Computer-based approach to
material and process selection
Industrial Technology Area of Orfalea College of Business,
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a perspective of computer-aided material and
process selection (MPS) software tools for product development purpose and present a practical
approach for manufacturers and other decision makers involved in MPS.
Design/methodology/approach – A multi-criteria deductive approach for MPS is applied to a case
study by taking into account the technical performances and environmental constraints.
A resource-based cost modeling is also deployed to examine the implication of selected material and
process on overall product cost.
Findings – The paper demonstrates the capabilities and shortcoming of existing computerized MPS
software tools in assisting product managers and designers for handling the growing volume of
Research limitations/implications – Applying computer-aided MPS approach to complex shape
products with multiple features is not a straightforward task and requires further development in
existing MPS software tools.
Practical implications – Computer-aided MPS systems can assist decision makers in solving many
material/process selection problems by following a systematic process.
Originality/value – Given today’s rapid technological changes, it is important for decision makers to
understand the capabilities of computer-aided MPS software tools in handling a growing volume of
data. Very limited research has been done to explore the capabilities and limitations of existing
material/process selectors. It is the ﬁrst in the literature that demonstrates the application of
multi-criteria deductive approach in MPS using a software tool.
Keywords Materials management, Software tools, Internet, Operations and production management
Paper type Technical paper
Selection of materials and manufacturing processes for industrial applications is a
long-standing, complex decision-making problem with potential impact on entire life
cycle of a product including manufacturing, distribution, consumer use, recycling, and
disposal. Materials and processes selection may indirectly inﬂuence widely varying
aspects of company management, such as company policies and the availability of
facilities and trained personnel (Lovatt and Shercliff, 1998). Such selection is also
integral to every product development process since deciding how a product should be
made relies heavily on the nature of the materials selected. Typically, materials account
for as much as 50 percent of the overall cost of manufactured goods (Ullman, 2002, p. 3)
and it is estimated that there are between 40,000 and 80,000 materials available today
with at least 1,000 different ways to process them (Ashby et al., 2004). Such vast number
of materials and processes and variety of requirements in the design process is the root
of difﬁculty of the selection problem (Brechet et al., 2001). The problem is further
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
approach to MPS
Received January 2008
Revised December 2008
Accepted February 2009
Journal of Manufacturing Technology
Vol. 20 No. 7, 2009
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited