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A Network approach to define component modularity

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Modularity has previously been defined at the product and system level, although little effort has been applied to define and quantify modularity at the component level. We consider complex products as a network of components that share technical interfaces in order to function as a whole. Building upon previous work in graph theory and social network analysis, we define three measures of component modularity based on the notion of centrality. Our measures consider how components share direct interfaces with adjacent components, how design interfaces may propagate to non-adjacent components in the product, and how components may act as bridges between other components through their interfaces. We calculate and interpret all three measures of component modularity by studying the product architecture of a large commercial aircraft engine. We illustrate how to use these measures to test the impact of modularity on component redesign. Our results show that the relationship between component modularity and component redesign depends on the type of design interfaces connecting product components. Directions for future work are discussed.

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