AAU Update

PhD defense by Stine Hendler

PhD defense by Stine Hendler



01.06.2021 kl. 13.00 - 16.00





Manufacturing companies are increasingly adding digital functionality to their products. Such product digitalization involves significant changes to the manufacturer’s value chain. This PhD research explores the consequences for product development within a large, mature and successful manufacturer, which is engaging with product digitalization. Specifically, the thesis explores the digital-physical product development process, in which software development practices are combined with the development of physical products. The research explores and summarizes which practices and context effectively support digital-physical product development, how to effectively coordinate digital-physical product development, and how to effectively build this new capability within the manufacturer.

Combining case study and action research methods, the research documents in-depth insight into five successful digital-physical product development projects and proposes tentative and descriptive theory in the form of a research model and propositions.

The research results first establish that digital-physical product development involves separate subprocesses with different development practices. Digital development is optimized for adaptability via agile development methods with late and gradual binding of the product design. Physical development is optimized for stability via a firm-centric and linear development process with early binding.

The research finds that when combining a physical stability-optimized product development process and a digital adaptability-optimized development process, either the former process must become more adaptable, the latter must become less adaptable, or both need to change to achieve optimal performance of the overall process. As a key finding, the research demonstrates that it is feasible for both digital and physical to adapt to each other’s development practices, though only to an extent. Implementing agile practices in physical product development is feasible to the extent that it allows adherence to deadlines that have a high cost if they are delayed, for example, the Bill of Materials lock.

Digital-physical development also requires changes in product development practices, including marketing strategies, becoming more externally oriented, developing new testing methods, organizing the project to include digital competences at all levels and focusing on product architecture. Other changes to the development context involve changes to elements such as business models, marketing operations and quality acceptance criteria.

The research also finds that effective digital-physical coordination involves both coordination in terms of standardization of skills, process and output to accommodate the stability needed for efficient physical product development and involves agile coordination practices to allow adaptability. Finally, the research finds evidence for an effective model for building new digital-physical product development capability.


Assessment Committee:       

Professor Frank Gertsen, (chairman)
Department of Materials and Production,
Aalborg University

Professor Dr. Katharina Hölzle,
University of Potsdam

Professor Mats Magnusson
Royal Institute of Technology
Professor Harry Boer
Department of Materials and Production, Aalborg University

The PhD defense will be hosted by Moderator associate professor Poul Kyvsgaard Hansen. The lecture constitutes a 45 minutes presentation by Stine Hendler followed by a short break and a discussion session with questions from the opponents and the auditorium.


Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 638 1693 9865


Associate Professor Poul Kyvsgaard Hansen

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