Exploring Multidimensional Modularity: Strategies to Reduce Complexity in Design Activities

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Modularity is an approach to simplify systems and reduce complexity. However, existing research suggests that a mono-dimensional modularity strategy, focusing solely on one dimension, such as product, process, or organization, might not fully achieve these goals in design activities. This research investigates how combining strategies from various dimensions of modularity can reduce the complexity of large-scale engineering design. The Huoshenshan Hospital, a 1,000-bed hospital designed and built in 10 days, provided an extreme case study of the first emergency hospital to address COVID-19. The research identified 10 different aspects, termed ‘proximities’, which relate to how people perceive the four dimensions of modularity, specifically across organization–process–product–supply-chain dimensions. Additionally, it identified three types of reinforcement relationships aimed at diminishing complexity in design activities: modular alignment (i.e., synchronized alignment and asynchronous alignment), modular complementarity (i.e., subtraction complement and addition complement), and modular incentive relationships. This research highlights that these three types of reinforcement relationships between different dimensions of modularity can reduce complexity, allowing subsystems to support the system in working as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Article number05024002
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Management in Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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  • modularity
  • engineering design
  • design activities
  • construction
  • case study


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