The Language of Collaborative Manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

Today's machines and products are so advanced in terms of their materials, form, construction, control and drive systems that they require expertise and resource that extends beyond the reach of even the world's largest organisations. As a consequence, the design, development and manufacture of, for example, a modern aircraft is undertaken by a large globally distributed network of organisations. While defining this network poses a design problem by itself, it is the challenge of managing such large, highly distributed, high value projects that is of upmost concern to industry presently. This is not only because of the recent spate of high profile cost overruns, delivery setbacks and collapsed projects, but also because of aspects of leakage of intellectual property, exposure to risk, and difficulties capturing design records, lessons learned, decisions and rationale.

Engineering projects of the sort previously described are critically dependent upon two key toolsets. These are electronic communication tools (e.g. email) and digital objects (reports, CAD models and simulations). These communication tools and digital objects are fundamentally related. Engineers around the globe communicate electronically in order to create and evolve digital objects which are the basis for the design, manufacture, assembly, delivery and maintenance of products and machines. It is this relationship and co-evolution of communication and digital objects that lies at the heart of every engineering project, embodying not only the engineering work itself but also control of intellectual property, decision making, rationale and problem solving. For these reasons, it is proposed that, through an understanding of the relationship and co-evolution of communication and digital objects, it is possible to improve the management, control and performance of engineering projects.

The vision of this research will be realised through a suite of ICT tools that embody new methods and approaches for capturing and analysing the content and evolution of engineering communication and digital objects, and new methods and approaches for generating, representing, interacting with, and interpreting what are defined as signatures of in communications and digital objects. The term signature is used to represent a meaningful relationship between one or more dimensions of communication and/or digital objects at a point in time or over a period of time.

The research programme firstly considers the two dimensions of communication and digital objects. The aim here is to characterise what are referred to as the "language of collaborative manufacturing" (content of communication) and "patterns of evolution of digital objects" (construction and changes to digital objects) and to explore means of classifying content and structure, and means of generating signatures.

The programme then explores the relationship between the co-evolution of these two dimensions. Here the aim is to establish sets of signatures, relationships between signatures and patterns of signatures that embody meaning for improving aspects of collaborative engineering such as those previously stated. This phase then investigates means of representing and visualising the signatures/patterns.

The third phase of the programme researches new methods and approaches for project stakeholders to interact and meaningfully interpret signature sets, relationships and patterns with the aim of providing continuous real-time feedback. Such capability will enable advance warning of issues, improved management, increased productivity and ultimately improved design and manufacture of the product.

In addition to the three major phases, the programme has a research strand focussed on testing and validation of the new methods and approaches, and characterising best practice, as well as new ways of setting up and managing collaborative work which will be used as part of outreach and knowledge transfer activities.

Planned Impact

The scope of impact of this research programme is broad, with the potential to positively impact all industries, institutions and organisations involved in collaborative work. However, the primary focus for impact is UK engineering which includes manufacturing, construction, engineering service providers and the creative industries.

The manufacturing, construction and creative sectors are, collectively, a major part of the UK economy. In recent years the UK manufacturing output has totalled over £150bn and is ranked sixth in the world, while the UK construction industry is estimated to be worth over £300bn. Similarly, the creative industries (design, publishing and media) employ almost 6% of the UK population and generated over £122bn for the UK economy in 2006. This position is being maintained in the face of immense competition from developing nations. Central to achieving this is the ability to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of collaborative work across the breadth of the supply chains both nationally and globally. This effectiveness and efficiency not only concerns cost and quality, and the avoidance of much publicised cost overruns, but increasingly aspects of management and control of intellectual property (IP), exposure to risk, negotiations, costing, decision-making, rationale and cohesion across multi-disciplinary teams to maximise quality/innovation.

In terms of cost overruns, it has been estimated by the US National Science Foundation that the total value of delay and cost overruns stands at $150 million each day for the US Department of Defense alone. While such figures are unavailable for the UK, it is likely that a similar relative magnitude of cost is incurred by UK industry. Hence, if the new methods and approaches created in this programme can reduce this by even a few per cent this would equate to £multi-million savings per week for UK industry.
In the case of IP, retention and management is critically important for UK companies aill increase in importance with the introduction of Patent Box which requires that IP be retained and registered in the UK in order for organisations to receive tax savings. The new methods and approaches for monitoring and controlling aspects of collaborative work such as IP will thus have an important role in safeguarding UK IP in large collaborative projects.

In addition to benefiting engineering organisations, the new methods and approaches will benefit engineers, designers and other individuals involved in collaborative work through improved cohesion and collaborative activities thereby enhancing productivity and reducing tension. Society and the general public should also benefit from improved means for managing and controlling collaborative work through right-first-time products delivered to time and cost, which is increasingly important in the current economic downturn.

The new methods, approaches and ways of managing and controlling collaboration will also positively impact across all forms of knowledge-intensive collaboration including government departments and institutions such as the MOD. The new algorithms and approaches for analysis and representation of what are referred to as signatures in communication and digital objects will provide new areas of research including applied research across all forms of collaborative knowledge-based work. This includes, for example, legal, medical and the financial sectors.

Finally, all of the methods, approaches and models of collaboration that are created will offer opportunities for start-ups and exploitation by industrial users and software developers - particularly those in the engineering space and the technology partners involved in this research programme. These activities will be facilitated as part of the Impact plan.

Publications

10 25 50

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/K014196/1 01/02/2013 31/05/2013 £1,951,554
EP/K014196/2 Transfer EP/K014196/1 01/06/2013 31/07/2018 £1,877,604
 
Description Today's machines and products are so advanced in terms of their materials, form, construction, control and drive systems that they require expertise and resource that extends beyond the reach of even the world's largest organisations. As a consequence, the design, development and manufacture of, for example, a modern aircraft is undertaken by a large globally distributed network of organisations. While defining this network poses a design problem by itself, it is the challenge of managing such large, highly distributed, high value projects that is of utmost concern to industry presently. This is not only because of the recent spate of high profile cost overruns, delivery setbacks and collapsed projects, but also because of aspects of leakage of intellectual property, exposure to risk, and difficulties capturing design records, lessons learned, decisions and rationale.

To date, research has focussed on investigating potential sensors and the inferencing capability that can be generated from automated analysis of the three strands of the digital footprint - communications, representations and reports. To date we have shown that it is possible to:

1. Model using Sigmoid functions the evolution of CAD part and assembly files and predict their time to completion.
2. Through analysis of co-occurrence of file edits reveal previously hidden structural and functional dependencies between parts.
3. Through co-word analyses of reports monitor and establish the changing product structure.
4. Through content analysis of project briefs evaluate the likely complexity of a new project based
on historical cases.
5. Through sequence analysis of the workflow of historical projects using Markov chains to monitor
the complexity level of a project.
6. Through content analysis of communications monitor the levels of problem-solving, management
intervention and information requests.
7. Through topic analysis of communications identify those topics that are core to the project and
those that are isolated - i.e. the relative attention to topics by the team members.
8. Through measures derived from topic analysis monitor diffusion of information through the team
and reveal topics that are likely to be issues.
9. Through content analysis of reports and presentations compare and contrast relative attention of
team members to the requirement / specification.
10. Through analysis of user behaviour (style of email) monitor the composition and effectiveness of
the community - w.r.t. norms.
11. Through information transmission patterns determine informal team structure and hierarchy.

Outlook
Work to date has revealed that it is possible to use the digital footprint as the basis for sensors to monitor aspects of engineering projects and to do so in a meaningful manner, such as to assist in early warning of issues, evaluate team and process performance and reveal gaps/risks in project focus. While the relative success of the application of sensors to each class of digital object has been widely reported by the project team a number of challenges remain. The first concerns the overall framework for monitoring engineering projects from the digital footprint i.e. the features of, or activities within, a project that are impactful to its performance or of interest to stakeholders e.g. project managers. The second concerns the integration of the three strands of digital object and sensing of their interrelationships. The third challenge concerns the form of visualisations to use and the process of user-interaction - i.e. to perform root-cause analysis or to evaluate the impact of an intervention made, for example, by the project manager. It is these three aspects that are currently being investigated.
Exploitation Route Although at its early stages, the findings have begun providing useful insights into many aspects of engineering projects which may provide useful, actionable information to managers of large, complex engineering projects and those that work on them.

The techniques employed to analyse data include analysing communications (e.g. emails) for sentiment, how electronic files change over time, how past documents can better inform future projects. As many are highly automated, they lend themselves to embodiment in software tools such as dashboards and management information systems.

We are actively working with our industrial partners to embody the techniques developed into methods and tools that will impact on the day-to-day practice of project, knowledge and capability management, including via an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account award with Airbus to embed the tools and techniques developed in their in-service design teams.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Other

URL http://locm.org.uk
 
Description Although still ongoing research, we have turned our attention to working with our industrial partners to develop solutions based on the research outputs, including: 1. Eliciting user needs for a Formula Student team project health monitoring dashboard and consolidation / grouping of analytical techniques (proxies) to meet FS user needs. 2. Preparing industry-facing summaries of the Engineering Project Health 'proxies' that we have developed, so that other organisations may implement the techniques developed 3. Creating a real-time skills and competency mapping dashboard with one of our industrial partners. 4. The delivery of an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account project with Airbus to exploit the findings and techniques developed in this project.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Other
Impact Types Economic

 
Description EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Bath 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 03/2017
 
Title Automatic Design Structure Matrices: A Comparison of Two Formula Student Projects 
Description This data archive contains the underlying data for the conference publication entitled "Automatic Design Structure Matrices: A Comparison of Two Formula Student Projects". The paper has been published in the conference proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design. The paper presents the comparison of Design Structure Matrices from two Formula Student teams that have been automatically generated from the monitoring of the co-occurrence of updates to the product models. These product models were stored on a shared network drive. A software tool developed by the author was used to monitor the changes to these files. The underlying data and a README file is contained within this archive. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Using Finite Element Analysis to Influence the Infill Design of Fused Deposition Modelled Parts Dataset 
Description This data archive contains the underlying data for the conference publication entitled "Using Finite Element Analysis to Influence the Infill Design of Fused Deposition Modelled Parts". The paper has been accepted for publication in the journal: Progress in Additive Manfacturing. The paper describes a process that uses results attained from Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to influence the design of the internal structure (i.e. infill) of 3D printed parts by locally varying the composition of the infill based upon the associated stress values. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Description DTU visit 
Organisation Technical University of Denmark
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supporting the visit of Dr Phil Cash 12-16th January 2015
Collaborator Contribution Input into research direction and joint paper.
Impact Input into research direction and joint paper.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Industrial partners supplying data or expertise 
Organisation Airbus Group
Department Airbus Operations
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Analysis of data received from partners using various techniques, feeding back results to partners. In the case of the National Composites Centre, our analysis of their data using techniques we have developed during the project are feeding into their knowledge and capability management strategy and practice.
Collaborator Contribution Data and/or input into Programme Advisory Board meetings.
Impact Data provided by partners has contributed to publications. Results provided to the National Composites Centre are feeding into the Knowledge, capability and project management strategy and processes. Although this work is at an early stage, we anticipate substantial changes to working practice at the NCC by project end.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Industrial partners supplying data or expertise 
Organisation Airbus Group
Department CIMPA PLM Services
Country France 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Analysis of data received from partners using various techniques, feeding back results to partners. In the case of the National Composites Centre, our analysis of their data using techniques we have developed during the project are feeding into their knowledge and capability management strategy and practice.
Collaborator Contribution Data and/or input into Programme Advisory Board meetings.
Impact Data provided by partners has contributed to publications. Results provided to the National Composites Centre are feeding into the Knowledge, capability and project management strategy and processes. Although this work is at an early stage, we anticipate substantial changes to working practice at the NCC by project end.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Industrial partners supplying data or expertise 
Organisation Delcam International
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Analysis of data received from partners using various techniques, feeding back results to partners. In the case of the National Composites Centre, our analysis of their data using techniques we have developed during the project are feeding into their knowledge and capability management strategy and practice.
Collaborator Contribution Data and/or input into Programme Advisory Board meetings.
Impact Data provided by partners has contributed to publications. Results provided to the National Composites Centre are feeding into the Knowledge, capability and project management strategy and processes. Although this work is at an early stage, we anticipate substantial changes to working practice at the NCC by project end.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Industrial partners supplying data or expertise 
Organisation National Composites Centre (NCC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Analysis of data received from partners using various techniques, feeding back results to partners. In the case of the National Composites Centre, our analysis of their data using techniques we have developed during the project are feeding into their knowledge and capability management strategy and practice.
Collaborator Contribution Data and/or input into Programme Advisory Board meetings.
Impact Data provided by partners has contributed to publications. Results provided to the National Composites Centre are feeding into the Knowledge, capability and project management strategy and processes. Although this work is at an early stage, we anticipate substantial changes to working practice at the NCC by project end.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Industrial partners supplying data or expertise 
Organisation Shapespace Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Analysis of data received from partners using various techniques, feeding back results to partners. In the case of the National Composites Centre, our analysis of their data using techniques we have developed during the project are feeding into their knowledge and capability management strategy and practice.
Collaborator Contribution Data and/or input into Programme Advisory Board meetings.
Impact Data provided by partners has contributed to publications. Results provided to the National Composites Centre are feeding into the Knowledge, capability and project management strategy and processes. Although this work is at an early stage, we anticipate substantial changes to working practice at the NCC by project end.
Start Year 2013
 
Description University of Sydney 
Organisation University of Sydney
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Hosted Professor Andy Dong, University of Sydney, October 14th - 18th 2013.
Collaborator Contribution Funded visit to discuss the prgramme.
Impact Helped to shape the programme of work.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Zargreb visits 
Organisation University of Zagreb
Country Croatia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supported visits of two members of the University of Zagreb to the University of Bristol to discuss future research collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Visits and discussions with the project team and participation at the 2015 Industrial Engagement day.
Impact Discussions of future joint projects and sharing of industrial contacts.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Design Conference Session 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We held a workshop at the Design 2016 conference with c. 30 participants.

Following an overview of the research, we evaluated and discussed the factors within projects that have the biggest effect on eventual performance, success and failure. We the discussed how (and if) these vital factors are measured, monitored and understood in industry today. From this common understanding, participants engaged in a hands-on participatory design session to create prototype dashboard tools that would support and improve the management, control and performance of engineering projects and help shape our research.

The workshop aimed to:
- Deepen our understanding of the needs of industry;
- Provide directions for future research;
- Provide participants with a valuable skill set of how to apply participatory design methods for producing innovative design work; and,
- Create a network for future collaboration and longer-term engagement
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://locm.blogs.ilrt.org/2016/05/09/design-2016-workshop/
 
Description ICMR Special session 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 13TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MANUFACTURING RESEARCH - special session on ICT-enabled collaborative manufacturing, September 8th-10th 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.icmr.org.uk/
 
Description Industrial Engagement day 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The 2015 Industry workshop an industry day was held on the 3rd July 2015 at the National Composites Centre in Bristol. The objective was to gather views on progress to date, to help us to shape the outputs to meet the challenges faced in managing engineering projects.

Following presentation from the team in the morning, in the afternoon, attendees formed five groups to tackle a range of questions related to the research. We have used the outputs of this session to focus our efforts on analytical techniques that deliver insights into these type of scenarios.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://locm.org.uk/publications/industry-workshop-3rd-july-2015
 
Description Project Advisory Group kick-off meeting 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This kick-off workshop brought together our industrial partners and formalised them into a Project Advisory Board (PAG). We presented the proposed work to the partners and held a workshop session to allow participants to shape the research and communicate key challenges/areas of interest for their organisation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Project Advisory Group meeting 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Meeting of the Project Advisory Group of industrial participants. Presentations on latest research outputs and an opportunity to shape future research direction and provide further data and utilise the outputs in their own organisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Workshop with Frazer Nash Consultancy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Dissemination event and participatory design workshop with industry, aimed at creating design concepts that will support and improve project management, control and performance. Dashboard designs created by c. 30 engineers helped us to inform our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016