MIT Unit Affiliation:
Lab Affiliation(s):
Sociotechnical Systems Research Center
Post Doc Sponsor / Advisor:
Prof. Deborah Nightingale, Dr. Eric Rebentisch
Areas of Expertise:
  • lean product development (set-based concurrent engineering, )
  • operations management (production, logistics and supply chain management)
  • sustainable product design and manufacturing
Date PhD Completed:
September, 2013
Expected End Date of Post Doctoral Position:
October 20, 2015

Endris Kerga

  • Post Doctoral

MIT Unit Affiliation: 

  • Data, Systems, and Society

Lab Affiliation(s): 

Sociotechnical Systems Research Center

Post Doc Sponsor / Advisor: 

Prof. Deborah Nightingale, Dr. Eric Rebentisch

Date PhD Completed: 

Sep, 2013

Top 3 Areas of Expertise: 

lean product development (set-based concurrent engineering, )
operations management (production, logistics and supply chain management)
sustainable product design and manufacturing

Expected End Date of Post Doctoral Position: 

October 20, 2015


Research Projects: 


Thesis Title: 

SET BASED CONCURRENT ENGINEERING (SBCE) - A learning method to increase awareness level in industry & A methodology to identify and prioritize areas at a product level

Thesis Abstract: 

The concept of set based thinking is originally proposed by researches from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and UM (University of Michigan) in the 90’s. Allen Ward pioneered the conception of this revolutionary idea during his Ph.D. research. Then, he and his colleagues were looking for industrial evidence that can exhibit the set based approach to product design and development process. They stumbled with Toyota’s product development (PD), which in many ways resembles what they latter called SBCE (Set-Based Concurrent Engineering). Sobek, et al. (1999)[1] summarized the definition of SBCE as engineers and product designers “reasoning, developing, and communicating about sets of solutions in parallel and relatively independent”. Moreover, through observations of Toyota’s PD, they devised three principles of SBCE, principles of exploration, set based communication, and convergence. Regardless of its origin, SBCE is much more sensible approach to PD than most industries are practicing, especially at early phases of design. Design and development is a unique process, where products and knowledge are created, discussed and realized. However, in the current industrial context, many companies are suffering due to poor PD performances. Lack of innovation, project delays, cost overruns, poor qualities, knowledge wastes, and poor learning capabilities are among the challenges that industries are facing at the moment. SBCE, if integrated well, could significantly contribute to alleviate these challenges. It contributes to revolutionize companies to be true learning organizations. Through its principles, SBCE will guide designers and managers to orient themselves for the creation of high value products and strive to create usable knowledge in PD.

        There is growing interests across industries to apply SBCE to improve their development performances. However, SBCE has not been well diffused as a PD practice in industries. The problems can be observed by looking at two gaps. The first one is related to the awareness level of SBCE by practitioners. In this thesis, I found that SBCE is not well understood and practiced by many designers and managers. Therefore, there is need for a method to introduce and to increase the awareness level of SBCE in industries. The second reason for the low diffusion is related to the extensive nature of SBCE to apply it for a product. To conduct a SBCE process for a product, designers should go through extensive phases (exploration of alternative sets, communication of alternative sets, test of alternative sets and converge to optimal sets). Doing all these requires considerable time, investment and capabilities. In particular, for some industries (e.g. medium sized companies and SMEs) the challenges will be aggravated due to limited resources and capabilities available to conduct SBCE. The original principles of SBCE are derived from big automakers (especially Toyota) which are in different business context than several other industries. At the present, in literature there is a lack of systematic methods for introducing and guiding practitioners where in a product system to apply SBCE. The gaps should be addressed for helping companies (medium sized companies and SMEs) to benefit from SBCE principles. The main intent of this thesis is therefore to propose systematic methods to alleviate the aforementioned gaps existed in practice.

       The first contribution of the thesis is related to the low awareness level by practitioners about SBCE. In this work, a learning method - called SBCE serious game - is designed and proposed to increase the awareness level of SBCE in industries. Gaming is very effective to introduce this novel model (SBCE) to practitioners. The game has been played by many designers and managers. The game has been effective to increase their understanding level of SBCE principles.

      The second contribution is related to the extensive nature of SBCE to apply it for a product. In this thesis a methodology called SBCE Innovation Roadmap (SBCE IR) is proposed. The purpose of this methodology is to guide designers to identify and prioritize areas (subsystems, components or design factors) that have to be the target for SBCE implementation. The SBCE IR methodology argues that designers should make rational choices to start SBCE implementation projects. Moreover, SBCE demands a rational and careful investigation a priori to identify where SBCE should be applied and use it to benefit customers with better product and increase value to the company. Otherwise, random efforts made on SBCE might be wasted without achieving the desired value. The SBCE IR methodology advocates that SBCE should be made in incremental manner rather than at full product level. The SBCE IR methodology is tested and validated in a real company (Carel Industries) on a real product, an Adiabatic Humidification System (AHS) designed by Carel Industries (

      In sum, in this thesis a SBCE serious game is developed to increase the awareness level of SBCE in industries. It is validated in a selected case company. Then, the SBCE IR methodology is proposed to guide designers to identify and prioritize areas to begin SBCE implementation at product level. This methodology is validated in the same case company. SBCE serious game and SBCE IR are the main contributions this thesis offers to industries and make methodological contributions to SBCE’s body of knowledge.


[1] Sobek, D., Ward, A. and Liker, J.K. “Toyota’s principle of Set Based Concurrent Engineering”, Sloan Management Review, 40, pp.67-83 (1999).

Top 5 Awards and honors (name of award, date received): 

Best M.Sc. thesis of the year in Logistics in Italy (, Dec.9/ 2009
Certification of merit for best Ph.D. research plan, The IFIP WG 5.1 1st Doctoral Workshop (, Montreal, Canada, Jul. 11/2012
Full Ph.D. scholarship for 3 years by Politecnico di Milano (Milan, Italy), Dec. 2009
Full M.Sc. merit scholarship for 2 years by the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE) and the Union of Italian Chambers of Commerce (UNIONCAMERE, Como, Italy), 2007.
Full postdoctoral scholarship by Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and MIT (USA), April 4/2015

5 Recent Papers: 

Kerga, E., et al. (2014), "Set-Based Concurrent Engineering Innovation Roadmap (SBCE IR): A case on Adiabatic Humidification System." Int. Journal of Design Creativity and Innovation, 2(4), 224-255.

Kerga, E., et al. (2014), "Teaching set-based concurrent engineering to practitioners through gaming." Int. Journal of Product Development (special issue on “what makes PD lean?”), 19( 5/6), 348-368.

Kerga, E., et al. (2014), "A serious game for introducing set-based concurrent engineering in industrial practices."  Concurrent Engineering Research and Application. doi: 10.1177/1063293X14550104, (

Khan, M., Al-Ashaab, A., Shehab, E., Kerga, E., Martin, C., Ewers, P. (2013) "Define Value: Applying the first Lean Principle to Product Development." Int. Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering, (in press).

Kerga, E., Khan, M., Arias, A.B. (2012) "Advanced Process Planning in Lean Product and Process Development." In Proc. of International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Innovation (ICE2012-IEEE), Munich (Germany), June 18-20, 2012, pp. 108. ISBN: 9783981247275, doi:10.1109/ICE.2012.6297682 (

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