With markets becoming more and more fragmented, the management of product variety becomes even more critical. Variety management needs to be continuously improved, especially for highly customized products. Although new techniques are constantly being developed, variety is still an issue, and there is room for complementary assistance to manage variety in the final design. In this context, we propose an original method — merge-based design — to manage variety in a product family better. The proposed method targets the already-tailored (unique) components to reduce the number of variant components in the family. Merge-based design also facilitates customization by enabling designers to reduce non-beneficial variety within a family. The proposed method is described and then illustrated via a case study involving two existing internal structures from single-use cameras. Finally, to highlight for improving customization, a proposed new camera is created using the resulting common structure with a different exterior casing. This new method can be applied during detailed studies as well as in the early stages of the design process.

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