Modularity in supply chains: a multiple case study in the construction industry

Hans Voordijk, Bert Meijboom, Job de Haan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The objective of this study is to assess the applicability of Fine's three-dimensional modularity concept as a tool to describe and to analyze the alignment of product, process, and supply chain architectures. Fine claims that the degree of modularity in the final output product has a one-to-one correspondence with the degree of modularity in transformation processes and supply chains.

Design/methodology/approach – An exploratory three-company case study is used to investigate Fine's three-dimensional modularity concept.

Findings – Empirical research shows that Fine's three-dimensional modularity concept works well for descriptive purposes. However, the concept needs refinement when it is used for analytical purposes. For process modularity, the spatial aspect can be related to the concept of the territorial economy of firms, while the time aspect can be elaborated using a product life-cycle perspective and the concept of interface reversibility. With respect to supply chain modularity, the concept of modular production networks, which specifies combinations of different degrees of geographic, organizational, cultural, and electronic proximity, is appropriate. In the specific setting of the building industry, a methodology for developing product platform architectures would refine the dimension of product modularity.

Research limitations/implications – Starting from the above-mentioned concepts, several strands of research are outlined for a further elaboration of product (developing a methodology for developing product platform architectures), process (taking a life-cycle perspective on module development), and supply chain modularity (analyzing conditions for the application of modular networks).

Originality/value – The application of systematic engineering design methods, interface reversibility, and interorganizational ICT allows firms to align product, process, and supply chain modularity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-618
JournalInternational journal of operations & production management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Supply chain management
  • Construction industry


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