Formalisms for Negotiation in Engineering Design

Manuscript prepared for submission to the ASME 1996 Design Theory and Methodology Conference.

Michael J. Scott
Engineering Design Research Laboratory
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California 91125
mjscott@design.caltech.edu

Erik K. Antonsson
Engineering Design Research Laboratory
Division of Engineering and Applied Science
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California 91125


Engineering projects often undergo several design iterations before being completed. Information received from other groups working on a project (analysis, manufacturing, marketing, sales) will often necessitate changes in a design. The interaction between different groups associated with a design project often takes the form of informal ``negotiation.'' Negotiation can ensue when target specifications are difficult to achieve, when there are trade-offs to be made between different facets of performance, or when conflicts arise between two engineering groups, such as design and manufacturing. This form of interaction commonly arises when engineering information is imprecise or difficult to quantify. While other researchers have addressed issues of negotiation in the design process, this prior work has not explicitly addressed the imprecision inherent in the design process. The Method of Imprecision is a formal method for the representation and manipulation of preliminary and imprecise design information, which has been used as a decision support tool for engineering design. The can provide a mechanism for the formalization of these informal negotiations.