The need for function platforms in engineer-to-order industries
Many industries base their innovations on product platforms. Platforms have predefined modularity with standardized interfaces. However, product platforms provide significant challenges to engineering industries, that rely heavily on R&D such as microlithography systems. Developing these systems depends on advanced technologies, that are still immature and where predefined modularity with standardized interfaces cannot be assumed. However, although platforms in the classical meaning cannot be achieved, this paper argues that functional platforms offer a feasible alternative. Based on the function platform it is possible to generate engineering variants based on elements that are physically different and subject to engineering, but can be functionally and technologically reused. In this paper, a longitudinal case study is described at a large engineer-to-order firm delivering microlithography systems. The evidence from the case study shows that functional platforms allow nuanced design freeze, since the platform describes the functional elements that will remain stable within the development of a product family.