Sustainability paradoxes for product modularity: the case of smartphones
Sprache des Vortragstitels:
Electronics Goes Green 2020+ (EGG)
Sprache des Tagungstitel:
Pioneering smartphone companies have embarked on ambitious journeys to adopt modular product designs (MPD) as part of their circular economy strategy. MPD refers to the idea of designing products based on grouping related functions in individual modules with standardized interfaces. Previously, MPD has been extensively discussed as an approach to achieve efficient product manufacturing in the upstream supply chain. As part of circular business strategies, MPD is increasingly applied as design principle for supporting lifecycle management in the down-stream. In a circular economy, modularity could enable replacements and recovery of individual modules to extend product and material lifetime. However, applying MPD to achieve extended lifetimes could create design tensions that require trade-off solutions, leading to system-level paradoxes. In particular, these tensions come up with regard to companies? ambitious sustainability intentions while operating in a conventional linear system. We conduct an in-depth case study on a small-scale European smartphone original equipment manufacturer (OEM) producing modular smartphones. We observe that an OEM?s original design intention and its operationalization of MPD for sustainability goals could generate tensions and eventually paradoxical outcomes. Our results illustrate that mod-ularity does not automatically contribute to sustainability. Instead, it requires collaboration of suppliers and OEMs as well as adjustments of the regulatory system.