Ph.D. Thesis Defense by Zahed Siddique
Thursday, December 9, 1999

(Dr. David Rosen, advisor)

"Common Platform Development: Designing for Product Variety"


One of the key elements in enabling product variety is the product platform.  Research done in the areas of Mass Customization, Design for Product Variety, Designing Family of Products, etc. has outlined different characteristics of such product variety and stresses the need for developing a common platform.  But the current state of research does not address the issue of how to develop modular common platforms to support family of products considering both structure and assembly viewpoints.  To fulfill this area of research, a Product Family Reasoning System (PFRS) is developed to focus on the commonization of product platforms to produce the necessary variety.  PFRS contains mathematical models, tools and algorithms that allow manipulation of product architectures in different viewpoints to determine a common platform configuration and to specify product family member configurations.

The main objective of this research is to assist designers in designing several related products from a common base for different marked segments.  The key question investigated is: How can configuration design methods be used to develop product platform strategy to provide necessary product variety? This question is answered in two levels: (1) How to design common platforms for a family of products? And (2) How to synthesize and reason about the variety that can be supported from the common platform.  Graph and hypergraph representations are developed and used to capture product information.  Mathematical tools based on graph theory and graph grammar has been developed to operate on these representations to determine the common platform and to capture platform and product family constraints.  Mathematical models of these constraints in combinatorial spaces have been developed to determine feasible configurations of platforms and members of the product family.  A lexicon for product platform characteristics has also been developed, which is used to determine the applicability of PFRS for different platform commonization problems.  A commonality metric has been developed for platform and product family evaluations.  PFRS is applied on two examples: a set of coffeemakers and automotive underbodies, to determine common platform configurations and platform supported product member configuration.