Entry Date:
December 12, 2013

Product Platforms and Commonality

Principal Investigator Olivier de Weck

Many firms and organizations have to provide ever increasing numbers of variants and customized products and services to remain successful. Product Platforms are a particularly successful strategy for reusing architectures and design solutions from one variant, market segment or customer to the next. Product platforms are essentially a coherent subset of the overall design that is leveraged across multiple applications. A more general commonality strategy is one where individual components and processes are reused. The most significant challenge is to decide how much and where to implement commonality to balance between potential gains in efficiency versus sub-optimality of reusing solutions that are somewhat sub-optimal for individual users.

To master this need for external (market-facing) complexity with minimal internal complexity, firms are pursuing a variety of platforming and commonality strategies. Where and how much commonality should be introduced in a product family or set of related projects? What are the technical, financial and architectural implications of alternative platform and commonality strategies? This research area focuses on developing frameworks and methods for platforming, commonality and smart standardization and their application and refinement through industrial practice.

Specific contributions to the Product Platforms and Commonality domain are as follows:

(*) First comprehensive solution of the product platform extent problem. Given N variants with known specifications, how many product platforms are needed to support these? Or asked a different way, what is the extent (or "bandwidth") of a product platform?
(*) Quantifying the impact of commonality on spare parts logistics
(*) A seven-step process for flowing exogenous market and demand uncertainties into a product platform to identify opportunities for flexibility: flexibility in product platforms
(*) The sensitivity-DSM (sDSM) and Invariant Design-Rules (IDR) method, for isolating subsystems that are insensitive to external requirements differences among variants. This is useful in identifying candidates for commonality at the module level
(*) Application of product platform concept to a number of complex industrial products like automobiles, communications satellites, oil and gas exploration systems and space tugs

(*) Product Platform and Product Family Design: From Strategy to Implementation [ESD.39s] -- Summer Course through MIT Professional Education Programs co-taught with Prof. Tim Simpson from Penn State University. Explore the strategic and implementation aspects of using product architecture and platforms to manage a product family in a competitive manner. Learn the latest theory and tools through case studies, interactive discussion and hands-on exercises.