Supporting change processes in design: Complexity, prediction and reliability

Eckert, Claudia M.; Keller, Rene; Earl, Chris and Clarkson, P. John (2006). Supporting change processes in design: Complexity, prediction and reliability. Reliability Engineering and System Safety, 91(12) pp. 1521–1534.



Change to existing products is fundamental to design processes. New products are often designed through change or modification to existing products. Specific parts or subsystems are changed to similar ones whilst others are directly reused. Design by modification applies particularly to safety critical products where the reuse of existing working parts and subsystems can reduce cost and risk. However change is rarely a matter of just reusing or modifying parts. Changing one part can propagate through the entire design leading to costly rework or jeopardising the integrity of the whole product. This paper characterises product change based on studies in the aerospace and automotive industry and introduces tools to aid designers in understanding the potential effects of change. Two ways of supporting designers are described: probabilistic prediction of the effects of change and visualisation of change propagation through product connectivities. Change propagation has uncertainties which are amplified by the choices designers make in practice as they implement change. Change prediction and visualisation is discussed with reference to complexity in three areas of product development: the structural backcloth of connectivities in the existing product (and its processes), the descriptions of the product used in design and the actions taken to carry out changes.

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