Work Package 1: Advanced Product Representation and Information Management
This work package will be carried out in the context of building on the capabilities of current Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) approaches, and on the need for information, of the types mentioned above, to be recorded in a sustainable manner suitable for access over long product lifecycles. The present practice of recording the outcome of the design process is for a highly formalised model of the product to be produced, in the form of computer-aided engineering models, bills of materials and so on (McMahon and Browne, 1998). However, the detailed process and engineering activities by which the design has been created, and the underlying rationale employed are recorded in an informal manner (if at all), largely through text documents. A consequence is that it is difficult to retrace or audit the engineering reasoning and decision-making that has taken place during the process without extensive work to assimilate and digest the design documentation, and that identification of relevant parts of this documentation requires significant skill and often an intimate knowledge of the documentation itself. It is the central proposition of WP1 that a much richer representation of the design may be obtained by combining product models with formal descriptions both of the processes by which the product has been designed and of the rationale applied in those processes. Furthermore, it is contended that these descriptions will allow enhanced approaches to the organisation and retrieval of product data, particularly when combined with knowledge of how design information is used in different through-life contexts, and that an improved understanding of the role of process may allow semi-automated creation of the combined models.
There are three tasks in WP1, each with a specific objective, namely:
- to develop combined product, process and rationale models that will allow the capture of extended models of product designs (including records of design trade-offs, results of negotiation, evidence of decision making and details of successful and unsuccessful designs)
- to develop approaches to design information organisation based on these combined models and on the need to capture feedback from service experience; and
- to explore automated techniques for the capture of design knowledge to reduce the overhead in building the new models.
The deliverables from the work package will comprise a framework for the development of sustainable product information resources, new approaches to combined product, process, product information and rationale (PPPIR) models (theoretical underpinning, modelling techniques, languages and experimental computer implementations), new approaches to information organisation (organisation structures and experimental computer implementations) and techniques for the automated creation of design models.