A systematic methodology for the modularization of manufacturing systems during early design

  • Federico Rossi
  • Sabrina Arfelli
  • S. Jack Hu
  • Tullio Antonio Maria Tolio
  • Theodor FreiheitEmail author


A methodology is proposed to provide a guided process for modularization of manufacturing system components within the broader design process. The application focus is on manufacturing systems, including flow processes. Component clusters are formed by simultaneously considering physical-functional and strategic drivers that are fundamental to a more holistic partitioning of the system. The clustering algorithm now includes the ability to compel component unification or separation. A broad review of modularization methods was conducted to improve upon the state-of-the-art. Current methodologies can be difficult to use, are disjoint in their goals, lack objectivity, and do not produce externally repeatable solutions. The proposed methodology aims to improve upon these limitations by providing a step-by-step framework and integrating strategic and technical perspectives when clustering. The methodology is structured to guide the user toward a deeper understanding of the system, whether or not one is an expert, whereby the designer can focus more on the technical and strategic issues that should inform the modularization. A realistic case study for the modularization of a transportable fast pyrolysis plant was performed to evaluate the meaningfulness of the methodology’s results. The methodology clustered components into modules consistent with the information provided to the model, reflecting what would be expected from a deep understanding of the system.


Modularization Clustering Decomposition Manufacturing systems Flow processes Design process 



  1. Arfelli S, Rossi F (2016) A methodology for the modularization of flow processes and its application to a case study of a transportable fast pyrolysis plant. Master’s thesis, Politecnico di Milano, Sept 2016. Accessed 28 Sep 2016
  2. Arts L, Chmarra MK, Tomiyama T (2008) Modularization method for adaptable products. In: ASME international design engineering technical conferences & computers and information in engineering conference, Brooklyn, New York, 2008Google Scholar
  3. Blackenfelt M (2001) Managing complexity by product modularization: balancing the aspects of technology and business during the design process. Doctoral thesis, Department of Machine Design, Royal Institute of Technology, S-100 44 Stockolm, Sweden, 2001Google Scholar
  4. Blees C, Krause D (2008) On the development of modular product structures: a differentiated approach. In: International design conference: design, Dubrovnik—Croatia, 2008Google Scholar
  5. Brun A, Zorzini M (2009) Evaluation of product customization strategies through modularization and postponement. Int J Prod Econ 120(1):205–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chandler G (2013) Smaller, better, faster: Fred Haney’s vision turns modular construction theory on its head. Oilsands Rev 2013:15–18Google Scholar
  7. El Maraghy H, Schuh G, El Maraghy W, Piller F, Schönsleben P, Tseng M, Bernard A (2013) Product variety management. CIRP Ann 62(2):629–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ericsson A, Erixon G (1999) Controlling design variants: modular product platforms. ASME Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Erixon G, Yxkull A, Arnstroem A (1996) Modularity: the basis for product and factory reengineering. Ann ClRP 45(1):1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Falkenaur E (1998) Genetic algorithms for grouping problem. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Feldmann S, Legat C, Vogel-Heuser B (2015) An analysis of challenges and state of the art for modular engineering in the machine and plant manufacturing domain. IFAC-PapersOnLine 48(10):87–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fernandez CI (1998) Integration analysis of product architecture to support effective team co-location. Master’s thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 1998Google Scholar
  13. Friedrich J, Scheifele S, Verl A, Lechler A (2015) Flexible and modular control and manufacturing system. Procedia CIRP 33:115–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gershenson JK, Prasad GJ, Allamneni S (1999) Modular product design: a lifecycle view. Trans SDPS 3(4):13–26Google Scholar
  15. Gershenson JK, Prasad GJ, Zhang Y (2003) Product modularity: definitions and benefits. J Eng Des 14(3):295–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gershenson JK, Prasad GJ, Zhang Y (2004) Product modularity: measures and design methods. J Eng Des 15(1):33–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gu P, Sosale S (1999) Product modularization for life cycle engineering. Robot Comput Integr Manuf 15:387–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gu P, Hashemian M, Sosale S (1997) An integrated modular design methodology for life-cycle engineering. Ann CIRP 46(1):71–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holmqvist TKP, Persson ML (2003) Analysis and improvement of product modularization methods: their ability to deal with complex products. Syst Eng 6(3):195–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hölttä K, Salonen M (2003) Comparing three modularity methods. In: ASME design engineering technical conferences and computers and information in engineering conference Chicago, Illinois USA, 2003Google Scholar
  21. Hölttä-Otto K (2005) Modular product platform design. TKK dissertations 10, EspooGoogle Scholar
  22. Huang C, Kusiak A (1998) Modularity in design of products and systems. IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern Part A Syst Hum 28(1):66–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huang GQ, Simpson TW, Pine BJ II (2005) The power of product platforms in mass customisation. Int J Mass Cust 1(1):1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jiao JR, Simpson TW, Siddique Z (2007) Product family design and platform-based product development: a state-of-the-art review. J Intell Manuf 18(1):5–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jose A, Tollenaere M (2005) Modular and platform methods for product family design: literature analysis. J Intell Manuf 16:371–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kong FB, Ming XG, Wang L, Wang XH, Wang PP (2009) On modular products development. Concurr Eng Res Appl 17(4):291–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Koren Y, Heisel U, Jovane F, Moriwaki T, Pritschow G, Ulsoy G, Van Brussel H (1999) Reconfigurable manufacturing systems. CIRP Ann 48(2):527–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kreng VB, Lee T (2004) Modular product design with grouping genetic algorithm—a case study. Comput Ind Eng 46:443–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lier S, Grünewald M (2011) Net present value analysis of modular chemical production plants. Chem Eng Technol 34(5):809–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. MAMMOET WORLD (2015) Unlocking the modular revolution. MAMMOET WORLD 22(14). Accessed 16 Apr 2016
  31. Martin MV, Ishii K (2002) Design for variety: developing standardized and modularized product platform architectures. Res Eng Des 13:213–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Otto K, Hölttä-Otto K (2007) A multi-criteria assessment tool for screening preliminary product platform concepts. J Intell Manuf 18(1):59–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pimmler TU, Eppinger SD (1994) Integration analysis of product decompositions. In: ASME design theory and methodology conference, Minneapolis, MN, Sept 1994Google Scholar
  34. Rajan PP, Van Wie M, Campbell MI, Wood KL, Otto KN (2005) An empirical foundation for product flexibility. Des Stud 26(4):405–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rogers GG, Bottaci L (1997) Modular production systems: a new manufacturing paradigm. J Intell Manuf 8(2):147–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Saaty T (1980) The analytic hierarchy process. McGraw-Hill, New YorkzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  37. Sanchez R (1994) Towards a science of strategic product design. In: 2nd international product development management conference, Goteborg, pp 564–578Google Scholar
  38. Sanchez R (2004) Creating Modular platforms for strategic flexibility. Des Manag Rev 15:58–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sand JC, Gu P, Watson G (2002) HOME: house of modular enhancement—a tool for modular product redesign. Concurr Eng Res Appl 10(2):153–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Seifert T, Sievers S, Bramsiepe C, Schembecker G (2012) Small scale, modular and continuous: a new approach in plant design. Chem Eng Process 52:140–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Seol H, Kim C, Lee C, Park Y (2007) Design process modularization: concept and algorithm. Concurr Eng Res Appl 15(2):175–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shaik AM, Rao VVSK, Rao CS (2015) Development of modular manufacturing systems—a review. Int J Adv Manuf Technol 76:789–802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smith PG, Reinertsen DG (1995) Developing products in half the time. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Sosale S, Hashemian M, Gu P (1997) Product modularization for reuse and recycling. Concurr Prod Des Environ Conscious Manuf 94:195–206Google Scholar
  45. Stake RB (2000) On conceptual development of modular products. Doctoral thesis, Division of Assembly Systems, Department of Production Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  46. Steward D (1981) The design structure system: a method for managing the design of complex systems. IEEE Trans Eng Manag 28(3):71–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stone RB, Wood KL (2000) Development of a functional basis for design. J Mech Des 122:359–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Thebeau RE (2001) Knowledge management of system interfaces and interactions for product development processes. Master’s thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, February 2001Google Scholar
  49. Tolio T (2015) Material from the course of “reconfigurable manufacturing systems”. Politecnico di Milano, MilanGoogle Scholar
  50. Ulrich K (1995) The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm. Res Policy 24:419–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ulrich K, Eppinger SD (1995) Product design and development. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. Ulrich K, Tung K (1991) Fundamentals of product modularity. Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  53. Umeda Y, Fukushige S, Tonoike K, Kondoh S (2008) Product modularity for life cycle design. CIRP Ann Manuf Technol 57:13–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Xiaogang X, Chao L, Jian Y, Yahua C (2006) An analytical method based on design structure matrix for modular identification. In; Computer-aided industrial design and conceptual design, 2006Google Scholar
  55. Yan J, Feng C, Cheng K (2012) Sustainability-oriented product modular design using kernel-based fuzzy c-means clustering and genetic algorithm. Proc Inst Mech Eng B J Eng Manuf 226(10):1635–1647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yu S, Yang Q, Tao J, Tian X, Yin F (2011) Product modular design incorporating life cycle issues—group genetic algorithm (GGA) based method. J Clean Prod 19:1016–1032CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zhang Y, Gershenson JK (2003) An initial study of direct relationships between life-cycle modularity and life-cycle cost. Concurr Eng 11:121–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringPolitecnico di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations