An initial study of direct relationships between life-cycle modularity and life-cycle cost

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This work shows the relationship between product life-cycle modularity and product life-cycle costs. Previous statements tying increased modularity to improved costs, specifically product retirement costs, motivated this work. The benefits of modularity with respect to product functionality, product development, production, the supply chain, and other life-cycle elements have been expounded by many works in several fields. Increased modularity has been widely considered to lead to decreased costs. Many have stated that, including modular design tradeoffs early in the design process will decrease life-cycle costs. Some even propose the hypothesis that modular architecture will lead to decreased life-cycle costs even if the modules are not made with other life-cycle characteristics specifically in mind. However, this desirable relationship - decreased costs driven by the increased modularity - has never been shown. No research has been done to prove if there exists a relationship between modularity and cost. Many products and research projects have been based on this unproven assumption. This work begins the exploration into whether a relationship exists between life-cycle product modularity and life-cycle cost for a wide range of consumer products and a wide range of life-cycle issues. The purpose of this paper is to expand initial results in this vain to the whole lifecycle for a more comprehensive look. The results of our work differ significantly from conventional thought and are therefore interesting to both the research and application communities. It is our hope that this paper will motivate others to take a second look at the science behind product modularity and its application.

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Concurrent Engineering Research and Applications