optimization problems, such as selection of materials, control systems, and manufacturing methods. This is the strategy that has influenced how firms have developed their organizational structures for product design. The premise of this report suggests that current organizational structures need to be made more efficient.
The design process to date almost invariably involves sequential optimization within units. For example, materials selection is not fully integrated into the design process. The shape of a product may restrict material choices. Multiattribute optimization that involves many design choices, constraints, materials, and choices may be possible given advances in computer technology. Another fundamental problem is the choice of the objective function. What is the goal? Minimize cost given certain performance constraints? What is the utility function of the design process in terms of trade-offs between cost, fatigue life, flexibility, and other attributes? There are management science tools available to optimize systems with many process and product choices given constraints, technical parameters, and multiple objectives. Ultimately the objective function involves an articulation of the functionality of the product. After all of these individual and often uncoordinated decisions are made, the overall system still may not be optimized.
The gains from more integrated optimization strategies need to be identified and quantified in order to encourage firms to rethink their organizational structures.