Research Papers: Design Theory and Methodology

Integrative Complexity: An Alternative Measure for System Modularity

[+] Author and Article Information
Kaushik Sinha

Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC),
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: sinhak@mit.edu

Eun Suk Suh

Graduate School of Engineering Practice,
Institute of Engineering Research,
Seoul National University,
1 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu,
Seoul 08826, South Korea
e-mail: essuh@snu.ac.kr

Olivier de Weck

Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: deweck@mit.edu

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received September 23, 2017; final manuscript received January 4, 2018; published online March 1, 2018. Assoc. Editor: Katja Holtta-Otto.

J. Mech. Des 140(5), 051101 (Mar 01, 2018) (11 pages) Paper No: MD-17-1649; doi: 10.1115/1.4039119 History: Received September 23, 2017; Revised January 04, 2018

Complexity and modularity are important inherent properties of the system. Complexity is the property of the system that has to do with individual system elements and their connective relationship, while modularity is the degree to which a system is made up of relatively independent but interacting elements, with each module typically carrying an isolated set of functionality. Modularization is not necessarily a means of reducing intrinsic complexity of the system but is a mechanism for complexity redistribution that can be better managed by enabling design encapsulation. In this paper, the notion of integrative complexity (IC) is proposed, and the corresponding metric is proposed as an alternative metric for modularity from a complexity management viewpoint. It is also demonstrated using several engineered systems from different application domains that there is a strong negative correlation between the IC and system modularity. This leads to the conclusion that the IC can be used as an alternative metric for modularity assessment of system architectures.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Complexity typology for engineering systems (Reprinted with permission from Sinha and Suh [5]. Copyright 2018 by Springer.)

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Fig. 2

Explanation of individual terms of the structural complexity metric (Reprinted with permission from Sinha and Suh [5]. Copyright 2018 by Springer.)

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Fig. 3

A hypothetical system composed of two modules, ten elements, and ten bidirectional interfaces in network and binary adjacency matrix form

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Fig. 4

Original train undercarriage decomposition and the modularity (Q) maximized decomposition in DSM format (Q-maximized decomposition from Ref. [5])

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Fig. 5

Regression plots for ICn and Q of train undercarriage system with decompositions

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Fig. 6

Regression plots for ICn and Q of industrial printing system with decompositions

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Fig. 7

Regression plots for ICn and Q of office printing system with decompositions

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Fig. 8

Regression plots for ICn and Q of geared turbofan aircraft engine with decompositions

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Fig. 9

Regression plots for ICn and Q of two-spool turbofan aircraft engine with decomposition

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Fig. 10

Regression plots for ICn and Q of HECE with decomposition

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Fig. 11

Plot of integrative complexity and modularity for systems shown in Table 2



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