A Hierarchical Multidimensional Network-based Approach for Multi-Competitor Product Design

Funded by the National Science Foundation
Award number 2005661

The objective of this research is to investigate what product customers consider and what they eventually purchase using a hierarchical, multidimensional network-based design approach. Motivated by the need to model socio-technical interactions in engineering design, this research combines design theory with network science to explore three interrelated topics: 1) two-stage multidimensional network models for customer preference modeling that consider product associations and social influence; 2) dynamic network models for predicting the impact of multi-competitor strategic decisions, and 3) knowledge transfer to demonstrate generalizability and creation of shared data resources to benefit research community. This project will advance design theories of complex systems and develop quantitative methods for modeling socio-technical interactions in engineering design.  Integrated with enterprise-driven design, the methods developed will enhance US industry’s competitiveness within changing markets.  The test cases include a primary case study on the design of electric vehicles and small SUVs and a secondary case study on the design of household products. The project will also foster student training in data science, network science and Artificial Intelligence, with particular emphasis on the participation of underrepresented groups, females, and undergraduates.

The intellectual merit of this research is manifested in four aspects. First, the hierarchical network model studies customers’ consideration and choice as distinct, but integrated, behaviors. It identifies distinctive driving factors underlying the consideration and choice stages. Second, this research overcomes the practical challenges of missing data on customers’ social networks. The proposed solution relies on an innovative approach to assess how individuals’ preferences are influenced by their own egocentric social contacts through a synergistic integration of autologistic actor attribute model (ALAAM) with the Multidimensional Customer-Product Network (MCPN) framework. Third, using temporal Exponential Random Graph Model (t-ERGM), the proposed dynamic network modeling approach will allow the prediction of future market competition considering the present competition structure and multi-competitor design decisions. Finally, a crowdsourcing-based data collection platform integrating online product data and reviews will be developed for eliciting customer preferences in multi-stage decision making.


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