Systematic Analysis of Engineering Change Request Data - Applying Data Mining Tools to Gain New Fact-Based Insights

University dissertation from Gothenburg : Chalmers tekniska högskola

Abstract: Large, complex system development projects take several years to execute. Such projects involve hundreds of engineers who develop thousands of parts and millions of lines of code. During the course of a project, many design decisions often need to be changed due to the emergence of new information. These changes are often well documented in databases, but due to the complexity of the data, few companies analyze engineering change requests (ECRs) in a comprehensive and structured fashion. ECRs are important in the product development process to enhance a product. The opportunity at hand is that vast amount of data on industrial changes are captured and stored, yet the present challenge is to systematically retrieve and use them in a purposeful way. This PhD thesis explores the growing need of product developers for data expertise and analysis. Product developers increasingly refer to analytics for improvement opportunities for business processes and products. For this reason, we examined the three components necessary to perform data mining and data analytics: exploring and collecting ECR data, collecting domain knowledge for ECR information needs, and applying mathematical tools for solution design and implementation. Results from extensive interviews generated a list of engineering information needs related to ECRs. When preparing for data mining, it is crucial to understand how the end user or the domain expert will and wants to use the extractable information. Results also show industrial case studies where complex product development processes are modeled using the Markov chain Design Structure Matrix to analyze and compare ECR sequences in four projects. In addition, the study investigates how advanced searches based on natural language processing techniques and clustering within engineering databases can help identify related content in documents. This can help product developers conduct better pre-studies as they can now evaluate a short list of the most relevant historical documents that might contain valuable knowledge. The main contribution is an application of data mining algorithms to a novel industrial domain. The state of the art is more up for the algorithms themselves. These proposed procedures and methods were evaluated using industrial data to show patterns for process improvements and cluster similar information. New information derived with data mining and analytics can help product developers make better decisions for new designs or re-designs of processes and products to ensure robust and superior products.

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