For the next step in their engineering technology, Airbus is implementing collaborative engineering, which it defines as “the integration of functional and industrial design teams to produce a single deliverable, an industrial digital mockup (iDMU).”
Researchers at Madrid Polytechnic University found five elements that defined each transitional stage as Airbus moved from traditional to concurrent to collaborative methods. Thanks to consumer-class social media and the use of concurrent engineering practices in software development, the pressure is on product design and manufacturing companies to adopt collaborative engineering procedures.
It may not be prudent to use Dropbox, Facebook messenger, or Skype as a communications channel in product design. But advances are being made around the themes of improving workflows, improving access to data and protecting engineering from time-wasting practices or technologies.
Conversations taking place in product design are not always taking place within the frame of product lifecycle management (PLM). Aras, which develops the Aras Innovator PLM system, identifies three problem areas for engineering collaboration:
1. Security: Email and other forms of direct communications are “potentially insecure … it is important to keep these communications secure, even within the organization.”
2. Context: If an engineer has a question about materials, she might call up a model, but is it the right model? “Context is important in collaboration; engineers must be able to get answers from the right place at the right time.” Too often such searches become “micro-level interactions using email or Dropbox,” McDonald says, further weakening the security as well as potentially leading the engineer in the wrong direction.
3. Verification: There is no consistent, automated way to store, access and verify communications outside the PLM system. This makes it impossible to establish an audit trail, crucial in some industries.
Data in collaborative environments needs to be granular; accessible at its most fundamental level. At the same time, not everyone in the value chain needs the same level of data granularity. Dassault Systèmes’ Ramesh Haldora, VP of Strategic Consulting for the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, says granularity of data is an important reason to move from electronic engineering documents to a single digital platform. Dassault’s digital platform is built based on its core applications: CATIA, SIMULIA, ENOVIA. In this environment, each person in the value chain can access the data they need at the level of detail required, and it the data is always current.
Not every engineering software company is working to provide real-time collaboration as the norm. Siemens PLM distinguishes between synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Most people prefer asynchronous work; it is working on their own timeline. Engineers need asynchronous collaboration at the bottom of the pyramid and synchronous at the top. It’s not as important.
ESTECO approaches its role in engineering as providing for a team approach. No single expert can do the entire simulation; this pushes engineers to work together. ESTECO sees democratization of engineering data as a crucial piece of creating a collaborative environment.
>> Read more by Randall, Digital Engineering, March 1, 2017