Learning by Doing in a Multi-Product Manufacturing Environment: Product Variety, Customizations, and Overlapping Product Generations

Carolyn D. Egelman, Dennis Epple, Linda Argote, Erica R.H. Fuchs

NBER Working Paper No. 19674
Issued in November 2013
NBER Program(s):Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

Extending research on organizational learning to multi-product environments is of particular importance given that the vast majority of products are manufactured in such environments. We investigate learning in a multi-product facility drawing on exceptionally rich data for a manufacturing firm that is a leading producer of high technology components. Weekly data for 10 years from the firm's production and human resource tracking systems are augmented by surveys of managers and engineers and by extensive first-hand observation. We find that productivity improves when multiple generations of the firm's primary product family are produced concurrently, reflecting the firm's ability to augment and transfer knowledge from older to newer product generations. No significant transfer of knowledge is evident between the primary product family and other products. Productivity is, however, decreased when the production facility is faced with extensive within-product buyer-specific customizations.We develop the implications of these findings for theory and practice.

download in pdf format
   (404 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19674

Published: Learning by Doing in Multiproduct Manufacturing: Variety, Customizations, and Overlapping Product Generations Carolyn D. Egelman, Dennis Epple, Linda Argote, and Erica R. H. Fuchs Management Science 201763:2 , 405-423

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Levitt, List, and Syverson w18017 Toward an Understanding of Learning by Doing: Evidence from an Automobile Assembly Plant
Lafontaine and Shaw w20312 Serial Entrepreneurship: Learning by Doing?
Chevalier and Kashyap w20768 Best Prices: Price Discrimination and Consumer Substitution
Byrne, Kovak, and Michaels w19637 Price and Quality Dispersion in an Offshoring Market: Evidence from Semiconductor Production Services
Acemoglu, Autor, Dorn, Hanson, and Price w19837 Return of the Solow Paradox? IT, Productivity, and Employment in U.S. Manufacturing
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us