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Release: Nov. 4, 1999

UI engineering professor publishes book on industry and modular design

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When honeybees enlarge their hive, they don’t dismantle it and start from scratch; they simply construct additional identical modules to enlarge the honeycomb.

Similarly, modern corporations use modular design to succeed in the marketplace, according to University of Iowa Industrial Engineering Professor Peter O’Grady, author of a new book titled, "The Age of Modularity."

O’Grady, who will deliver the keynote address Nov. 19 at the second international "Managing Enterprises" conference hosted by the School of Management at the University of Newcastle, Australia, says that modularity is an essential component of corporate success, allowing companies to deliver a greater variety of products in less time and for less money.

"Leading companies like Microsoft, Motorola, Swatch, Sun Microsystems and Boeing have all adopted modularity with great success," O’Grady says. He notes that Boeing is expecting to reduce space launch costs by as much as 50 percent using modularity, while Ford plans to cut new plant capital costs by one-half. Also, users of the modular Microsoft Windows CE operating system have been able to develop operating systems in weeks, rather than months.

A modular approach to production, according to O’Grady, allows a company to deliver a wide range of products while still maintaining the efficiency of mass production. He adds that using the Internet in conjunction with modularity can expand a company’s competitive advantage.

"The twin approaches of the Internet and modularity can be instrumental in reducing product development time by 90-95 percent, increasing product variety five to 15-fold, reducing capital costs for new products by one-third to one-half, and reducing costs by an overall 30-60 percent," he said.

O’Grady’s book, published in 1999 by Adams & Steele, is aimed at students of industrial management, industry management and the general public.