A holistic approach for ameliorating the effect of ‘valley of death’ in technology assimilation
thesisposted on 18.06.2019, 11:07 by Hao Liang
Technology assimilation is an increasingly important topic in modern manufacturing industries. Successful technology assimilation not only supports the development of better products, but also can provide a competitive edge in fast-moving markets, such as the automotive industry. Technology assimilation is a complex process, with a high failure rate, with technologies that seem promising in the research phase, failing to be assimilated into the final product. This high failure rate for technology assimilation is costly, in both time and other resources, and so has resulted in the effect of the Valley of Death . Tools and methods for technology assessment are essential enablers of successful product development, a process that requires collaboration from both engineering and business professionals to be successful.
This thesis presents research that was aimed at ameliorating the Valley of Death effect during technology assimilation, particularly in the environment of the automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). The research was undertaken in close collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover Limited. Such collaboration provided first-hand information and direct engagement that supported and enabled this research.
A review of the relevant theoretical concepts and the process of technology assimilation was undertaken, with a focus on the tools and methods that have been applied. The literature review resulted in an identification of the gaps and challenges among current technology assimilation approaches. This work also resulted in a conceptual model being developed to represent three different viewpoints that it is argued are essential to understand for successful technology assimilation, namely: Natural Technological Viewpoint, Social Technological Viewpoint and Human Technological Viewpoint. These three viewpoints were then further elaborated in a Hexahedron Model of Technology, alongside consideration of technology assimilation complexity, capability of technology and the contribution of a potential technology, allowing six different perspectives to be considered during the process of assessing if a specific technology is suitable for assimilation into a complex product.
In this thesis, the Hexahedron Model of Technology, as the name suggests, allows consideration of six different facets for successful technology assimilation, and can be further elaborated to include more aspects of technology based on the future work. This model can also support an enterprise to understand how to develop the technology in a direction that might increase the likelihood of successful assimilation.
The approach to technology assimilation presented in the thesis first sets out a Technology Assessment Framework and methods for populating and applying it. The Hexahedron Model of Technology provides a structural platform for assessing the subjective factors that need to be considered during technology assimilation in a structured way. This process helps to reduce the number of technologies that are considered for assimilation; by pre-eliminating some relatively weak technologies and taking forward only those more likely to succeed. A Technology Refinement and Modification Algorithm was then developed that provides suggestions, at a high-level, for the direction for technology improvement to help make the technology better match the requirements. This algorithm hence helps to further increase the chances of successful technology assimilation.
The Technology Assessment Framework and Technology Refinement and Modification Algorithm were applied to two case studies. One of these cases was conducted to demonstrate the process of the proposed approach whereas the other one was part of a real-world project in collaboration with the Jaguar Land Rover Limited. Overall, this research demonstrates a two-step holistic approach to technology assimilation that first reduces the number of technologies considered for assimilation and then establishes the direction for development of new technology to improve the likelihood of successful technology assimilation.