges to Managers

Martin Sköld, Christer Karlsson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose – It is argued in this article that too little is known about product platforms and how to deal with them from a manager's point of view. Specifically, little information exists regarding when old established platforms are replaced by new generations in R&D and production environments. To shed light on this unexplored and growing managerial concern, the purpose of this explorative study is to identify operational challenges to management when product platforms are replaced.

Design/methodology/approach – The study uses a longitudinal field-study approach. Two companies, Gamma and Omega, fulfilled important sampling criteria and were selected as strategic samples for the study. The two companies were studied for 42 and eight months, respectively, and were chosen for their long and rigorous experiences of platform development. Together with managers from Gamma and Omega, one major platform replacement was chosen in each company.

Findings – The study shows that platform replacements primarily challenge managers' existing knowledge about platform architectures. A distinction can be made between “width” and “height” in platform replacements, and it is crucial that managers observe this in order to challenge their existing knowledge about platform architectures. Issues on technologies, architectures, components and processes as well as on segments, applications and functions are identified.

Practical implications – Practical implications are summarized and discussed in relation to a framework distinguishing between platform replacement “height” and “width”. Seven groups of managerial measures for dealing with the issues are recommended.

Originality/value – The study aims to contribute to the existing literature by taking a managers' perspective of product platform development. Its specific originality and value is achieved by focusing on product platform replacements believed to represent a growing management challenge.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)746 - 766
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Platform Development
  • Replacement
  • Operations Management
  • Challenges
  • Replacement Control

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