Build on what's common to create something new with strategic reuse

Product design and manufacturing have come a long way since the days when there were two basic choices: Affordable, mass-produced items that were all alike; and customized, handcrafted items that satisfied specialized needs but were too expensive for many potential customers.

The most frequent solution, now widely adopted across industries from aviation to software, has been to create different versions of a product that share some common elements, and then add unique elements that meet particular requirements. At its most basic, the most common approach to reuse is known as "clone and own." In use for many years, this is a process in which engineers simply copy an existing design — or a component of a design — and modify it to meet a new product's needs. But it is a process that increasingly causes challenges.

A better approach is to step back from simply copying and changing details — and employ reuse in the larger context of the organization's body of existing intellectual capital and within the practices of continuous engineering. The practices for creating products in this way can save an organization time and money in development, procurement, manufacturing and field servicing. This white paper looks at strategic reuse.