An intelligent negotiation based framework to support concurrent engineering principles in the engineering design of process plant
The traditional approach to the engineering design of process plant is highly sequential with decisions made early in the design phase having a large knock on effect to downstream design processes. A lack of consideration to downstream concerns will either result in design re-work or compromise. Concurrent engineering has been proposed as a design method for resolving the problems inherent in the sequential design process by bringing the different engineering disciplines together at key decision points in the design process, thereby preventing design problems before they occur. Computational support for concurrent engineering aims to develop tools to help team members in sharing knowledge and keep track of the others' needs, constraints, decisions and assumptions [Cutkosky, et al. 93]. Such systems would enable engineering disciplines from each of the design life-cycle stages to communicate and review design strategy. As a group they would be able to explore design alternatives in search of a good solution [Talukdar, Fenves 89]. Knowledge based systems can support the engineering design process by providing advice that accounts for the global concerns. It is argued that such a system should be distributed, due to the problems in maintaining a single large knowledge base, and computational power required to operate a single system. However, wherever expertise is distributed, conflict exists that has to be resolved. The aims of this research are to identify the needs of a computational support environment to aid concurrent engineering design, and to develop a framework to enable disparate design systems to cooperate and produce designs acceptable from the global viewpoint. The 'needs' were identified from a study of the engineering design process, and a detailed analysis into the design and selection of pumping systems to provide a rich example of the problems faced in a specific design process. Cooperation is achieved through 'Negotiation', which resolves conflicts between the various objectives involved in design and is a central theme of this research. Through the provision of a framework to support negotiation the aim is to provide the basis on which individual design programs can cooperate to produce rational designs from a global perspective, thereby bringing life cycle design advice to the earlier design stages.