Different Approaches to Modularity and their Benefits

You may have heard a lot of buzz in the recent years about “modularity”. Regardless of whether we’re speaking of a product, a piece of software, a data center or even a complete productive plant, this “magic word” has been a sort of mantra always associated with the smart production of goods, quick deployment and undoubtful added value. Modular is good, easy, and modern… so, let’s go modular!

Well, this is quite generic, isn’t it? Are all modules created equal? Is there only one way to be modular? And how can a customer take full advantage of modularity? Let’s see…

A module (from the Latin word “modus”, “measure”) can be generically defined as ‘a functional part of a complex system that interacts in simple ways with the rest of the system’. The adoption of modularity has been pursued with some precise competitive advantages in mind.

For instance, for an end user of an uninterruptible power supply, the following benefits can be pointed out:

  • The possible built-in redundancy representing a sort of insurance against possible failures
  • Scalability, again, a sort of insurance that the product can evolve over time with the possibility of adding a module when needed
  • The service continuity given by the ability to replace a module while always keeping the load protected
  • Simplified issue management thanks to easier diagnosis, isolation and resolution of potential problems
  • Shorter lead time for the delivery of the product
  • Quicker repair time thanks to the hot swappability of entire modules

From a strategic management and product development stand point, it is also easy to see how modularity leads to:

  • Reduction of the time-to-market thanks to the development of different modules in parallel and the ability to build different product ratings by the simple addition of one or more modules
  • Enhanced flexibility and customizability of the product offering thanks to the different possible combinations of standard modules (“customized standardization”)
  • More efficient stock management
  • Enhanced effectiveness of quality controls as these spread their benefit across a complete platform

Several approaches have been taken in developing a modular product or product family, each reflecting a different degree of modularity. In fact, modularity is a relative propriety and the bipartition between “integral” (or “monolithic”) and “modular” products is just too simplistic.

There are some underlying concepts such as Modularity, Commonality, and Combinability that help to define the level of modularity and extend the scope of modularity itself.

Share This Post:

Steven Bartoszewicz