What Slows Rework Down: Causes for Low Problem-Solving Efficiency in Complex Product Development



Rework, i.e., the unplanned repetition of work thought to be previously completed, constitutes a major problem in product development (PD) of complex products.  Past research has explored the factors and conditions determining the probability of rework to occur.  In contrast, in this paper we investigate factors that determine the efficiency of rework execution once it becomes necessary.  More specifically, we study the underlying reasons for poor rework efficiency in automotive product development as measured in the number of days it takes to solve individual problems in the PD process.  We group the reasons into four areas: product, process, resource, and schedule.  While technical product complexity and personnel limitations represent constraints as known in the literature, we find that particularly important are timing-related factors such as timely availability of equipment and prototypes, and problem position in the overall project schedule.


Sebastian Fixson received the degree of Diplom-Ingenieur (M.S.) in mechanical engineering from University of Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1995, and the Ph.D. degree in Technology, Management, and Policy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, in 2002.  After graduation he joined the faculty of the Industrial and Operations Engineering Department at the University of Michigan as Assistant Professor.  Currently he is Visiting Assistant Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management in the Operations Management Group.  Fixson published amongst others in Journal of Operations Management, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management,  International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Prof. Fixson's research interest in technology management lies at the intersection of technical design decisions such as modularity and product architecture, and organizational design decisions such as process structure and granularity.  Prof. Fixson is currently chair of the Technology Management Section at INFORMS.

Contact information:
dr.ir. J.C.M. van den Ende