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Product platform design and customization: Status and promise


In an effort to improve customization for today's highly competitive global marketplace, many companies are utilizing product families and platform-based product development to increase variety, shorten lead times, and reduce costs. The key to a successful product family is the product platform from which it is derived either by adding, removing, or substituting one or more modules to the platform or by scaling the platform in one or more dimensions to target specific market niches. This nascent field of engineering design has matured rapidly in the past decade, and this paper provides a comprehensive review of the flurry of research activity that has occurred during that time to facilitate product family design and platform-based product development for mass customization. Techniques for identifying platform leveraging strategies within a product family are reviewed along with metrics for assessing the effectiveness of product platforms and product families. Special emphasis is placed on optimization approaches and artificial intelligence techniques to assist in the process of product family design and platform-based product development. Web-based systems for product platform customization are also discussed. Examples from both industry and academia are presented throughout the paper to highlight the benefits of product families and product platforms. The paper concludes with a discussion of potential areas of research to help bridge the gap between planning and managing families of products and designing and manufacturing them.

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Reprint requests to: Timothy W. Simpson, 329 Leonhard Building, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail:
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