MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


The Center for Innovation in Product Development (CIPD) was established in 1996 as a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. Our interdepartmental research program involves MIT’s School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, and is funded now by the NSF and CIPD’s 10 industrial partners. Our budget of $3.2 million for AY 2000—01 will support 25 faculty and 60 graduate students in their research. Under the guidance of co-directors Prof. Steven Eppinger and Prof. Maurice Holmes, and executive director Ellen Williams, CIPD strives to advance the theory and practice of product development.

CIPD links representatives from academia, industry, and government who share our dynamic vision of the future of product development: new products will be developed by just-in-time collaborations of globally-distributed teams linked seamlessly by web-based tools and processes. These collaborations will be formed by means of a "services marketplace" where lead firms will find the world’s best "knowledge purveyors"–suppliers of information, components, and support services.

Our mission is to lay the conceptual groundwork for, and contribute core components to, a product development (PD) infrastructure that will help companies succeed in the services marketplace we envision. In pursuing this mission, we use industrial sites as our laboratories. Working with engineers and managers in product development environments, we extend our fundamental understanding of the PD process, and also provide innovative improvements to current practice. To that end, we develop and implement programs of research, education, and outreach.

Research Programs

Effective June 1, 2000, CIPD reorganized its four research thrusts into seven Research Initiatives. Our new initiatives and associated lead faculty are:

We now summarize the history, status, and development plans for each initiative.

Virtual Customer

Advances in on-line information collection now make it possible to engineer systems that make maximum use of customer input. In the past two years, our research in this area has expanded from one to five interconnected projects. In spring 2001 we will evaluate each of them, and decide which combination is most likely to shape the ways that companies gather information from customers and distribute it to their engineers. We will begin to link a subset of these projects to the DOME project (see below).

Distributed Object Modeling Environment

This CIPD centerpiece is our largest initiative, and support for it has grown steadily in the last two years. Early in 2001, Project DOME will undergo a thorough review as we begin to develop the next generation of DOME architecture. In particular, we will expand the links to research conducted on understanding of organizational structures. Thus, we will support the integration of product development services that are available in a distributed PD services marketplace.

Incentives and Boundaries

Real people in real organizations act in their own best interests. Incentives within the organization communicate the company’s fundamental intentions to people throughout the organization and beyond. In the services marketplace that we envision, incentives must cross the boundaries of the organization and reach the virtual enterprises beyond it. We will continue our commitment to this initiative at existing levels for the next two years, with a greater emphasis on evaluation and industrial testing of our methods.

Implementation Dynamics

We are developing a methodology for estimating the capacity of a product development system. We want to complement many of the advances in the theory of process design with a better theory of process improvement and implementation. Such a theory should both explain high rates of failure and provide the basis for developing an implementation methodology that will prevent such failures in the future. Results this past year include the completion of an expanded model of self-reinforcing dynamics in product development processes, the prototype of a management flight simulator based on that model, a case study concerning the impact of a PD improvement on a specific product portfolio, a sensitivity analysis, and an Internet-based learning environment.

Information Flow Modeling

We are developing advanced methods for the management of knowledge used in the engineering design process. These methods are based on the techniques of information flow modeling through the application of design structure matrices. The resulting visual representations of development activities serve as maps for understanding and improving the PD process.

Platform Architectures

CIPD is defining a theory of platform architecture. In it, we seek to match customer needs with function, match function with technology, transform technology into a set of integrated design modules, and screen and optimize these modules against a set of portfolio architecture design principles. This work is critical to our defining successful product families, so we hope to significantly increase the size of this initiative in coming years.

Integration Lab

CIPD established the Product Development Integration Laboratory for three compelling reasons: to develop and foster intellectual ties with engineers and scientists from industry; to facilitate a two-way flow of ideas leading to participation in the Center’s research and education programs; and to assist in the transfer of knowledge and technological advances to industry. Equipped with $150,000 of state-of-the-art displays and video conferencing equipment, the PDIL can demonstrate the feasibility of Web-based product development systems that integrate research from CIPD with commercial enterprises and other universities. In addition, the lab makes new technologies available for undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. PDIL officially opened in CIPD’s newly-renovated facilities in Building 5 during April of 2000.

The reorganization of our research into the programs outlined above is a result of growth, due largely to our being an organization whose function between academia and industry is integration. We naturally encourage maximum integration within research programs, but find over time that integration often occurs between programs. This evolution happens not only because many faculty work within more than one program, but more importantly because our most interesting and challenging research occurs at the interface between programs.


New Industry Partners

In the fall of 1999, CIPD welcomed three new partners as sponsors: CVC Incorporated, IDe Incorporated, and Product Genesis Incorporated.

These three new companies joined Ford, General Motors, IBM, ITT Industries, Polaroid, the US Navy, and Xerox as CIPD’s industrial partners.

Educational Programs for Working Professionals

CIPD is an interdisciplinary program between the School of Engineering and the School of Management. Our educational mission is to promote product development as part of the core engineering curriculum both at MIT and throughout the United States. Students’ course experiences should address the interplay between the technical, social, and system elements of product development, and prepare them for work in the globally distributed services marketplace. Our PD educational programs target three communities: working professionals, graduate students, and undergraduates.

SDM Product Development Track

The SDM Product Development Track was created in collaboration with MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program. This two-year degree program targets mid-career engineering professionals who are potential leaders in product development. Students continue work for their employers at least half-time while pursuing their degree through an innovative educational structure: courses are broadcast to the students’ company sites. Several times per year, students visit MIT to participate in special PD course modules, and for one semester in their program, students study on campus. At course completion, students receive an MIT degree in Engineering and Management. The first class of SDM PD candidates began in January of 1998, and they completed the program in December of 1999. To date, 187 students from 31 companies have joined this track.


CIPD began disseminating the SDM product development curriculum in 1998: we collaborated with the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to create and implement the program now called PD21, the Education Consortium for Product Development Leadership in the 21st Century. Guided by our industrial sponsors Xerox and Ford, the schools copy MIT’s core PD curriculum, but emphasize project and case study work relevant in their geographic areas (optics in Rochester and automobiles in Detroit). The first PD21 students began their programs at UDM and at RIT in January 1999, and will graduate in December 2000. In addition, the Naval Postgraduate School became a member of the PD21 consortium in May 2000, and students will enter its program in September.

Executive Education Courses

CIPD faculty created and are teaching a full suite of short courses as non-degree programs. These industrial mini-courses (well over 20 this year) are offered throughout the year through MIT’s office of summer professional programs and through Sloan's office of special executive programs. In addition, SDM faculty offer 12 courses by distance learning through the SDM Product Development Track (see above).


CIPD created the course "Product Design and Development" to bring together engineering and management students in the study of product development processes. Students identify market opportunities, design new products, prototype the products, and develop appropriate business models. The course is offered by both the Engineering and Management Schools (2.739 and 15.783), and over 80 students attended the class in the spring of 2000. We are planning the first workshop for professionals who want to be associated with this course, and will present the workshop in March of 2001 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the NCIIA (National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance).

In 1999, the center supported the construction of a web site based on the course above. The website provides an extensive set of resources for students and support materials for faculty teaching comparable courses at other institutions. The site is organized around the book Product Design and Development as it is taught at MIT, and can be found at

CIPD collaborated on the design of a semester-long MBA course based on an integrated theory of the firm. Entitled "Integrative Course in Organizational Theory" (15.903); the course incorporates the latest (often CIPD-funded) research while analyzing insights from organizational theory and economics. The course will be taught for the first time in the fall of 2000.

In June 2000, MIT awarded 17 Master’s degrees and 5 Ph.D. degrees to students funded by CIPD.

In the Fall of 1999, CIPD students formed the Student Leadership Council (SLC). The Council facilitates communication between research groups, and promotes greater project integration by hosting weekly lunch discussions, social trips, and workshops. The SLC is becoming increasingly responsive to and responsible for its membership. For example, two SLC leaders attended the NSF-ERC annual meeting in November 1999, networked with other students for ideas about SLCs, and surveyed CIPD students for pressing issues to address. In the coming year, the SLC will play a greater role in planning Center student activities and increasing its membership.


CIPD supported Professor Earll Murman in the development of an FAS seminar, "Introduction to Product Development." The seminar introduces freshman engineering students to product development with a project they undertake alongside PD professionals (the course is co-taught by an MIT faculty member and a PD leader from industry). We are now working with Professor Murman to design an instructor's guide, which will be available in the fall of 2000. We expect to launch the course in institutions outside MIT in 2002.

The National Science Foundation awarded CIPD a grant to provide equipment for undergraduate lab facilities. Undergraduates can now develop and test prototype products as part of PD classes and student-defined activities in several engineering departments. In the summer of 1999, the first shipment of equipment was installed, and became available in the fall for use by more than 150 undergraduates working on PD projects. The remainder of the equipment will be installed in the summer of 2000 in a new laboratory space in the Aero/Astro complex that MIT elected to construct. The facility will be available by fall 2000.


The center’s outreach activities aim to provide experiences in product development research and practice for minority students, women, and their teachers; and to provide life-long learning experiences for business professionals.

Project FAIHM

CIPD joined with MIT’s Edgerton Center and Hewlett-Packard to build a program that engages young women and their high school teacher-advisors in FIRST Robotics Competitions. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national program that organizes an annual competition for high school students and their academic and industrial mentors. Teams of students from across the country partner with local industrial supporters to design and construct a computer controlled machine that will accomplish a competitive task. In 1999—2000, 378 teams of some 17,000 high school students entered the competition. The teams competed in regional tournaments and a national competition at EPCOT in Orlando.

The program created by our coalition is called FAIHM (pronounced "fame," an acronym derived from the coalition’s members–FIRST, Autodesk, Institute for Women and Technology, Hewlett Packard, and MIT). The program aims to give teacher-advisors new educational tools and insights, and to encourage young women to become leaders in the design of technology.

In November of 1999, the program’s pilot year, we invited nine student-teacher teams from schools in the eastern United States to MIT for a two-day workshop. Hewlett-Packard provided the team members with computers and test and measurement equipment. The workshop included sessions on the use of equipment and software (provided by Hewlett-Packard and Autodesk), and an overview of product development and design. Each of the nine student-teacher teams also received the hardware necessary to produce an educational CD that was showcased at the FIRST Regional Competitions and the National Championship at EPCOT. The CD will also be presented at the Women in Science and Technology Forum planned at FIRST Place in Manchester, NH, during the Spring of 2000. The CDs will also be available to assist future FIRST Robotics teams.

As we evaluate our role in the program, we are considering expanding our involvement to include more high school FIRST teams.

Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship, and Science (MITE2S)

During the coming year, CIPD will consider partnering with MITE2S to increase the program's emphasis on product development. MITE2S is a rigorous six-week residential summer program at MIT where high school juniors study calculus, chemistry/biochemistry, engineering design, entrepreneurship, physics, and writing. The program is open to promising U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are Native American, Hispanic American, or African American.

DOME Open House

In September 1999, this half-day event was hosted by Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, and consisted of presentations by the Ford and MIT teams that conducted a DOME pilot during the previous summer. Fifty-five persons attended from Boeing, Ford, GM, IBM, ITT Industries, Kodak, Navy, Polaroid, and SDRC. This open house was also the initial meeting to form a DOME Working Group.

Product Development Warrior 2000

Hosted by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center at Newport, Rhode Island, in December 1999, this event joined CIPD with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), Technologies for Enterprise-Wide Engineering, and partner and affiliated companies for a two-day business war game on product development. Forty-five persons attended from the Air Force, Army, Boeing, Center for Quality Management, Ford, Kodak, Product Genesis, and SDRC. On the final day, the DOME Working Group met to define its charter.

Workshop: DSM for Researchers and Practitioners

In September 1999, CIPD cosponsored this workshop on DSM (Design Structure Matrix) along with the Lean Aero-space Initiative, Leaders for Manufacturing, and Ford Motor Company. Twenty papers were presented at this highly interactive gathering, which was attended by 50 researchers and practitioners from ABB, Boeing, Fiat, Ford, Lockheed-Martin, Saab, UDM, University of Texas, Visteon, and VTT Building Technologies.

Workshop: Organizing for Innovation

In November 1999, CIPD hosted this workshop for senior general and technical executives involved in the development, management, or marketing of technology and products. Faculty and member companies presented work to twenty-five attendees from General Motors, IBM, IDe, ITT Industries, Navy, Polaroid, Product Genesis, and Xerox.

NSF Funding

In April 2000, the National Science Foundation conducted its Third Year Review and Site Visit to determine the degree to which it would continue to support CIPD. The NSF was quite positive in many aspects of its review, stating in its site report:

The expected value of the outcomes and the impacts of [CIPD] if funding is continued is extremely large. There is no other set of projects like this in the U.S. There is ground-breaking work being done that will favorably impact the way product development is accomplished in the upcoming years. There is both a short and long term payback to the investment.

However, the NSF elected not to extend funding beyond January 2002. As a result of the NSF’s decision, CIPD is reevaluating its strategy. While funded by the NSF, we were limited to partnering with companies within the United States. CIPD is actively seeking new partnerships, and in 1999 hosted visits by nearly 50 companies from around the world. They included such well-known firms as Alcoa Aluminum, British Telecom, Corning, Mattel, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Saab, Singapore Airlines, and TRW. Our goals for the coming years are to recruit partners in industry sectors that complement our existing membership. Our current partners operate mainly in the industrial, capital goods, technology hardware and equipment sectors, and to complement them we will target the telecommunications, aerospace, software, and information technology sectors.

Other Recent and Upcoming Events


This past year has been one of significant growth and change for the Center. Most notably, Steven D. Eppinger joined Professor Maurice Holmes as co-director of CIPD, effective June 1, 2000. Professor Eppinger, General Motors LFM Associate Professor of Management Science and Engineering Systems, holds a joint appointment in the Sloan School and the School of Engineering. He received his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from MIT in mechanical engineering.

Also in June, Professors Warren Seering and John Hauser stepped down as, respectively, CIPD's co-director and director of research. Professors Seering and Hauser will return to their teaching and research duties as faculty members, and will continue their affiliation with the Center as leaders of new initiatives within the research program.

The center hired Ellen Williams as Executive Director in September 1999. Before joining CIPD, Ms. Williams consulted for high profile companies in the high technology, public policy, and health care sectors.

The center also hired Su Chung as Manager of Finance and Administration, Bill Finch as Research Scientist, Kim Anton and Nils Nordal as Administrative Assistants, and Juliet Kapsis as a Senior Staff Assistant.

More information about this center can be found on the World Wide Web at

Ellen Williams

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000