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Course Length
5 Days
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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).

Participant Takeaways

  • 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.

Program Outline

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

Platforming Benefits

  • 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

Commonality Indices

  • 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

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)

Course Summary

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



  • YouTube - Olivier de Weck - MASHLM interview


"The subject matter was fantastic, and well taught. For me it was a tremendous learning experience as it was my first introduction to the theory behind the topics. Most importantly, the subject matter was highly relevant to my needs and interests."
"This course is a must for any professional who is interested in developing an effective product platform or product family. This program quickly lays foundations of system architectures and then gets into the how and why of applying those architecture concepts into a platform, module, or product family. This information also gives tools to the practitioner to develop a commonality plan, along with its rewards and challenges, for implementing for my own use."
"Very pertinent to today's business challenges in product development."
"This program helps you to appreciate another perspective to system designing. Before this program, my initial view of product platform design was based on the relationship of components and their functions. As the program progressed, I learned to realize that commonality can be defined on a number of dimensions, focusing on a number of attributes to meet a number of goals.”
"As a systems engineer I found the content to be relevant and useful to my system architecture responsibilities. Some of the methods and tools, while not new, were presented in new ways that expanded their usefulness. Methods to quantify complexity and commonality were especially useful.”
"I think the course is a fantastic overview of product platforming and covers a broad range of concepts, methods, and tools.”
"The material was exactly what I was hoping to see. I learned about new tools that can be used for other parts of my department that will provide improvements to project deliverables in the future. It was drinking from a fire hose, but included exposure to new information that I do not believe I would have found on my own.”

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.

Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools - 30%|Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends - 25%|Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world - 25%|Other: Product dissection/reverse engineering - 20%
Delivery Methods

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.

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format - 70%|Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning - 20%|Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations - 10%

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.

Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience - 60%|Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field - 30%|Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level - 10%