Making obsolescence obsolete - A practical study of obsolescence management theory in the context of a truck OEM

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Graduate School

Abstract: Truck manufacturers are facing unprecedented technological disruptions from electrification,digitalization and automation. When disrupted, sustainment-dominated industries such as thetrucking industry, face increased risks of component and system obsolescence, which might leadto skyrocketing costs and diminishing aftermarket service. Building on existing theory ofobsolescence and insights from other disrupted industries, the purpose of this thesis is to investigatehow a truck OEM can effectively manage obsolescence issues caused by disruptive technologies.In order to reach substantiated conclusions of this research question, four supporting researchquestions were formulated to understand the OEM’s current disruption and obsolescencemanagement situation, what insights and learnings can be gathered from other relevant industries,what early warnings the OEM can use to assess when to manage obsolescence issues, and finallyhow the OEM can develop strategies to better manage obsolescence.The thesis applied a multi-method framework to investigate the research questions and fulfil thepurpose. First, a case study review of relevant industries (aviation, cars, defense, electronics,energy, ICT, lighting, music, maritime, rail and space) was conducted. Second, semi-structuredinterviews were held with employees from a specific truck OEM, experts within the field ofobsolescence; and experienced professionals from disrupted industries (cars, music, lighting andrail). The case study review generated a knowledge platform from which the second method,qualitative interviews, could gather deeper and more applied insights and knowledge.The thesis concludes that, in order to successfully manage obsolescence issues from disruptivetechnologies, the truck OEM should continuously improve their existing reactive obsolescencemanagement approaches and additionally develop a strategic and proactive framework includingearly warning indicators to preemptively assess and monitor potential developments leading toobsolescence. Furthermore, five different areas were identified, in which the OEM shouldimplement strategies to develop more effective proactive and strategic obsolescence management:management, knowledge, design considerations, supplier management and innovation. Thedetection of early warning signals was deemed as critical for management of challenges caused bydisruptive technologies.The thesis has concluded concepts and insights that primarily fall within the existing contemporaryfield of obsolescence management. The main contribution of the thesis is instead focusing onadding and extending the existing knowledge by synthesizing practical and empirical depth ofobsolescence management from real-life situations.

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