Many capital good firms deliver products that are not strictly one-off, but instead share a certain degree of similarity with other deliveries. In the delivery of the product, they aim to balance stability and variety in their product design and processes. The issue of engineering change plays an important in how they manage to do so. Our aim is to gain more understanding into how capital good firms manage engineering change, design variety and process variety, and into the role of the product delivery strategies they thereby use. Product delivery strategies are defined as the type of engineering work that is done independent of an order and the specification freedom the customer has in the remaining part of the design. Based on the within-case and cross-case analysis of two capital good firms several mechanisms for managing engineering change, design variety and process variety are distilled. It was found that there exist different ways of (1) managing generic design information, (2) isolating large engineering changes, (3) managing process variety, (4) designing and executing engineering change processes. Together with different product delivery strategies these mechanisms can be placed within an archetypes framework of engineering change management. On one side of the spectrum capital good firms operate according to open product delivery strategies, have some practices in place to investigate design reuse potential, isolate discontinuous engineering changes into the first deliveries of the product, employ ‘probe and learn’ process management principles in order to allow evolving insights to be accurately executed and have informal engineering change processes. On the other side of the spectrum capital good firms operate according to a closed product delivery strategy, focus on prevention of engineering changes based on design standards, need no isolation mechanisms for discontinuous engineering changes, have formal process management practices in place and make use of closed and formal engineering change procedures. The framework should help managers to (1) analyze existing configurations of product delivery strategies, product and process designs and engineering change management and (2) reconfigure any of these elements according to a ‘misfit’ derived from the framework. Since this is one of the few in-depth empirical studies into engineering change management in the capital good sector, our work adds to the understanding on the various ways in which engineering change can be dealt with.
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