Key Terminology

set-based concurrent engineering


Images contrasting "Point-Based Concurrent Engineering" vs. "Set-Based Concurrent Engineering" from the SMR article "The Second Toyota Paradox" (first reference below):

See also:

The more generic term "set-based" for the practices that enable set-based concurrent engineering.

The only set-based computational software designed to enable set-based concurrent engineering can be found here.


The first mentions of "set-based concurrent engineering" was in:

A.C. Ward, J.K. Liker, J.J. Cristiano, and D.K. Sobek II, The second Toyota paradox: How delaying decisions can make better cars faster, Sloan Management Review 36 (1995), 43-61.

The follow-up article published in HBR brought even more attention to "set-based concurrent engineering":

D.K. Sobek II, J.K. Liker, and A.C. Ward, Another look at Toyota's integrated product development, Harvard Business Review 76 (July-Aug 1998), 36-49.

The first paper to focus specifically on Toyota's set-based concurrent engineering:

D.K. Sobek II, A.C. Ward, and J.K. Liker, Toyota's principles of set-based concurrent engineering, Sloan Management Review 40 (1999), 31-40.

Rather than focus on Toyota, this paper fleshes out the set-based concepts and how they can transform product development and systems engineering:

B.M. Kennedy, D.K. Sobek II, and M.N. Kennedy, Reducing rework by applying set-based practices early in the systems engineering process, Systems Engineering Journal 17, no. 3 (Autumn 2014), 278-296. (pdf available here)

The most extensive treatment of set-based practices, along with the associated enabling practices, is in this book:

P.W. Cloft, M.N. Kennedy, and B.M. Kennedy, Success is Assured: Satisfy your customers on time and on budget by optimizing decisions collaboratively using reusable visual models, Productivity Press, Taylor and Francis Group, 2019.  (see

Origins of the Term:  the term was first introduced to describe the practices observed in the Toyota Product Development System that made it 4X more productive than its competitors by Dr. Allen Ward, Dr. Durward Sobek, and their colleagues in papers published in the Harvard Business Review and Sloan Management Review (see the first three references below).​

Definition:  concurrent engineering means that teams engineering subsystems dependent on the design of other subsystems are able to proceed with their engineering work productively at the same time as engineering work is being done on the system theirs is dependent upon; the term is particularly applied to the engineering of a manufacturing process for a product that is concurrently being engineered; concurrent engineering has rarely been achieved to any degree with the exception of set-based concurrent engineering, where the set-based practices allow the teams to converge their sets concurrently, each "eliminating the weak" and informing the other of what decisions have been narrowed such that they can the narrow their own designs.


Images contrasting "Point-Based Development" vs. "Set-Based Concurrent Engineering" from the SMR article "Toyota's Principles of Set-Based Concurrent Engineering" (third reference below):