In distributed design processes, individual design subsystems have local control over design variables and seek to satisfy their own individual objectives, which may also be influenced by some system level objectives. The resulting network of coupled subsystems will either converge to a stable equilibrium, or diverge in an unstable manner. In this paper, we study the dependence of system stability on the solution process architecture. The solution process architecture describes how the design subsystems are ordered and can be either sequential, parallel, or a hybrid that incorporates both parallel and sequential elements. In this paper we demonstrate that the stability of a distributed design system does indeed depend on the solution process architecture chosen and we create a general process architecture model based on linear systems theory. The model allows the stability of equilibrium solutions to be analyzed for distributed design systems by converting any process architecture into an equivalent parallel representation. Moreover, we show that this approach can accurately predict when the equilibrium is unstable and the system divergent when previous models suggest the system is convergent.

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