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The Need for Products Interchangeability: An Unsolved Problem of Semantic Conflicts No Product Definition System Can Support Perfectly

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The way in which a frequently evolving product is configured is a key issue in making predictions on its behavior in specific environments, with potentially major implications in taxing industries. Product Definition Systems (including Decision Support Systems) are proposed to support a dynamic alignment with fast changing contexts (outer environments) of products innovation (inner environments) conceptualized as complex systems. The alignment difficulty is theoretical (undecidability) and not solely practical to support products interchangeability (NP-complete problem). In changing environments new product versions have to be defined and named with corresponding properties or knowledge extensions. Our approach through syntax and semantics clears how such (product innovation) systems and knowledge extension are related to change the universe of possibles including problem space and solution space. It is an important topic for research on knowledge economy and Product Definition System.

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Fig. 1
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  1. Configuration Management—Systems Engineering Handbook:

  2. Information stored in a computer system and organized to be consulted, edited, duplicated, saved or even restored according to a usually relational model. A database management system (DBMS) is software that permits these operations. Typically, it is simultaneously used by other software as well as administrators or developers.

  3. Such a system refers to a class if information systems applied to managing organizational knowledge. They are IT-based systems developed to support and enhance the organizational processes of knowledge creation, storage/retrieval, transfer and application (p.114).

  4. Deductive reasoning whenever enough information is at hand to permit it.

  5. In an IT sense, a single database provides an alternative structure to heterogeneous systems interfacing software solutions having their own database and specific to each functional area: design, production, finance, etc.

  6. The ergonomics of a single man-machine interface may be preferable (for training courses, application changes, etc.) to that of multiple interfaces in heterogeneous environments.

  7. The term effectivity is also used to express the difference between applicable and applied. Effectivity conveys the quality of alignment between what one effectively does and what one intended to do.

  8. Configuration and Design Data Management department of Rolls-Royce Plc, Derby (UK). November 2015—personal interview.

  9. Central function of strategic planning—meeting and personal interview 20/07/2020.

  10. A rigid structure used to hold the heavy aircraft engine in its place and position under an aircraft’s wing.

  11. The streamlined housing that supports, contains and protects the aircraft engine.

  12. A set of technologies and related working methods which, via electronic communication, allows information to be shared through a digital medium usable by members of a group engaged in collaborative and/or cooperative work.

  13. Research comparing different environments/samples at a single moment/phase, while a longitudinal research may provide information about cause-and-effect relationships, considering developments and changes in the same environment/sample over a period of time.

  14. The National Institute of Standards and Technology estimated at $60 billion the losses incurred by US manufacturing and commerce due to bugs contained in software (S and T Press USA-n°324-Sept.2002).

  15. For example, in proximity to motors, only highly heat-resistant products can be used (Champion Aeropace LLC, Service Bulletin S.B. CH53536-1–74-001, Interchangeability and Intermixability of Parts, December 19th 2008).

  16.; Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)—Global Market Trajectory & Analytics, (2022), Research and Markets, The World’s Largest Market Research Store.

  17. The bloodbath of debates about FFF From, Fit, Function and revisions. OpenBOM. 29/02.

  18. Guidance on identification and naming of substances under REACH and CLP, ECHA, version 1.3, Feb. 2014.

  19. Note that a domain d is a countable set of values characterized by a name and that a relation R is a subset of the Cartesian product of a list of domains characterized by a name.

  20. A Cartesian product is defined from many universes U1, U2, …, Un as the set of distributions of possible values (n-tuples) respectively selected one by one in each universe. U1, U2, …, Un can be copies of a same universe U (a proof that many universes have to coexist).

  21. For example, Set theory (Jech, 1978) is an overall framework shaped by formal Logic and general axiomatization, well suited to represent any kind of systems from sets defined with specific properties with regard to so-called “collections” defined with universal properties.


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Gilbert, G. The Need for Products Interchangeability: An Unsolved Problem of Semantic Conflicts No Product Definition System Can Support Perfectly. J Knowl Econ (2023).

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