Research objectives

The quality of design descriptions, such as the technical data packages that are developed through engineering product development processes, has a significant impact on the performance of a product through its life. The aim of this project is to establish theoretical foundations for the reconfiguration of bills of materials (BoMs) with a view to assuring the consistency of technical data packages when the structures and compositions of design descriptions are modified for use in specific engineering or downstream activities. The following objectives are being pursued.

1) To establish, in collaboration with partners including Catapult Centres and the University of Leeds Living Lab project, four end user scenario-driven case studies, each including either an engineering technical data package or a Building Information Model (from the Leeds Living Lab) with multiple BoMs.

2) To elicit key features of BoMs within the case studies to inform the specification of test cases for use in the evaluation of methods and tools for the reconfiguration of BoMs.

3) To design and prototype a series of open source software prototypes, through a staged software engineering process, that can be used to explore issues in the reconfiguration of BoMs through the navigation and exploration of design configuration spaces.

4) To evaluate the software prototypes using the test cases, illustrate their potential with the case studies, and feed learning (in the form of user requirements) back into the staged software engineering process.

5) To explore the exploitation of the research outcomes to predict the impact of early design decisions on downstream activities with an initial focus on (i) BoM configurations and their effect on supply chain structures and required supplier capabilities, and (ii) potential applications of machine learning to generate manufacturing planning information such as assembly sequences.

6) To explore opportunities in other disciplines for trans-disciplinary learning and wider application of the scientific methods that underpin this research by building relationships with colleagues in areas such as cross-scale modelling of molecular structures, metabolic pathways in biological systems and the implementation of building information models in civil engineering.