Embedding design structures in engineering information

An engineer speaks to a group of office workers


Engineers use design structures, such as Bills of Materials (BoMs), to tailor product definitions, including shape, for particular activities. For example, an engineering BoM defines the as-designed product whereas a manufacturing BoM defines the as-built state of the same product. Both of these BoMs relate to the same designed product. However in practice, because of restrictions arising from current computer aided design technologies and associated business systems, different BoMs are often related to separate digital definitions of the same product. This creates significant data management problems that add cost, time and rework into product development processes. If resolved, substantial business benefits, through improved productivity of product development processes, could be achieved.

Key challenges for engineers lie in (a) understanding how the range of BoMs and other design structures of a given product relate to each other and the product itself, and (b) ensuring they have the best design structure(s) for specific tasks. For example, a BoM is a hierarchy of part-whole relationships that are useful when a product breakdown structure is needed whereas engineering design tasks typically need design structures that capture how the part being designed relates to the parts to which it must interface. In this second type of [lattice] structure, assembly mating relationships are needed. These and other kinds of connection relationship are fundamentally different to the part-whole relationships of a BoM.

The project team brings together researchers from engineering design and associated information systems, organisational psychology, mathematics and computing. We are working with industrial and other end user partners to define case studies and use them to support demonstrations of how embedding might be implemented and used to enhance real-world engineering design, manufacturing and through life support processes.