Research Papers

Agent-Based Modeling of Mass-Collaborative Product Development Processes

[+] Author and Article Information
Jitesh H. Panchal

School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164panchal@wsu.edu

J. Comput. Inf. Sci. Eng 9(3), 031007 (Aug 21, 2009) (12 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3184605 History: Received September 25, 2008; Revised December 22, 2008; Published August 21, 2009

Mass-collaborative product development refers to a paradigm where large groups of people compete and collaborate globally to develop new products and services. In contrast to the traditional top-down decomposition-based design processes, the primary mechanism in mass-collaborative product development is bottom-up evolution. Hence, the issues underlying mass-collaborative processes are fundamentally different from those in traditional design processes. For example, instead of determining the best sequence in which activities should be carried out, the emphasis is on developing the right conditions under which product evolution can be fostered. Existing research on product development is primarily focused on top-down design processes. The evolutionary nature of mass-collaborative product development has received very little attention. Specifically, computational models for these processes have not been developed. In this paper, a step toward understanding the fundamental processes underlying mass-collaborative product development using a computational model is presented. The model presented in this paper is based on an agent-based modeling approach, which allows the modeling of the behavior of different entities within a product development scenario and the study of the effect of their interactions. The model captures the information about (i) products as modules and their interdependencies, and (ii) the participants involved and their strategies. The benefits of the agent-based model in understanding mass-collaborative product development are shown using a simple product model. The following aspects of the product development processes are studied: (a) the rate of evolution of the individual modules and the entire product, (b) product evolution patterns and the effect of the number of participants, (c) the effect of prior work on product evolution, (d) the evolution and distribution of participants, and (e) the effect of participant incentives. The agent-based modeling approach is shown as a promising approach for understanding the evolutionary nature of mass-collaborative product development processes.

Copyright © 2009 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

A simple illustrative example of product model

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Figure 2

Dependency strengths in the example problem

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Figure 3

Evolution of individual modules

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Figure 4

Evolution of the entire product

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Figure 5

Evolution of individual modules for N=1000

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Figure 6

Evolution of individual modules for N=600

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Figure 7

Evolution of individual modules for N=400

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Figure 8

Effect of number of people on the total effort and module evolution patterns

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Figure 9

Evolution of modules and the overall product for an initial percentage completion of 80%

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Figure 10

Evolution of modules for an initial percentage completion of 80% and core module→external module coupling changed from 2.2 to 0.4

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Figure 11

Changes in the total effort as the initial percentage completion changes

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Figure 12

Effect of dependencies between core modules and from core modules to external modules on total effort

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Figure 13

(Top) histogram of participants with different amounts of effort invested in the project, and (bottom) the growth of active participants (both parts of this figure are for value function coefficient=5.0)

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Figure 14

Effect of the value function coefficient on the total effort and effort distribution



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