Compare courses
MIT Professional Education

Product Platform and Product Family Design: From Strategy to Implementation

Add course to comparison

Next dates

Jun 10—14
5 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
USD 4900
USD 980 per day


This course explores how product architecture, platforms, and commonality can help a firm deploy and manage a family of products in a competitive manner. We will examine both strategic as well as implementation aspects of this challenge.

A key strategy is to develop and manufacture a family of product variants derived from a common platform and/or modular architecture. Reuse of components, processes, and design solutions leads to advantages in learning curves and economies of scale, which have to be carefully balanced against the desire for product customization and competitive pressures. Additionally, platform strategies can lead to innovation and generation of new revenue growth by intelligently leveraging existing brands, modules, and sub-system technologies. We will present the latest theory as well as a number of case studies and industrial examples on this important topic. We will engage the course participants through interactive discussion and hands-on activities. Recent strategic issues such as embedding flexibility in product platforms as well as the effect of platforms on a firm's cost structure, organization, and market segmentation will also be presented.


  • Describing the evolution of industry from craft manufacturing to mass customization and how it drives product development.
  • Grasping fundamental concepts in product architecting such as customer needs identification, requirements formulation, functional decomposition as well as function-form mapping during conceptual design.
  • Understanding the platform concept and be able to prioritize drivers of modularity and product platform design.
  • Enumerating metrics for quantifying commonality within a product family.
  • Identifying major contemporary methods and tools for product family and platform design.
  • Describing how optimization can assist during platform and product family design.
  • Discussing strategic issues such as platform portfolio optimization, embedding flexibility in product platforms, the organizational impact of platforms as well as strategy selection based on net present value calculations.
  • Leveraging platforms for identifying new market and product opportunities to generate revenue growth.
  • Extracting key lessons from industrial case studies.
  • Participating in discussions regarding the challenges that they face in the context of their own product families of industrial and consumer products.
  • Pointing to the latest published literature in the field.


Day 1: Platform Definitions & Principles

Course Overview and Introduction

Fundamental Platforming Concepts

  • Establishing a Platform Mindset
  • Platform Definition and Approaches
  • Platform Leveraging Strategies
  • Module- and Scale-based Product Family Examples
  • Interpretations, Advantages, Disadvantages

Lego Game - Round 1: Mass Production

Interactive Exercise 1: Product Family Dissection

Platforming Benefits

  • Product Families and Product Platforms
  • Platform Benefits
  • Platform Investments

Day 2: Architecting Platforms


  • Over-design in Platforms
  • Design Structure Matrix (DSM)
  • Roles and Responsibilities of the Product/System Architect

Exercise: Architecting a Sailplane

Lego Game - Round 2: Production with Variety

Product Decomposition and Modularity

  • Principles of Decomposition
  • Examples: Automotive, Aerospace, Consumer Product
  • Modularity and Interfaces

Interactive Exercise 2: Product Decompositions and DSM Mapping

Industry Panel & Discussion

  • Selected Participants Invited to Serve on Industry Panel
  • Discussion: Industry Needs and Future Directions

Participant dinner at a local restaurant (included as part of the course)

Day 3: Measuring Platforms

Product Platform: Maps & Metrics

  • Product Family Maps
  • Defining a Platform Strategy

Commonality Indices

  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Commonality Discussion (Jigsaw Method)
  • Commonality Indices

Lego Game - Round 3: Platform-Based Production

Product Platform Architecting

  • Single-use Camera Example
  • Product Platform Planning
  • Generational Variety Index
  • Product Family Optimization

Interactive Exercise 3: Product Dissection and Commonality Analysis

Day 4: Managing Platforms

Managing Platforms

  • Divergence Behaviors and Causes
  • Management Levers for Platforms
  • Technical, Financial, Organizational alignment

Management Case (Exercise)

Lego Game - Round 4: Competition

Two-sided Market and Platforms

  • Network effects
  • Identify the “Sides” to a Platform Market
  • Competing in Industry Platforms

Day 5: Extending Platforming

Platforming Software and Services

  • Microsoft Example
  • MATLAB Example
  • Modularity and Cyclicality in Software
  • Software Architecting

Final Group Presentations

Motivation for Product and Platform Flexibility

  • Flexibility in Manufacturing
  • Cousin Parts
  • Modular Tooling
  • Postponement Strategy
  • Flexible Product Platform Development Process (FPDP)

Course Summary

Awarding of Course Certificates

Note: Various case studies and examples are interspersed throughout the course to highlight concepts or emphasize applications of platforms. Among the examples are the following: Consumer products such as Black & Decker: electrical power tools; Sony: Walkman; Lutron: lighting systems; and vehicles such as Boeing: commercial aircraft; and VW, GM: cars. Industrial equipment and facilities: BP oil & gas exploration, NASA spacecraft and launch vehicles.

Who should attend

This course is targeted towards executive decision makers, product managers, marketing managers, product line strategists, product architects, as well as platform and systems engineers in industrial and government contexts. Such individuals will have to strategically position their products and systems in a competitive marketplace and define modular and scalable product architectures, utilizing standardization, commonalization, customization, and platform leveraging strategies to maximize cost savings while increasing the capability to offer a variety of customized systems and products. A basic background in mechanical and/or electrical engineering, as well as some business and accounting experience, is beneficial but not required.


Olivier de Weck is an international leader in Systems Engineering research. He focuses on how complex man-made systems such as aircraft, spacecraft, automobiles, printers, consumer products, and critical infrastructures are designed, manufactured, and operated and how they evolve over time. His m...
Timothy Simpson is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. He holds affiliate appointments in Engineering Design and the College of Information Sciences & Technology. His research interests include product family design and platfo...
Show more