Analysis of functional reference architecture through an industry lens

Mactaggart, Ivan Mervyn; Eckert, Claudia and Lockett, Helen (2021). Analysis of functional reference architecture through an industry lens. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED21), 1 pp. 467–476.



There is an inherent tension between functional descriptions of products and structural descriptions. Traditionally system architecture combine the two, by mapping system elements to functions. In this process fundamental decisions about the embodiment of a product are often taken without proper scrutiny. Axiomatic design advocates a zigzag between functional decomposition and system break down. While this approach makes sense for ab initio design these are rare and most products are developed incrementally., This paper takes up the idea of a functional reference architecture.

Conventional functional modelling advocates a hierarchical decomposition into sub function. By contrast FRAs decompose function into function chain, i.e., dependent sequences of sub function required to carry out an overall function. This allows the identification of common sub-functions in different chains, and thereby generates a lattice structure of functions rather than a tree. This enables a detailed but solution neutral description of the product.

This concept has attracted interest in industry but does not have many tools and methods to develop FRA. The paper discusses some of the areas that require research.

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