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.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.