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No more designing a new solution for every customer

 

No more designing a new solution for every customer

By Lotte Krull, Lisbeth Lassen

The Danish company Altan.dk no longer designs a new balcony for each client, but allows the customer to design the balcony the company can supply. The code word is modularization.

A few years ago, a call from a housing association meant that Altan.dk had to supply a specially designed balcony solution for precisely the property in question.

“We developed individualized customer solutions,” explains Nils Frederiksen, head of innovation at Altan.dk.

All that changed when, many years ago, the company began collaborating with DTU. However, development accelerated under the auspices of the national initiative MADE—Manufacturing Academy of Denmark—which was established in 2014 under the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

Working together with DTU, Altan.dk simplified their product range by means of modularization. Modularization means that the product range is based on modules and typically contains fewer components. This allows the components to be combined to form new solutions without the need to redesign the individual components

No new components

Altan.dk currently offers a standard range based on two types of balconies: a steel balcony and an aluminium version. The two types can then be combined in an almost infinite number of variations with respect to choice of balcony type, depth, bottom, floor areas, railings, and colour. But as a general rule, none of the components is changed to suit the individual customer.

“We’ve gone from supplying exactly what the customers want to having customers wanting what we can deliver,” says Nils Frederiksen.

Altan.dk’s previous problem of continually having to develop and supply customer-specific solutions is a common problem. Many companies are currently working with very comprehensive and complex product and production architectures developed from scratch for specific solutions or customers.

Often, the companies have no overview of what can be reused from project to project—or they have design solutions that cannot be combined—or adapted to other customers. While customer-specific production is not difficult in itself, it is a costly paradigm—among other things because it requires many hours of (re)development of solutions.

Too many variants

This production culture also means that there is an unnecessarily long waiting period from the company making an agreement with a customer to the customer actually receiving the solution. Product simplification is exactly what Head of Section and Professor Niels Henrik Mortensen from Engineering Design and Product Development at DTU Mechanical Engineering has been working with in connection with MADE.

“A major problem for manufacturing companies is that they often have a lot of product variants, and all products are subject to high quality requirements,” he says. “Of course, it’s not possible to slacken the quality requirements, but the combination of the many product variants and the large number of tests and certifications—which are a result of the huge amount of different products—means that companies are finding it increasingly difficult to react in due time in relation to the market and customer needs.”

source: Technical University of Denmark

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