Collaborative Prototyping of Alternative Designs Under a Target Costing Scheme


Production and Operations Management

March 2018, vol. 27, n°3, pp.496–515

Departments: Information Systems and Operations Management

Keywords: Collaborative prototyping, Parallel and sequential testing, Supplier involvement, Target costing

Prototyping allows firms to evaluate the technical feasibility of alternative product designs and to better estimate their costs. We study a collaborative prototyping scenario in which a manufacturer involves a supplier in the prototyping process by letting the supplier make detailed design choices for critical components and provide prototypes for testing. While the supplier can obtain private information about the costs, the manufacturer uses target costing to gain control over the design choice. We show that involving the supplier in the prototyping process has an important influence on the manufacturer's optimal decisions. The collaboration results in information asymmetry, which makes parallel prototyping less attractive and potentially reverses the optimal testing sequence under sequential prototyping: It may be optimal to test designs in increasing order of attractiveness to avoid that the supplier does not release technically and economically feasible prototypes for strategic reasons. We also find that the classical target costing approaches (cost- and market-based) need to be adjusted in the presence of alternative designs: Due to the strategic behavior of suppliers, it is not always optimal to provide identical target costs for designs with similar cost and performance estimates, nor to provide different target costs for dissimilar designs. Furthermore, the timing is important: While committing upfront to carefully chosen target costs reduces the supplier's strategic behavior, in some circumstances, the manufacturer can take advantage of this behavior by remaining flexible and specifying the second prototype's target costs later