Viewing Product Development as a Decision Production System

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Product development includes many different types of decision-making by engineers and managers. Design decisions determine the product form and specify the manufacturing processes to be used. Development decisions, however, control the progress of the development process by defining which activities should happen, their sequence, and who should perform them.

This paper introduces the concept of a decision production system to describe a product development organization as a system of decision-makers who use and create information to develop a product. This perspective does not advocate any particular type of product development process. Instead, it looks at the organization in which the product development process exists and considers the decision-makers as a manufacturing system that can be viewed separately from the organization structure.A new perspective is needed to reconcile product development practice and design theory.

This paper argues that viewing product development as a decision production system provides a perspective to understand the costs and benefits associated with different forms of product development processes. The paper describes some of the benefits that this perspective and decision production system models would bring to product development organizations and to the design research community. Comprehensive models are needed to improve communication about the nature of product development and to understand the impact that changing product development processes will have on the organization's overall performance and profitability.