Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to: Timothy W. Simpson, 329 Leonhard Building, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Alford, D., Sackett, P., & Nelder, G. (2000). Mass customisation—An automotive perspective. International Journal of Production Economics65(1), 99110.

Baker, K.R., Magazine, M.J., & Nuttle, H.L.W. (1986). The effect of commonality on safety stock in a simple inventory model. Management Science32(8), 982988.

Chen, K.D. & Hausman, W.H. (2000). Technical note: Mathematical properties of the optimal product line selection problem using choice-based conjoint analysis. Management Science46(2), 327332.

Chen, Y.H., Wang, Y.Z., & Wong, M.H. (2001). A web-based fuzzy mass customization system. Journal of Manufacturing Systems20(4), 280287.

Christensen, C. & Verlinden, M. (2002). Disruption, disintegration, and the dissipation of differentiability. Industrial and Corporate Change11(5), 955993.

Collier, D.A. (1981). The measurement and operating benefits of component part commonality. Decision Sciences12(1), 8596.

Da Silveira, G., Borenstein, D., & Fogliatto, F.S. (2001). Mass customization: Literature review and research directions. International Journal of Production Economics72(1), 113.

Dahmus, J.B., Gonzalez–Zugasti, J.P., & Otto, K.N. (2001). Modular product architecture. Design Studies22(5), 409424.

Desai, P., Kekre, S., Radhakrishnan, S., & Srinivasan, K. (2001). Product differentiation and commonality in design: Balancing revenue and cost drivers. Management Science47(1), 3751.

Dobson, G. & Kalish, S. (1993). Heuristics for pricing and positioning a product-line using conjoint analysis and cost data. Management Science39(2), 160175.

D'Souza, B. & Simpson, T.W. (2003). A genetic algorithm based method for product family design optimization. Engineering Optimization35(1), 118.

Du, X., Jiao, J., & Tseng, M.M. (2001a). Architecture of product family: Fundamentals and methodology. Concurrent Engineering: Research & Applications9(4), 309325.

Du, X., Jiao, J., & Tseng, M.M. (2001b). Graph grammar based product variety modeling. Concurrent Engineering: Research & Applications10(2), 113128.

Du, X., Jiao, J., & Tseng, M.M. (2002). Product family modeling and design support: An approach based on graph rewriting systems. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 16(2), 103120.

Duray, R., Ward, P.T., Milligan, G.W., & Berry, W.L. (2000). Approaches to mass customization: Configurations and empirical validation. Journal of Operations Management18(6), 605625.

Erens, F.J. & Hegge, H.M.H. (1994). Manufacturing and sales co-ordination for product variety. International Journal of Production Economics37(1), 8399.

Farrell, R. & Simpson, T.W. (2003). Product platform design to improve commonality in custom products. Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing.

Felfernig, A., Friedrich, G., & Jannach, D. (2001). Conceptual modeling for configuration of mass-customizable products. Artificial Intelligence in Engineering15(2), 165176.

Fisher, M.L., Ramdas, K., & Ulrich, K.T. (1999). Component sharing in the management of product variety: A study of automotive braking systems. Management Science45(3), 297315.

Fujita, K. (2002). Product variety optimization under modular architecture. Computer-Aided Design34(12), 953965.

Gonzalez–Zugasti, J.P., Otto, K.N., & Baker, J.D. (2000). A method for architecting product platforms. Research in Engineering Design12(2), 6172.

Gonzalez–Zugasti, J.P., Otto, K.N., & Baker, J.D. (2001). Assessing value for platformed product family design. Research in Engineering Design13(1), 3041.

Green, P.E. & Krieger, A.M. (1985). Models and heuristics for product line selection. Marketing Science4(1), 119.

Green, P.E. & Srinivasan, V. (1990). Conjoint analysis in marketing: New developments with implications for research and practice. Journal of Marketing54(4), 319.

Gupta, S. & Krishnan, V. (1998a). Integrated component and supplier selection for a product family. Production and Operations Management8(2), 163182.

Gupta, S. & Krishnan, V. (1998b). Product family-based assembly sequence design methodology. IIE Transactions30(10), 933945.

Hazelrigg, G.A. (1998). A framework for decision-based engineering design. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design120(4), 653658.

He, D., Kusiak, A., & Tseng, T.-L. (1998). Delayed product differentiation: A design and manufacturing perspective. Computer-Aided Design30(2), 105113.

Hegge, H.M.H. & Wortmann, J.C. (1991). Generic bill-of-material: A new product model. International Journal of Production Economics23, 117128.

Hernandez, G., Simpson, T.W., Allen, J.K., Bascaran, E., Avila, L.F., & Salinas, F. (2001). Robust design of families of products with production modeling and evaluation. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design123(2), 183190.

Hernandez, G., Allen, J.K., & Mistree, F. (2003). Platform design for customizable products as a problem of access in a geometric space. Engineering Optimization35(3), 229254.

Huang, C.-C. & Kusiak, A. (1998). Modularity in design of products and systems. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics-Part A: Systems and Humans28(1), 6677.

Huang, C.-C. & Kusiak, A. (1999). Synthesis of modular mechatronic products: A testability perspective. IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics4(2), 119132.

Huang, G.Q., Huang, J., & Mak, K.L. (2000). Early supplier involvement in new product development on the Internet: Implementation perspectives. Concurrent Engineering: Research & Applications8(1), 4049.

Huang, G.Q., Lee, S.W., & Mak, K.L. (2001). Synchronised web applications for product development in the 21st century. International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology18(8), 605613.

Huang, G.Q. & Mak, K.L. (1999). Design for manufacturing and assembly on the Internet. Computers in Industry38(1), 1730.

Huang, G.Q. & Mak, K.L. (2000). Webid: A web-based framework to support early supplier involvement in new product development. Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing16(2), 169179.

Huang, G.Q., Shen, B., & Mak, K.L. (2001). Web applications in the product introduction process. International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology17(10), 775782.

Huang, G.Q., Shi, J., & Mak, K.L. (2000). Synchronized system for “Design for X” guidelines over the WWW. Journal of Materials Processing Technology107(1–3), 7178.

Huffman, C. & Kahn, B.E. (1998). Variety for sale: Mass customization or mass confusion. Journal of Retailing74(4), 491513.

Jiao, J. & Tseng, M.M. (1999). An information modeling framework for product families to support mass customization manufacturing. CIRP Annals48(1), 9398.

Jiao, J. & Tseng, M.M. (2000). Understanding product family for mass customization by developing commonality indices. Journal of Engineering Design11(3), 225243.

Jiao, J., Tseng, M.M., Ma, Q., & Zou, Y. (2000). Generic bill-of-materials-and-operations for high-variety production management. Concurrent Engineering: Research and Applications8(4), 297321.

Kim, K. & Chhajed, D. (2000). Commonality in product design: Cost saving, valuation change and cannibalization. European Journal of Operational Research125(3), 602621.

Kimura, F., Kato, S., Hata, T., & Masuda, T. (2001). Product modularization for parts reuse in inverse manufacturing. CIRP Annals50(1), 8992.

Kohli, R. & Sukumar, R. (1990). Heuristic for product line design using conjoint analysis. Management Science36(12), 14641477.

Kokkolaras, M., Fellini, R., Kim, H.M., Michelena, N., & Papalambros, P. (2002). Extension of the target cascading formulation to the design of product families. Structural and Multidiscipilnary Optimization24(4), 293301.

Kotha, S. (1995). Mass customization: Implementing the emerging paradigm for competitive advantage. Strategic Management Journal16(3), 2142.

Kota, S., Sethuraman, K., & Miller, R. (2000). A metric for evaluating design commonality in product families. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design122(4), 403410.

Krishnan, V. & Gupta, S. (2001). Appropriateness and impact of platform-based product development. Management Science47(1), 5268.

Kusiak, A. (2002). Integrated product and process design: A modularity perspective. Journal of Engineering Design13(1), 223231.

Kusiak, A. & Huang, C.-C. (1997). Design of modular digital circuits for testability. IEEE Transactions on Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology20(1), 4857.

Lancaster, K. (1990). The economics of product variety. Marketing Science9(3), 189206.

Lee, H.L. & Tang, C.S. (1997). Modeling the costs and benefits of delayed product differentiation. Management Science43(1), 4053.

Li, H. & Azarm, S. (2000). Product design selection under uncertainty and with competitive advantage. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design122(4), 411418.

Li, H. & Azarm, S. (2002). An approach for product line design selection under uncertainty and competition. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design124(3), 385392.

Liang, W.-Y. & Huang, C.-C. (2002). Agent-based collaboration information system of product development. International Journal of Information Management22(3), 211224.

Ma, S., Wang, W., & Liu, L. (2002). Commonality and postponement in multistage assembly systems. European Journal of Operational Research142(3), 523538.

MacDuffie, J.P., Sethuraman, K., & Fisher, M.L. (1996). Product variety and manufacturing performance: Evidence from the international automotive assembly plant study. Management Science42(3), 350369.

Martin, M.V. & Ishii, K. (2002). Design for variety: Developing standardized and modularized product platform architectures. Research in Engineering Design13(4), 213235.

Martinez, M.T., Favrel, J., & Ghodous, P. (2000). Product family manufacturing plan generation and classification. Concurrent Engineering: Research & Applications8(1), 1223.

McAdams, D.A., Stone, R.B., & Wood, K.L. (1999). Functional independence and product similarity based on customer needs. Research in Engineering Design11(1), 119.

McAdams, D.A. & Wood, K.L. (2002). A quantitative similarity metric for design-by-analogy. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design124(2), 173182.

McBride, R.D. & Zufryden, F.S. (1988). An integer programming approach to the optimal product line selection problem. Marketing Science7(2), 126140.

McKay, A., Erens, F., & Bloor, M.S. (1996). Relating product definition and product variety. Research in Engineering Design8(2), 6380.

Messac, A., Martinez, M.P., & Simpson, T.W. (2002a). Effective product family design using physical programming. Engineering Optimization34(3), 245261.

Messac, A., Martinez, M.P., & Simpson, T.W. (2002b). A penalty function for product family design using physical programming. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design124(2), 164172.

Meyer, M.H. & Dalal, D. (2002). Managing platform architectures and manufacturing processes for nonassembled products. Journal of Production Innovation Management19(4), 277293.

Meyer, M.H. & DeTore, A. (2001). Perspective: Creating a platform-based approach for developing new services. Journal of Production Innovation Management18(3), 188204.

Meyer, M.H., Tertzakian, P., & Utterback, J.M. (1997). Metrics for managing research and development in the context of the product family. Management Science43(1), 88111.

Moore, W.L., Louviere, J.J., & Verma, R. (1999). Using conjoint analysis to help design product platforms. Journal of Production and Innovation Management16(1), 2739.

Nayak, R.U., Chen, W., & Simpson, T.W. (2002). A variation-based method for product family design. Engineering Optimization34(1), 6581.

Nelson, S.A., II, Parkinson, M.B., & Papalambros, P.Y. (2001). Multicriteria optimization in product platform design. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design123(2), 199204.

Newcomb, P.J., Bras, B., & Rosen, D.W. (1998). Implications of modularity on product design for the life cycle. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design120(3), 483490.

Page, A.L. & Rosenbaum, H.F. (1987). Redesigning product lines with conjoint analysis: How Sunbeam does it. Journal of Production and Innovation Management4(2), 120137.

Pine, J.B., II. (1993b). Standard modules allow mass customization at Bally Engineering Structures. Planning Review21(4), 2022.

Rutenberg, D.P. (1969). Design commonality to reduce multi-item inventory: Optimal depth of a product line. Operations Research19(2), 491509.

Sabin, D. & Weigel, R. (1998). Product configuration frameworks—A survey. IEEE Intelligent Systems13(4), 4249.

Sanchez, R. & Mahoney, J.T. (1996). Modularity, flexibility, and knowledge management in product organization design. Strategic Management Journal17, 6376.

Sand, J.C., Gu, P., & Watson, G. (2002). Home: House of modular enhancement—A tool for modular product redesign. Concurrent Engineering: Research & Applications10(2), 153164.

Schilling, M.A. (2000). Toward a general modular systems theory and its applications to interfirm product modularity. Academy of Management Review25(2), 312334.

Siddique, Z. & Repphun, B. (2001). Estimating cost savings when implementing a product platform approach. Concurrent Engineering: Research & Applications9(4), 285294.

Siddique, Z. & Rosen, D.W. (2001). On combinatorial design spaces for the configuration design of product families. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing15(2), 91108.

Simpson, T.W., Maier, J.R.A., & Mistree, F. (2001). Product platform design: Method and application. Research in Engineering Design13(1), 222.

Simpson, T.W., Seepersad, C.C., & Mistree, F. (2001). Balancing commonality and performance within the concurrent design of multiple products in a product family. Concurrent Engineering: Research & Applications9(3), 177190.

Simpson, T.W., Nanda, J., Halbe, S., Umapathy, K., & Hodge, B. (2003). Development of a framework for web-based product platform customization. ASME Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering3(2), 119129.

Stone, R.B., Wood, K.L., & Crawford, R.H. (2000a). A heuristic method to identify modules from a functional description of a product. Design Studies21(1), 531.

Stone, R.B., Wood, K.L., & Crawford, R.H. (2000b). Using quantitative functional models to develop product architectures. Design Studies21(3), 239260.

Sundgren, N. (1999). Introducing interface management in new product family development. Journal of Product Innovation Management16(1), 4051.

Tatikonda, M.V. (1999). An empirical study of platform and derivative product development projects. Journal of Product Innovation Management16(1), 326.

Thomas, L.D. (1992). Functional implications of component commonality in operational systems. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics22(3), 548551.

Trelevan, M. & Wacker, J.G. (1987). The sources, measurements, and managerial implications of process commonality. Journal of Operations Management7(1–2), 1125.

Tseng, M.M. & Du, X. (1998). Design by customers for mass customization products. CIRP Annals47(1), 103106.

Tseng, M.M. & Jiao, J. (1997a). Case-based evolutionary design for mass customization. Computers in Industrial Engineering33(1–2), 319323.

Tseng, M.M. & Jiao, J. (1997b). A module identification approach to the electrical design of electronic products by clustering analysis of the design matrix. Computers & Industrial Engineering33(1–2), 229233.

Tseng, M.M. & Jiao, J. (1997c). A variant approach to product definition by recognizing functional requirement patterns. Journal of Engineering Design8(4), 329340.

Tseng, M.M., Jiao, J., & Merchant, M.E. (1996). Design for mass customization. CIRP Annals45(1), 153156.

Ulrich, K. (1995). The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm. Research Policy24(3), 419440.

Vakharia, A.J., Parmenter, D.A., & Sanchez, S.M. (1996). The operating impact of parts commonality. Journal of Operations Management14(1), 318.

Wacker, J.G. & Trelevan, M. (1986). Component part standardization: An analysis of commonality sources and indices. Journal of Operations Management6(2), 219244.

Whitney, D.E. (1993). Nippondenso Co. Ltd: A case study of strategic product design. Research in Engineering Design5(1), 120.

Yigit, A.S., Ulsoy, A.G., & Allahverdi, A. (2002). Optimizing modular product design for reconfigurable manufacturing. Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing13(4), 309316.

Yu, J.S., Gonzalez–Zugasti, J.P., & Otto, K.N. (1999). Product architecture definition based upon customer demand. ASME Journal of Mechanical Design121(3), 329335.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0890-0604
  • EISSN: 1469-1760
  • URL: /core/journals/ai-edam
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 52
Total number of PDF views: 247 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1020 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.