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Author: Jarratt, Timothy A. W.
Supervisor: Clarkson, P. John
Institution: Cambridge University Engineering Department
Engineering change is an area of crucial importance to companies that design and manufacture products. This thesis, which was carried out at the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre (EDC), investigated the engineering change process with the aim of improving the way in which engineers and designers evaluate potential engineering changes to their products. The work was supported by two UK-based engineering companies.
Engineering change is a relatively under-investigated area of design research. An extensive literature review, coupled with an empirical study at one of the companies, highlighted the main issues and showed that there is a strong and clear industrial need for support with the engineering change process, especially with the identification of potential change propagation paths.
To meet this demand, an innovative and flexible, yet simple, technique has been developed to model products from a change perspective. The models created consist of the components of a product arranged in a Design Structure Matrix (DSM) format that allows the linkages between key parts to be identified. This technique has been developed and evaluated in conjunction with the two engineering companies and has been shown to be an effective way of modelling products. Case studies revealed that the approach forces engineers to examine products from a different perspective and that building the models themselves is a valuable exercise in its own right. A key point about the modelling method is that it gives engineers a global or whole product overview. This global perspective helps people appreciate the complexity of their products and it makes them view engineering change in different terms: engineering change is seen as a vital aspect of product design and development.