On decentralized design: Rationale, dynamics, and effects on decision-making
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The focus of this dissertation is the design of complex systems, including engineering systems such as cars, airplanes, and satellites. Companies who design these systems are under constant pressure to design better products that meet customer expectations, and competition forces them to develop them faster. One of the responses of the industry to these conflicting challenges has been the decentralization of the design responsibilities. The current lack of understanding of the dynamics of decentralized design processes is the main motivation for this research, and places value on the descriptive base. It identifies the main reasons and the true benefits for companies to decentralize the design of their products. It also demonstrates the limitations of this approach by listing the relevant issues and problems created by the decentralization of decisions. Based on these observations, a game-theoretic approach to decentralized design is proposed to model the decisions made during the design process. The dynamics are modeled using mathematical formulations inspired from control theory. Building upon this formalism, the issue of convergence in decentralized design is analyzed: the equilibrium points of the design space are identified and convergent and divergent patterns are recognized. This rigorous investigation of the design process provides motivation and support for proposing new approaches to decentralized design problems. Two methods are developed, which aim at improving the design process in two ways: decreasing the product development time, and increasing the optimality of the final design. The frame of these methods are inspired by eigenstructure decomposition and set-based design, respectively. The value of the research detailed within this dissertation is in the proposed methods which are built upon the sound mathematical formalism developed. The contribution of this work is two fold: rigorous investigation of the design process, and practical support to decision-making in decentralized environments.