An approach to operational design co-ordination
Design co-ordination is aimed at improving the performance of the design development process. It can be viewed as providing the continuous coherent organisation and control of the assignment of inter-related tasks to the most relevant resources such that they can be undertaken and completed in a suitable order in a timely and appropriate manner. The nature of operational design co-ordination is discussed resulting in the identification of key issues, i. e. coherence, communication/interaction, task management, resource management, schedule management and real-time support. Based on these key issues, existing approaches related to operational engineering management have been critically reviewed and found to exhibit a number of fundamental limitations. In addition, aimed at addressing the key issues identified and overcoming the limitations of existing approaches, a set of requirements have been established that define an approach to operational design co-ordination. A novel, integrated and holistic approach to operational design co-ordination has been developed enabling the performance of the design development process to be improved. This approach consists of two components: a methodology and a knowledge modelling formalism. Further, the methodology consists of two parts: real-time and prospective. Real-time operational design co-ordination enables the coherent, timely and appropriate structured undertaking of inter-related tasks while continuously optimising the utilisation of the resources, in accordance with dynamically derived schedules, within a changeable design development process. Prospective operational design co-ordination facilitates the identification of deficiencies in terms of existing resources with respect to scheduled tasks and, thus, the assessment of proposed improvements to the resources. The knowledge modelling formalism of tasks, resources and schedules supports the methodology. Three practical case studies from engineering industry have been used to evaluate the approach. A prototype agent-oriented system, called the Design Co-ordination System, has been developed to evaluate the implementation of the real-time part of the methodology by applying it to a turbine blade design process. The prospective part of the methodology has been applied to practical case studies concerning a marine vessel conversion design programme and a rotary drum dryer design development process. Based on the evaluation of the approach, its strengths and weaknesses have been identified. Finally, areas of possible future work have been recommended to improve the approach and develop the Design Co-ordination System. In addition, based on industrial feedback, further applications of the approach have been suggested.