Platform-based product development depends on many factors, including technology, cost, competition, and life cycle considerations, and many companies would benefit from knowing more about the nature of their product families and how they impact platform-based product development. We assert that the development of a product platform and its derivative family of products is also impacted by the homogenous/heterogeneous nature of the products being developed, which has received little attention in the engineering literature. The current study introduces an original metric for assessing the homogeneity/heterogeneity in a given family: the Homogeneity versus Heterogeneity Ratio (HHR), which works at two levels of abstraction, namely, family and function. This study focuses on the platform leveraging strategy and takes an interest in two other aspects of platform development: the specification of the family and the necessary differentiation. To support platform design, the HHRfamily and HHRfunction metrics quantify the ratio of homogeneity/heterogeneity in the family to recommend a platform leveraging strategy by highlighting homogeneous functions that support platform leveraging. Reverse engineering helps us to retroactively study three types of families (power tools, single-use cameras, and blue jeans) using HHRfamily and HHRfunction. In particular, we demonstrate: (1) quantification of the homogeneity/heterogeneity of a family of products based on their functions; (2) recommendation of a leveraging strategy based on HHR; (3) a new leveraging strategy, the combined leveraging strategy via cross leveraging; (4) how HHR can help designers to validate the product family specification; and (5) how HHR can highlight needs to differentiate a family of products other than through functions.

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