juni 26, 2023. Interface management, the hidden secret within Modular Product Design

Modular product design has revolutionized various industries, including the machine building sector. The ability to develop complex machines by combining interchangeable modules offers flexibility, customization, and accelerated production cycles. However, effective interface management becomes paramount to ensure seamless integration and optimal performance of modular machines. This article delves deeper into the interface management pitfalls specific to the machine building industry and provides examples to illustrate their impact and potential solutions.

  1. Inconsistent Design Guidelines: In the machine building industry, inconsistent design guidelines across modules can lead to significant challenges in interface management. For instance, suppose a modular machine consists of multiple subsystems, such as a control unit, power supply, and mechanical components. If each subsystem’s interfaces are not designed with a unified approach, mismatches in dimensions, mounting points, or electrical connections can occur. This can hinder the assembly process and result in suboptimal performance. To mitigate this pitfall, machine builders should establish comprehensive design guidelines that standardize module interfaces, ensuring compatibility and ease of integration across different subsystems.

Example: In the construction equipment industry, a modular excavator manufacturer faced challenges when integrating various modules sourced from different suppliers. The inconsistency in design guidelines led to alignment issues between the hydraulic system and the mechanical arm, causing reduced efficiency and increased maintenance requirements. To address this, the manufacturer collaborated closely with suppliers to establish standardized interface specifications and conducted rigorous testing to ensure seamless integration.

  1. Communication and Collaboration Issues: Effective communication and collaboration between multidisciplinary teams are crucial for successful interface management in the machine building industry. Machine builders often work with cross-functional teams responsible for designing different modules or subsystems. Without proper coordination, teams may overlook critical details or fail to address potential conflicts in module interfaces, resulting in costly rework or delays in product development.

Example: A company specializing in packaging machinery encountered communication challenges when integrating modules developed by separate engineering teams. The lack of regular communication and collaboration led to misalignments in electrical interfaces, resulting in frequent system failures during operation. To overcome this pitfall, the company implemented regular meetings between teams, encouraged open communication, and introduced shared project management tools to streamline information exchange and enhance collaboration.

  1. Insufficient Testing and Validation: Insufficient testing and validation of module interfaces can have detrimental effects on the performance and reliability of modular machines. Failure to verify the compatibility and functionality of module interfaces at each stage of the design and manufacturing process can lead to unexpected integration challenges or operational issues.

Example: In the agricultural machinery industry, a manufacturer faced difficulties when integrating a newly developed harvesting module with an existing tractor base. The insufficient testing and validation of the module’s mechanical interfaces resulted in excessive vibrations during operation, leading to premature wear and reduced productivity. To address this pitfall, the manufacturer implemented rigorous testing procedures, including dynamic load simulations and field trials, to ensure optimal integration and performance.

  1. Lack of Standardization: The lack of standardization in module interfaces can present significant challenges in the machine building industry. When modules are not designed to adhere to widely accepted industry standards or protocols, compatibility issues arise, making it difficult to interchange or upgrade modules seamlessly.

Example: A manufacturer of industrial automation systems faced difficulties in integrating modules from different suppliers due to the lack of standardization in communication protocols and electrical interfaces. As a result, the interoperability between modules was compromised, leading to inefficiencies and limited customization options. To overcome this pitfall, the manufacturer actively participated in industry standardization efforts and collaborated closely with suppliers to ensure adherence to common protocols and interfaces.

  1. Inadequate Documentation and Knowledge Management: Insufficient documentation and knowledge management pose challenges in effectively managing module interfaces within the machine building industry. When critical information regarding module interfaces, compatibility requirements, or integration procedures is not adequately documented or shared, it can result in confusion, delays, and errors during the assembly and maintenance processes.

Example: A manufacturer of CNC machining centers encountered difficulties when troubleshooting and servicing modular spindle units due to the lack of comprehensive documentation. The absence of clear interface specifications and troubleshooting guidelines led to prolonged downtime and increased maintenance costs. To address this pitfall, the manufacturer implemented a comprehensive documentation system that captured detailed interface information, assembly procedures, and troubleshooting guides, facilitating efficient maintenance and reducing downtime.


Interface management plays a pivotal role in ensuring the success of modular product design in the machine building industry. By addressing the specific pitfalls outlined in this article—such as inconsistent design guidelines, communication challenges, insufficient testing, lack of standardization, and inadequate documentation—machine builders can achieve seamless integration, superior performance, and enhanced customer satisfaction. By learning from real-world examples and implementing effective interface management strategies, the machine building industry can unlock the full potential of modularization, delivering innovative, reliable, and cost-effective machines to meet the evolving needs of customers.

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Thijs Schepman



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