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Biased Information Passing Between Subsystems Over Time in Complex System Design

[+] Author Affiliations
Jesse Austin-Breneman, Bo Yang Yu, Maria C. Yang

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Paper No. DETC2014-34433, pp. V007T07A023; 11 pages
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 2nd Biennial International Conference on Dynamics for Design; 26th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4640-7
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


The early stage design of large-scale engineering systems challenges design teams to balance a complex set of considerations. Established structured approaches for optimizing complex system designs offer strategies for achieving optimal solutions, but in practice sub-optimal system-level results are often reached due to factors such as satisficing, ill-defined problems or other project constraints. Twelve sub-system and system-level practitioners at a large aerospace organization were interviewed to understand the ways in which they integrate sub-systems. Responses showed sub-system team members often presented conservative, worst-case scenarios to other sub-systems when negotiating a trade-off as a way of hedging their own future needs. This practice of biased information passing, referred to informally by the practitioners as adding “margins,” is modeled with a series of optimization simulations. Three “bias” conditions were tested: no bias, a constant bias and a bias which decreases with time. Results from the simulations show that biased information passing negatively affects both the number of iterations needed to reach and the Pareto optimality of system-level solutions. Results are also compared to the interview responses and highlight several themes with respect to complex system design practice.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME



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