The architecture of a product is determined by both the elements that compose the product and the way in which they interact with each other. In this paper, we use the design structure matrix (DSM) as a tool to capture this architecture. Designing modular products can result in many benefits to both consumers and manufacturers. The development of modular products requires the identification of highly interactive groups of elements and arranging (i.e. clustering) them into modules. However, no rigorous DSM clustering technique can be found in product development literature. This paper presets a review of the basic DSM building blocks used in the identification of product modules. The DSM representation and building blocks are used to develop a new DSM clustering tool based on a genetic algorithm (GA) and the minimum description length (MDL) principle. The new tool is capable of partitioning the product architecture into an “optimal” set of modules or sub-systems. We demonstrate this new clustering method using an example of a complex product architecture for an industrial gas turbine.

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