Oliver’s PhD thesis is titled “The incorporation of flexibility into products at their early development stage to cope with lifecycle uncertainties - The case of electric vehicle battery packs”. It was based on the industrial research project P2-Opti that dealt with the optimization of powertrain systems over their entire lifecycle. The project was initiated by AVL List GmbH and funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). As scientific partner, the IIM specifically investigated measures to cope with uncertainties and changes through product design. The project duration was from May 2017 to April 2021.
Pursuing to develop products that offer improved overall benefits to relevant stakeholders throughout their entire lifecycle calls for approaches that proactively enhance coping with uncertainties and changes. Sudden requirement fluctuations in the development phase, supply chain disruptions in the production phase, unknown operation conditions, and upcoming stringent recycling regulations in the end-of-life phase represent some examples. Systematic design considerations at the early development stage particularly enable the effective and efficient incorporation of the required flexibility into products. Related approaches in literature either lack on practical applicability or a holistic perspective. Therefore, Oliver’s PhD thesis aims to demonstrate a potential incorporation of appropriate flexibility into products at the early development stage to cope with critical uncertainties and changes throughout their lifecycle. In order to achieve this aim in a practical context, a corresponding “design for lifecycle-flexibility” guideline was developed. Based on a single case study at AVL List GmbH as an engineering company that covers various disciplines, multiple experts actually applied each step of the guideline on a practical use case about electric vehicle battery packs. Due to profound transformations mainly caused through the rise of e-mobility, the automotive industry is currently characterized by a high degree of uncertainty. Within powertrain systems that face serious disruptions and EBIT margin pressure, battery packs have been identified as the most crucial element. Referring to the evaluation of potential benefits through the guideline application at the early development stage, involved industry experts expected significant lifecycle cost reductions. Since various industries are currently affected by uncertainties, future research on additional products represents interesting opportunities.
As part of his PhD thesis, Oliver also had the unique opportunity for a research stay at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA. He met various impressive personalities and gained extraordinary experiences within the astonishing atmosphere at a global top university. Discussions with his external supervisor Prof. Richard de Neufville as a worldwide-renowned expert in the field of incorporating flexibility into system designs provided most valuable support. Prof. de Neufville is particularly known for innovations in engineering education. He was also the founding chairman of the MIT Technology and Policy Program and published numerous studies on systems engineering.