Professor of Technology and Operations Management
Modularity has been defined at the product and system level, although little effort has gone into defining and quantifying it at the component level.The authors consider complex products as a network of components that share technical interfaces (or connections) in order to function as a whole, and they define component modularity based on the lack of connectivity among them.Building upon previous work in graph theory and social network analysis, the authors define three measures of component modularity based on the notion of centrality. Their measures consider how components share direct interfaces with adjacent components, how design interfaces may propagate to non-adjacent components in the product, and how components may act as bridges with other components through their interfaces.The authors calculate and interpret all three measures of component modularity by studying the product architecture of a large commercial aircraft engine. The authors illustrate the use of these measures to test the impact of modularity on component redesign.The results show that the relationship between component modularity and component redesign depends on the type of interfaces connecting product components. The authors also discuss directions for future work.