Recently, a large automobile company implemented a Knowledge-based Engineering (KBE) application to help design an engine component. While the KBE developers aimed to facilitate a single engineer’s ability to design this component using only the KBE application, it can be shown that in fact this component’s design is tightly coupled to that of several others. Can KBE handle situations like this? How common are they? To address these and other questions, Design Structure Matrix (DSM) models were made of this component at three levels: system interactions, assembly of the component, and individual parts. The size, row names, and internal entries of these matrices were compared to matrices constructed from several conventional written design guides and a flowchart of the KBE application. In each case, the DSM contained more rows or more matrix entries per row, especially at the system interaction level. Since the DSMs were constructed by interviewing experienced engineers, one implication is that while low-aggregation information may be documented, system level information at this company mostly resides in people’s heads. An informal measure of “knowledge content” based on the number of matrix entries per row was shown to be consistent with similar measurements made on DSMs obtained by several other researchers. These results indicate some of the scope and complexity challenges that KBE faces.

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