Standardization Strategies and Their Impact on Partners' Relationships in Complex Product and Systems: Cases in the Space Sector

Standardization Strategies and Their Impact on Partners' Relationships in Complex Product and Systems: Cases in the Space Sector

Karim Benmeziane (Montpellier Research in Management, Montpellier 2 University, Montpellier, France) and Anne Mione (Montpellier Research in Management, Montpellier 2 University, Montpellier, France)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijitsr.2014070102


In this contribution, the authors investigate the way partners involved in Complex Products and Systems (CoPS) development manage local standards. In particular, this paper analyses how this management impacts the relations between partners through their roles of leader and complementor within platforms. The results are based on a qualitative case study in the launch vehicle segment of the space sector, especially the development of the Ariane 5 and Vega European space launchers. First, the authors find that standards management reveals the firm's position in a platform as a leader or a complementor. Second, it is shown that standards can be a way for complementors to build new system skills by collaborating with platform leaders. Along with skill building, they allow a firm to challenge the dominant position of the platform leader. Third, the authors show that firms use local standards combined with alliance strategies to manage competitive tensions. Then, the paper discusses literature on standards in CoPS and on leader and complementor's positions within platforms.
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1. Introduction

Complex Products and systems (CoPS) are defined as high cost, higlhy customized, engineering-intensive products, systems, networks and constructs which often require several producers to work together simultaneously (Hobday, 1998). In this specific context, standards, and more specifically “local standards”, are considered a solution to coordinate the different partners of the project (Steinmuller, 2003). The leader of the project defines and selects a set of specifications, potentially derived from industrial standards to achieve coordination and to ensure complementarity between the components of the complex system. To contribute to the project, the different participants are requested to conform to these standards. To some extent, standards shape the relationships between partners. In this contribution, we aim at exploring this strategic perspective on standards. We refer to Cusumano (2002)’s description of the platform leader and complementor’s positions. Cusumano (2002) exposes the strategies from complementors to become leaders or from leaders to maintain their leadership. We explore how standards definition, selection and implementation (De Vries, 1999) can leverage these hierarchical positions. We particularly review the platform leader’s management of standards and question whether these standards are used to reinforce its leadership or not. Then, we adopt the complementor‘s viewpoint and question whether standards adoption and implementation constitute a vehicle for skills acquisition. In other words, does standard adoption facilitate capability building for a supplier or a complementor? How far these capabilities contribute in the development of new markets or contesting an installed leadership?

Our contribution is based on Complex Products and Systems (CoPS) cases analysis from the space sector. We specifically review space launch development and production activities. The space sector requires converging technologies (between civil and military in the propulsion domain for instance). In such converging ecosystems, Hacklin et al (2013) have described strategic profiles such as technology pioneer, market attacker, ecosystem aggregator or business remodeler. We adopt this typology to refine the role of standards in the description of the strategic profile of platform leaders and complementors.

The first part exposes the literature on complex products and systems and shows the specific role of standards in coordination, negociation and firm memory (Steinmueller, 2003). We expose the different strategic profiles a firm adopts in a high technological converging context and link these profiles to the positions of platform leader and complementor. Then, we explore the decisions made upon standard definition, selection and implementation for platform leaders and complementors. The second part exposes the method. The third part presents the results that will be discussed in the fourth part.

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