This was a collaborative EPSRC Design the Future feasibility project spanning four disciplines: engineering, maths, computing and organizational psychology. The aim of the project was to create sharable software prototypes that enable the re-use and repurposing of engineering information through embedding. It involved 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. The research led to two discoveries.
- We uncovered a latent industry need to be able to associate multiple BoMs with one or more descriptions of a given design. This need had remained hidden because current design technologies tended to subsume BoMs within proprietary data representations. However, engineers use BoMs and other design structures as lenses to repurpose design descriptions for specific purposes. For this reason, we concluded that new design technologies were needed that make BoMs and other design structures available for engineers to work with directly but without compromising the functionalities of existing design tools and technologies.
- We demonstrated that lattice theory could be used to underpin such a technology. We developed a series of software prototypes that can generate a lattice from a BoM that is subsumed in a CAD model and began to explore how configuration engineers might interact with such lattices.