This course may be taken individually or as part of the Professional Certificate Program in Innovation & Technology or the Professional Certificate Program in Design & Manufacturing.
This course explores how product architecture, platforms, and commonality can help a firm deploy and manage a family of products in a competitive manner. We will examine both strategic as well as implementation aspects of this challenge.
A key strategy is to develop and manufacture a family of product variants or service offerings derived from a common platform and/or modular architecture. Reuse of components, processes, and design solutions leads to advantages in learning curves and economies of scale, which have to be carefully balanced against the desire for product customization and competitive pressures. Additionally, platform strategies can lead to innovation and generation of new revenue growth by intelligently leveraging existing brands, modules, and sub-system technologies.
Over the last 12 years over 130 firms have sent participants to this class and over 20 firms have done so over multiple years. Several well known product families in the market today trace their roots back to this class.
We will present the latest theory as well as a number of case studies and industrial examples on this important topic. We will engage the course participants through interactive discussion and hands-on activities. Recent strategic issues such as embedding flexibility in product platforms as well as the effect of platforms on a firm's cost structure, organization, and market segmentation will also be presented. The latest addition of topics covered by the class is the emergence of so-called two-sided markets (e.g. UBER, eBay, modular customizable smartphones, etc).
- Describing the evolution of industry from craft manufacturing to mass customization and how it drives product development.
- Grasping fundamental concepts in product architecting such as customer needs identification, requirements formulation, functional decomposition as well as function-form mapping during conceptual design.
- Understanding the platform concept and be able to prioritize drivers of modularity and product platform design.
- Enumerating metrics for quantifying commonality within a product family.
- Identifying major contemporary methods and tools for product family and platform design.
- Discussing strategic issues such as platform portfolio optimization, embedding flexibility in product platforms, the organizational impact of platforms as well as strategy selection based on net present value calculations.
- Leveraging platforms for identifying new market and product opportunities to generate revenue growth. Two sided markets and platforms.
- Extracting key lessons from industrial case studies.
- Participating in discussions regarding the challenges that they face in the context of their own product families of industrial and consumer products.
Who Should Attend
This course is targeted towards executive decision makers, platform architects, product managers, marketing managers, product line strategists, as well as platform and systems engineers in industrial and government contexts. Such individuals will have to strategically position their products, services, and systems in a competitive marketplace and define modular and scalable product architectures, utilizing standardization, commonalization, customization, and platform leveraging strategies to maximize cost savings while increasing the capability to offer a variety of customized systems and products. A basic background in mechanical and/or electrical engineering, as well as some business and accounting experience, is beneficial but not required.
Laptops or tablets are required for this course, and should have PowerPoint or similar presentation software. Pre-reads will be made available to participants 3-4 weeks in advance of the start of the course.
Class runs 9:00 am - 5:30 pm on Monday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm Tuesday through Thursday and 8:30 am - 12:30 pm on Friday. There is a course dinner on Tuesday evening.
Day 1: Platform Definitions & Principles
Course Overview and Introduction
Fundamental Platforming Concepts
- Establishing a Platform Mindset
- Platform Definition and Approaches
- Platform Leveraging Strategies
- Module- and Scale-based Product Family Examples
- Interpretations, Advantages, Disadvantages
Lego Game - Round 1: Mass Production
Interactive Exercise 1: Product Family Dissection
- Product Families and Product Platforms
- Platform Benefits
- Platform Investments
Day 2: Architecting Platforms
- Over-design in Platforms
- Design Structure Matrix (DSM)
- Roles and Responsibilities of the Product/System Architect
Exercise: Architecting a Sailplane
Lego Game - Round 2: Production with Variety
Product Decomposition and Modularity
- Principles of Decomposition
- Examples: Automotive, Aerospace, Consumer Product
- Modularity and Interfaces
Interactive Exercise 2: Product Decompositions and DSM Mapping
Industry Panel & Discussion
- Selected Participants Invited to Serve on Industry Panel
- Discussion: Industry Needs and Future Directions
Participant dinner at a local restaurant (included as part of the course)
Day 3: Measuring Platforms
Product Platform: Maps & Metrics
- Product Family Maps
- Defining a Platform Strategy
- Advantages and Disadvantages
- Commonality Discussion (Jigsaw Method)
- Commonality Indices
Lego Game - Round 3: Platform-Based Production
Product Platform Architecting
- Single-use Camera Example
- Product Platform Planning
- Generational Variety Index
- Product Family Optimization
Interactive Exercise 3: Product Dissection and Commonality Analysis
Day 4: Managing Platforms
- Divergence Behaviors and Causes
- Management Levers for Platforms
- Technical, Financial, Organizational alignment
Management Case (Exercise)
Lego Game - Round 4: Competition
Two-sided Market and Platforms
- Network effects
- Identify the “Sides” to a Platform Market
- Competing in Industry Platforms
Day 5: Extending Platforming
Platforming Software and Services
- Microsoft Example
- MATLAB Example
- Modularity and Cyclicality in Software
- Software Architecting
Final Group Presentations
Motivation for Product and Platform Flexibility
- Flexibility in Manufacturing
- Cousin Parts
- Modular Tooling
- Postponement Strategy
- Flexible Product Platform Development Process (FPDP)
Awarding of Course Certificates
Note: Various case studies and examples are interspersed throughout the course to highlight concepts or emphasize applications of platforms. Among the examples are the following: Consumer products such as Black & Decker: electrical power tools; Sony: Walkman; Lutron: lighting systems; and vehicles such as Boeing: commercial aircraft; and VW, GM: cars. Industrial equipment and facilities: BP oil & gas exploration, NASA spacecraft and launch vehicles.
Links & Resources
- Penn State professor touts platform strategy, readies MIT course - Evaluation Engineering, July 19, 2016
- Still More to Learn in Maximizing Flexible Vehicle-Platform Potential - WardsAuto, July 13, 2016
- Book launch: "System Architecture: Strategy and Product Development for Complex Systems" - MIT News May 4, 2015
- YouTube - Olivier de Weck - MASHLM interview
The type of content you will learn in this course, whether it's a foundational understanding of the subject, the hottest trends and developments in the field, or suggested practical applications for industry.
How the course is taught, from traditional classroom lectures and riveting discussions to group projects to engaging and interactive simulations and exercises with your peers.
What level of expertise and familiarity the material in this course assumes you have. The greater the amount of introductory material taught in the course, the less you will need to be familiar with when you attend.