M.S. Thesis Presentation by Marc M. McLean
Thursday, September 2, 1999

(Dr. Janet Allen, advisor)

"Representation Methods and Metrics to Support Decisions in Product Family Redesign"


In order to remain competitive in the marketplace today, many consumer product manufacturers are finding that they must quickly adapt products in order to satisfy increasingly divergent customer needs. In this business climate, product families have become increasingly important as a means of structuring product development to provide efficient avenues for introduction of new products or enhanced configurability/flexibility of existing products.  Formally defined, a product family consists of individual products that share a common functional, technology, or component base and address related market applications.

Not only is this product family mindset important in the development of new products, but equally important is the modification of existing products to more closely embody characteristics present in ideal product families.  Consequently, product redesign is an important research area within the realm of product family design.  In order to approach product redesign from a product family perspective, first barriers to efficient and effective product family deployment must be identified.  These underlying causes of sub-optimal product families relate to issues including component proliferation and part incompatibility.

In order to reason about such barriers, some sort of formal representation scheme must be developed.  For this purpose, a model will be created to represent an entire product family across the functional and structural domains as well as the interactions within and between these domains.  The model will be used to (i) identify barriers to product family design, (ii) facilitate the use of metrics with which to gauge the effectiveness of the product family architecture, and (iii) to estimate the scope and sequence of proposed redesign in the product family.

The suitability of the model, proposed metrics and redesign approach will be verified through an application to a case study consisting of the redesign of an existing family of dimmer switches.  The contributions of this thesis include recommendations for an appropriate approach to product family redesign.  This includes representation strategies, guidelines for the creation of product family models, a set of associated metrics, and a means of estimating the scope and sequence of proposed product family redesign initiatives.