The Implications of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem on Approaches to Optimal Engineering Design

[+] Author and Article Information
G. A. Hazelrigg

National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA

J. Mech. Des 118(2), 161-164 (Jun 01, 1996) (4 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2826864 History: Received June 01, 1995; Online December 11, 2007


Many modern approaches to engineering design seek to optimize design in order to maximize the value of the system to its customers. These approaches rely on the formulation of a system utility function as a measure of system worth. It is shown here that, under certain circumstances, however, such a measure cannot exist. It is then indicated that these circumstances comprise the rule rather than the exception. Finally it is shown that pursuing the objective of design optimization as defined by the customers via contemporary approaches can lead the designer to highly inappropriate and undesirable designs. As a consequence of this, it becomes apparent that the methods of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Quality Function Deployment (QFD) can lead to highly erroneous results.

Copyright © 1996 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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