Using embedded design structures to unravel a complex decision in a product development system

Alison McKay, George Sammonds, Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen, Aleksandra Irnazarow, Mark Robinson

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    Early design decisions have an impact on downstream product development processes. Poor decisions can reduce efficiency and effectiveness, and have a detrimental effect on product quality, delivery time, and cost. However, the range of tools suitable for use in early design is limited, in part because of ambiguity in available design definitions. This paper reports research that investigated the role of complex decision making in a quality incident that occurred in the development of a complex product system. A case study approach with document analysis and semi-structured interviews was used. Data were analysed using lenses from both social sciences and engineering design. In this paper, we report the use of embedded design structures to gain insights into the downstream consequences of design decisions. Results indicate that embedded product, process and supply network structures have the potential to underpin a new generation of design tools for considering downstream complexities arising from early design choices. Such tools could both improve the quality of design decisions and support improved management of development processes by highlighting areas of future risk.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) : Human Behaviour in Design
    EditorsAnja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
    PublisherDesign Society
    Publication date2017
    ISBN (Electronic)978-1-904670-96-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventICED17: 21st International Conference on Engineering Design - Vancouver, Canada
    Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017


    ConferenceICED17: 21st International Conference on Engineering Design
    Internet address


    • Collaborative design
    • Decision making
    • Human behaviour in design
    • Product modelling / Models

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