A kit-of-parts is a collection of engineered parts that can be fit together for a variety of configurations to create a family of related objects that all work with each other. This approach can be used in manufacturing, industrial design, architecture, software development, and a variety of other fields. It relies upon the use of standardized systems for engineering and fabricating components, to create objects that can be easily put together, taken apart, extended, and reconfigured to meet changing needs, much like an educational engineering kit for children.
In the kit-of-parts approach, designers use standardized connections and other features to create parts that can fit with any other part in the system easily and logically. Design drawings and specifications are also standardized, using the same systems of measurement, the same scale for drawings, and so forth. Companies can establish a large parts library and divide a factory into logical sectors for the production of different parts within the same family.
The design specifications can allow creators to develop a schematic for a new product or improvements to an existing one, so the right parts can be ordered and assembled. The finished product can be taken apart, if needed, for movement to another location or retrofitting. Using a kit-of-parts also allows for extensions and changes to make components more usable. For example, if a scientific laboratory is built using a kit-of-parts and someone wants to add another office space, it can be snapped on readily using compatible parts, with a minimum of disruption to the rest of the structure.
This method allows for the design of individual components within a larger object, as well as families of objects that fit together. A firm that designs modular homes might use a kit-of-parts approach to handle not just the construction of the homes, with endless configurations to allow homeowners to create customized products, but also the systems inside. Heating, cooling, plumbing, and other systems can all be constructed from individualized parts, and are easy to change as needed if the overall design undergoes changes.
Specialists in kit-of-parts design work with computer aided design (CAD) and related tools to create clear, understandable standards to implement in design and fabrication of parts. Their standardized part designs can be uploaded to a central database for other engineers and designers to use. Designers can check the part library to see if components that would meet the needs of a project are available. If they are not, they can get familiar with the standards to design a new part that will not only serve the needs of the project, but also expand the parts library.