Value analysis for customizable modular product platforms: theory and case study

  • E. F. Colombo
  • N. Shougarian
  • K. Sinha
  • G. CasciniEmail author
  • O. L. de Weck
Original Paper


Mass customization and product platform design can exploit the benefits of modularity and provide personalized devices at competitive costs through economies of scope. However, customization-intense platforms can have thousands of potential configurations, whose development and verification must be prioritized. This paper develops a value analysis methodology that is able to rank alternative platform configurations according to customers’ preferences. It introduces Logit value, a definition of value based on a well-known stated choice model and explains the five steps of platform-based value analysis. Since product platforms are complex technical systems, particular attention is given to the gathering of information, the automatic generation of platform architectures and the visualization of results. A case study based on Google ARA’s Spiral-2 modular smart phone concept demonstrates an application of the methodology and shows its potential benefits. The case study leverages data from a conjoint analysis and survey of 200 potential customers in Puerto Rico and a generated set of over 21,000 potential configurations of which less than 1% are shown to be non-dominated. The value analysis identifies module types that are compatible with the modular product platform and appear in a high percentage of Pareto architectures. Knowledge pertaining to non-dominated configurations can provide insights into module development strategy and verification/validation activities.


Value analysis Product platform Customization Modularity Choice model Open innovation Automatic architecture synthesis 

List of symbols

\(v_{j}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Utility of product j according to agent h

\(b_{i}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Part-worth utility of i-th feature according to agent h


Binary variable of i-th feature

\(u_{c}^{{\{ h\} }} (p)\)

Part-worth utility for price p


Probability of i-th choice

\(V_{i}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Logit value of i-th choice

\(b_{F,i}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Part-worth utility of i-th function according to agent h

\(b_{P,i}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Part-worth utility due to performance level of i-th function according to agent h

\(V_{0}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Baseline value according to agent h

\(V_{\text{cust}}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Benefits of customizability according to agent h

\(V_{\text{uniq}}^{{\{ h\} }}\)

Benefits of uniqueness according to agent h

\((U_{F,i}^{{\{ h\} }} P_{i}^{{\{ h\} }} )_{emerg}\)

Benefits of i-th emergent function

\((U_{F,i}^{{\{ h\} }} P_{i}^{{\{ h\} }} )_{\text{md}}\)

Benefits of i-th module function

\(U_{c}^{{\{ h\} }}\)(p)

Price sensitivity for price p according to agent h


Price of w-th module


Price of platform core


Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringPolitecnico di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Aeronautics and AstronauticsMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Data, Systems and Society, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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