Starting with a low cost/low complexity design alternatives in large engineering programs and then systematically raising the cost and complexity , where warranted, is a far better approach than starting with higher cost design complex designs and later doing cost down and simplification activities. I have worked on many product teams where the latter was the norm. Subsystem teams would select costly more complex technologies, more costly high precision components and assemblies, costly manufacturing and control systems, all in an effort to get a jump start on functional performance and time to market requirements. Early demonstration of performance, even though the costs were over allocations, were considered perfectly fine, as long as everyone tacitly understood that there would be a cost-down and simplify activities at the end of the development activities. Many engineering teams understood that their cost allocations would be waived initially to satisfy time to market and performance requirements.
The higher initial cost design approach was quite appealing, as it usually avoided the unwanted attention and pressures from engineering management. Company buyers, in turn, would prepare themselves to put undue amounts of pressure on suppliers to reduce costs for their deliverables. Manufacturing engineering would invest time and resources in higher precision and many processes with secondary operations, again with the idea that both design and manufacturing cost down would come later. Sales and marketing people, in turn, would prepare for a higher priced offering than originally planned. Extra pressure was put on sales teams to push the higher prices along to loyal customers.
The high cost design approach many time proved difficult in later development stages as the cost down would negatively affected performance. This is really something one would like to deal with early on in the design cycle, not at the end. Rationale for original design choices were sometimes lost or forgotten. The cost engineers tasked with the cost down and simplification activities were usually not the original design engineers. This in turn created new difficulties usually for downstream service engineers and manufacturing quality engineers.
When starting with low cost design alternatives, it becomes imperative to quickly identify a set of robust technologies and robust manufacturing processes that simultaneously satisfy quality, cost, and delivery requirements. In selecting low cost alternatives, engineers are tasked with exploring available design space (using flexible fixtures) to identify first a working prototype condition and directions for improvement without adding cost. Using experimental design methods /parameter design methods to find an optimal set of nominal values, has been widely used. The rule of thumb was that if you could get the functions to work just once with the low cost approach, then you could begin the optimization process without adding cost. There would be many opportunities to capitalize on better combinations of control factors and signal factors. If the optimization efforts fell short, then adding cost incrementally until the trajectory to design maturity improved, could be done. Nevertheless, the initial low cost approach would still end at a better place than starting with high cost and trying to drive the cost and complexity down late in the cycle.