The challenge of designing complex engineered systems with long service lives can be daunting. As customer needs change over time, such systems must evolve to meet these needs. This paper presents a method for evaluating the reconfigurability of systems to meet future needs. Specifically we show that excess capability is a key factor in evaluating the reconfigurability of a system to a particular need, and that the overall system reconfigurability is a function of the system’s reconfigurability to all future needs combined. There are many examples of complex engineered systems; for example, aircraft, ships, communication systems, spacecraft and automated assembly lines. These systems cost millions of dollars to design and millions to replicate. They often need to stay in service for a long time. However, this is often limited by an inability to adapt to meet future needs. Using an automated assembly line as an example, we show that system reconfigurability can be modeled as a function of usable excess capability.

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