Decision Making in Engineering Design
23 The Dynamics of Decentralized Design Processes: The Issue of Convergence and Its Impact on Decision-Making
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Most complex systems, including engineering systems such as cars, airplanes and satellites, are the results of the interactions of many distinct entities working on different parts of the design. Decentralized systems constitute a special class of design under distributed environments. They are characterized as large and complex systems divided into several smaller entities that have autonomy in local optimization and decision-making. The issue of decentralized design processes is to have the designers involved in the process converge to a single design solution that is optimal and meets the design requirements, while being acceptable to all the participants. This is made difficult by the strong interdependencies between the designers, which are usually characteristic of such systems.
Other chapters have focused on the modeling of design-related issues, the generation of design alternatives and the decision-making in different environments. This chapter introduces the issue of convergence of decentralized design processes. Why do some decentralized design problems converge to a final design while other design teams involved in another process cannot seem to find an agreement? Is it possible to predict the convergence of such processes beforehand or does one have to wait for the final stages of the design processes to realize the failure of the design process to find a final unique design? Is the final solution found by these processes optimal? Are there ways to improve those processes to speed up convergence and ensure optimality? Those questions are all related to current research issues [1, 2] and the state-of-the-art of these topics is presented in this chapter.