This paper reports on an investigation into the modes of change propagation in complex products based on a series of case studies in an aerospace and an automotive company. The paper identifies three main conditions under which change tends to propagate and highlights the heterogeneous nature of factors that contribute to propagation. It was found that change tends to propagate between components when there are insufficient margins between coupled components, when there is an encroachment of design constraints or as a result of shortcomings of tools and processes used to support change processes. The paper concludes with a discussion on the implications of the nature of change propagation mechanisms on predicting the knock-on effects of change.

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