National Science Foundation
Product Platform and Product Family Design
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New book on product platform and product family design, released by Springer in October 2005.

Credit: Timothy W. Simpson
Permission Not Granted
State: Pennsylvania

In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, companies need cost-effective solutions that satisfy diverse customer demands in order to survive. To maintain their competitiveness, more and more companies are turning to product platforms and families of products to increase product variety, shorten lead times, and reduce their development and manufacturing costs. Yet a significant gap exists between strategies for planning and managing families of products and methods for designing and manufacturing them.

This research has created novel methods for generating product platform alternatives and their corresponding families of products and modeling the associated costs, demand and uncertainties of the individual products. These methods support both top-down approaches to platform planning as well as bottom-up approaches for redesigning sets of products to improve commonality and increase economies of scale and scope within the product line. Such methods are essential to help resolve the inherent tradeoff between platform commonality and individual product distinctiveness within the product family. The work is being tested through industrial partnerships with Whirlpool, Robert Bosch Corporation, Dana Corporation, Unique Mixers, Innovation Factory, Durametal, Ivalo Lighting, and Flowserve Corporation.

To promote these concepts to the larger community, a new textbook has been written and Special Sessions on Product Family and Product Platform Design have been held annually at the ASME Design Engineering Technical Conferences since 2001. Two-day workshops on platform family design have been developed and taught to practicing engineers and managers at LG Electronics (in South Korea) and Zühlke Engineering (in Switzerland). The invited lectures have been given to a various companies including Intel, DuPont, Hyundai, and United Technologies. Educational activities to enhance graduate level product family design courses have also been created.

Industrial partners: Whirlpool, Robert Bosch Corporation, Dana Corporation, Unique Mixers, Innovation Factory, Durametal, Ivalo Lighting, Flowserve Corporation

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