Planning Design Automation : A Structured Method and Supporting Tools
The demand for customised products that meet different markets and different customers is steadily increasing. Also, the demand for shorter lead times for the delivery of these customised products puts strains on design departments whose work tends to become increasingly repetitive. At the same time, designing variants takes time from innovative, original design, and/or problem-solving tasks. A powerful tool in the endeavour to cut lead times, workloads, and ultimately costs in order to become more competitive in an increasingly globalised market is Design Automation. Automating tedious and repetitive design tasks will free the designers to focus on the tasks that require skill, creativity, intuition, and cooperation to be solved. Consequently, seeing a need for design automation systems is not difficult. What becomes a lot more difficult is identifying the type, scope, and format of the system implementation, as well as the actual design tasks and activities to support or automate. Therefore, there is a need for structured and systematic approaches for the realisation and implementation of design automation systems. This research work is aimed at presenting such approaches, methods, and aids. It also addresses the importance of identifying the exact tasks to be automated. This has to be done in order to find the method and implementations best suited for solving the tasks, something that is especially important for companies whose human and financial resources might not allow them to invest in a system with functionality that vastly exceeds their actual needs.
The contribution of this work is a structured method for planning for design automation implementation. First, the design process is discussed from an automation perspective. Following this is a presentation of a framework of design automation. This framework has the purpose of serving as a common base for consensual discussions about design automation. In addition, it supports the setting-up of system specifications. The framework is followed by the introduction of a set of identifiers of system needs and potentials, focusing on the existing processes that need to be broken down and identified in order to specify the tasks to be automated. Following this is a set of criteria of system characteristics, focusing on properties of the intended system implementation. Finally, some realisation and implementation issues are addressed and exemplified through a number of pilot system implementations.
The presented method for planning design automation, together with the presented framework of design automation, provides implementers with issues to address regarding potential, need, scope, and format of system implementations. Further, it supports the weighing of desired system characteristics in order to find the right balance between system complexity and functionality.