Modularity in design of products and systems
IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part A: Systems and Humans
Modularity refers to the use of common units to create product variants. As companies strive to rationalize engineering design, manufacturing, and support processes and to produce a large variety of products at a lower cost, modularity is becoming a focus. However, modularity has been treated in the literature in an abstract form and it has not been satisfactorily explored in industry. This paper aims at the development of models and solution approaches to the modularity problem for mechanical, electrical, and mixed process products (e.g., electromechanical products). To interpret various types of modularity, e.g., component-swapping, component-sharing, and bus modularity, a matrix representation of the modularity problem is presented. The decomposition approach is used to determine modules for different products. The representation and solution approaches presented are illustrated with numerous examples. The paper presents a formal approach to modularity allowing for optimal forming of modules even in the situation of insufficient availability of information. The modules determined may be shared across different products.