Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 115–126 | Cite as

Flexible platform component design under uncertainty

  • Eun Suk Suh
  • Olivier de Weck
  • Il Yong Kim
  • David Chang


Incorporating flexibility into product platforms allows manufacturers to respond to changing market needs with a minimal increase in product family complexity and investment cost. To successfully design a flexible product platform, proper design of flexible platform components is critical. These components can be described as “cousin” parts as they are neither completely unique nor completely common among variants. In this paper, a multidisciplinary process for designing flexible product platform components is introduced, assuming the platform component is decided a priori. The design process starts with identification of uncertainties and generation of multiple design alternatives for embedding flexibility into the component. Design alternatives are then optimized for minimum cost, while satisfying the component performance requirements. The flexible designs are then evaluated for economic profitability under identified uncertainty, using Monte Carlo simulation. At the end, the most profitable flexible component design is selected. The proposed design process is demonstrated through a case study, in which different flexible designs are generated and optimized for an automotive floor pan, an essential element of most vehicle product platforms. Results suggest that the way in which the flexibility is incorporated in the component, production volume trends, and the degree of built-in flexibility are important factors to consider when designing flexible product platforms.


Product platform Flexibility Uncertainty 



Total unit cost of the component


Unit assembly cost of a component


Unit fabrication cost of a component


Total variable cost for a design alternative


Cash flow


Historical demand


Initial demand


Expected demand


Expected net present value


Set of economic variables


Set of performance variables


Total line investment cost


Total tooling investment cost


Total capital investment cost


Length of the floor pan


Mass of the floor pan


Net present value


Number of simulation runs


Number of uncertain parameters


Number of component variants


Discount rate


Lifetime of the product platform


Total number of future time periods


Total number of historical time periods


Individual uncertainty


Set of uncertainties


Individual design alternative


Set of design alternatives


Number of welding connections


Geometric design vector for long floor pan


Geometric design vector for short floor pan


Total number of design alternatives


Drift coefficient


Random variable ~N(0,1) normally distributed


Bending stiffness


Volatility coefficient


Torsional stiffness


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eun Suk Suh
    • 1
  • Olivier de Weck
    • 1
  • Il Yong Kim
    • 2
  • David Chang
    • 3
  1. 1.Engineering Systems DivisionMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical and Materials EngineeringQueens UniversityKingstonCanada
  3. 3.General Motors R & DWarrenUSA

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