Modularity in Design Essay

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Modularity: upgrading to the next generation design architecture Ron, what exactly is mass customisation? It is increasingly possible both to design products that have the ability to be configured to meet the preferences of individual customers and to produce those products at costs that do not differ significantly from the cost of mass producing a single product design. In other words, in a number of businesses the economics of providing product variations for individual consumers on a large scale are approaching the economics of producing a single product for all consumers. Are you talking about the products of the Information Society? Information technology has brought three breakthroughs that enable mass customisation: low cost communication between firms and customers via the Internet; the production of customer-specific assemblies of components on IT-driven flexible assembly lines; and door-to-door distribution channels (like Federal Express) driven by information technology. This is, however, only part of the story. You can't just take components and mix and match them to suit the preferences of individual customers unless you've designed a product architecture that will allow that. That is where the critical enabling role of modularity comes in: mass customisation requires creating modular architectures that allow plug-and-play, mix-and-match compatibility of components to configure product variations to meet specific customers' preferences. Designing the architecture That must substantially change the design process. Product development is no longer about creating a product but about creating a platform, or more precisely a modular architecture. The notion of product architecture is a key concept in product development which is no longer just a technical issue. Creating appropriate modular architectures to support new kinds of product

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