Knowledge retention and reuse supporting engineering decisions in simulation-driven product development
Abstract: Information exchange is becoming more and more important as modern manufacturers increasingly rely on integrated product development. Research shows that designers may not be aware of existing information or be willing to disrupt their work to search for the relevant information. One part of the answer to issues related to understanding, availability and actual consideration is context. The research trend in knowledge sharing seems to be moving towards integration of additional platform-independent applications and lightweight product representations to accommodate contextual communication, even though findings suggest user reservation to additional applications. The part Computer Aided Design and Engineering systems play in the product lifecycle however continues to expand, as is the concept of Simulation-Driven Design as a means of ensuring downstream product lifecycle consideration. The underlying purpose of the research presented in this thesis is essentially to, enable and ensure awareness, access and understanding of product and process related information, for relevant actors, during relevant activities and within relevant environments. The proposed approach serves to enable, and to an extent ensure, contextual decision support within the early stages of product development, thus increasing the foundation for continued understanding and overall development. The approach has been implemented, and the resulting demonstrator includes but a few examples of how heavyweight technologies can, and to an extent should be used to ensure a better foundation for design decisions. The presented approach is a general way of not only enabling Simulation-Driven Design capabilities, but ensuring that they in fact have the desired impact. Investigations and demonstrator evaluations show that access to supporting tools and relevant information has to be made readily and contextually available. These have to be intuitive, integrated into the environment where they are needed, and ultimately be perceived as a natural part of daily development in order for them to be accepted and used. It is important to realise that the tools themselves are no cure-alls, nor are they replacements for purposeful communication and conscious consideration to all aspects of the product lifecycle. Still, transparency and an educational approach to tool development could be a catalyst, an entry point towards ensuring insight and understanding, so that each actor in turn can act with consideration to the product lifecycle as a whole, instead of just the task at hand.
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