The electrification of the automotive industry represents chances, but simultaneously threatens many companies with established business models. Medium-sized companies (250-3000 employees) from the supplier industry are particularly at risk, as they often depend on one product segment. If this segment is located in the area of the combustion engine, the company has to realign its strategy. There is a need to support companies in this process. The model of the SGE - System Generations Engineering describes the advancement of systems based on references. This paper aims to examine the transfer of the model of the SGE into the strategy process. In order to analyze the interrelationships and challenges in the strategy process, a 12-month study was carried out at a German automotive supplier (medium-sized company). In addition, 13 expert interviews were conducted with executives from medium-sized companies, consultants and researchers to analyze the possible integration of the model of SGE in the strategy process. The interviews were evaluated using a five-stage evaluation concept for qualitative content analysis according to Gläser and Laudel, which is closely based on Mayring. The study shows that corporate strategies consist of various elements that interact with each other and can be further detailed. According to the model of SGE, systems are evolved in generations based on references by using variation operators. In the course of the research, it turned out that this idea can be transferred to strategies. An example is given as follows: a company manufactures parts for the combustion engine in the automotive industry. The generation in development focuses the manufacturing of parts for the electric motor in the automotive industry (attribute variation) with the same machine and manufacturing technology (carryover variation). It is strategically planned, to manufacture parts for a completely new industry (principle variation) to become more independent from the cyclical automotive industry. In order to continue to leverage existing strengths and competencies, the company will use the same manufacturing technologies (carryover variation), but newly dimensioned machinery (attribute variation). The first elements that make up a strategy have been explored in this article. These are, for example, the targeted business areas and the positioning in these, the sales channels, the product portfolio offered and the manufacturing technologies used. Due to its complexity and individuality, there are further elements that can make up a strategy. In the following work it should be examined more exactly, how many elements are possible and/or necessary for the description of a strategy in dependence of different variables. Furthermore, the types of variation should be described in more detail and further examples should be collected. By integrating the descriptive development approach, the model of SGE, into the strategy process, valuable insights can be gained. The present contribution creates a first step to transfer the reference-based development into the field of strategy. The extension by the descriptive aspect of the model of the SGE enables a description of the strategy process as it was not possible so far. The use of references and types of variations can support companies in their strategy process. In addition, the implementation risk and effort of a stratety can be evaluated by adapting existing approaches from the model of SGE. Extending the SGE model into the area of strategy can help to better describe the strategy process and improve it in perspective. Strategies based on references can exemplarily help automotive suppliers to survive the structural change in their industry. This is especially the case for medium-sized companies, as our research shows that these firms have difficulty developing new strategies and stick with existing business models for too long. The research is currently in its early stages, but has the potential to significantly impact the strategy process and completely rethink how strategies are developed.
Mr. Florian Stammnitz, Researcher, IPEK - Institute of Product Engineering (KIT)