Assuring the quality of design descriptions through the use of design configuration spaces

Co-investigators: Professor David Hogg, Dr Mark Robinson

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The success of today’s global supply networks depends on the efficient and effective communication of design descriptions (including design intent and shape definitions) that suit the requirements and capabilities of the wide range of engineering functions, processes and suppliers involved in the delivery of products to markets. Technical product data packages are used to provide these design descriptions.

At a recent industry summit, a representative of Boeing noted that some 40% of the technical data needed to create a product resides outside the shape definitions in the technical product data package. The focus of this project is on the Bills of Materials (BoMs) that are integral parts of both shape definitions and the 40% of non-shape related product data.

BoMs are fundamental because they act as integrators: adapting detailed design descriptions to suit the needs of particular engineering processes. The ability to reconfigure BoMs while maintaining internal consistency of the technical data package (where all BoM configurations are complete and compatible with each other) is a major challenge.

This proposal builds on a feasibility study that explored the use of embedding* to associate multiple BoMs with a single design description. From an engineering design perspective, we uncovered an urgent industry need to be able to associate multiple BoMs with one or more design descriptions. This need has remained hidden because current design technologies tend to subsume BoMs in proprietary data representations.

However, engineers use BoMs and other design structures to adapt design descriptions for specific purposes. For this reason, new design technologies are needed that make BoMs and other design structures available for engineers to work with directly.

The goal of this project is to establish theoretical foundations, validated through a series of sharable software prototypes, to enable the reconfiguration of BoMs. The software prototypes will be designed for use by academic and industrial users to experiment with their own data and build understanding of the kinds of functionality required in such design tools.

This will allow companies to better specify their long term information technology requirements for their IT system providers. * Embedding is a mathematical mechanism that allows one instance of a construct to be superimposed on another.

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