Integrating KBE and PLM Through a Service Oriented Architecture
Globalization has made a large impact on product development, especially in mature businesses such as the automotive and aerospace industries. As product and manufacturing technologies become more common and widespread, the competitive advantage for many companies shifts to knowledge about using those technologies. This knowledge is based on many years of experience and relates both to the product design and to the process for designing and manufacturing the product. Engineering knowledge thus is an asset that needs to be captured, stored and managed, which provides strategic long-term benefits.
In parallel, IT tools for storing and executing different kinds of knowledge, such as expert systems for diagnosis or rule-based systems for mechanical design, have been developed and are more usable and accessible today. In the field of engineering, rule-based applications are available in many IT tools for computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided engineering (CAE) and so on. The term knowledge-based engineering (KBE) was coined in the mid-1980s as a label for the CAD-integrated applications for designing rule-based geometries. There is no widely accepted definition of the term. In this thesis KBE embraces the capture and reuse of engineering knowledge in general, regardless of domain of application.
The focus of this thesis is on how KBE, both as an IT application and as a method, is integrated with the product development process. The focus has been on integration of KBE with product lifecycle management (PLM) which embraces methods and IT tools for managing product and process information throughout a product’s lifecycle. KBE should be an integral part of PLM in the same way as CAD, CAE, PDM and so on. The thesis considers architectural issues in order to investigate which conceptual solutions for the PLM architecture are the most suitable for integrating KBE and PLM.
It is concluded that a service-oriented PLM architecture is the most promising integration concept, not only from an IT perspective to integrate KBE with CAD, CAE, PDM and so on, but also from a process perspective to ensure optimal support for the way engineering knowledge can be captured and reused in the product development process. The service-oriented architecture is based on standardized interfaces which support the exchange of data across applications, and modularization which supports increased reuse of solutions. From an implementation point of view, it makes it possible to create KBE applications of any size, without the need to duplicate information that already exists somewhere else – thus decreasing the implementation costs. The ability to create KBE applications at a low cost raises the potential to integrate KBE with the product development process, since engineers can create their own small applications without having to organize large IT projects.
Two other PLM architectures, single-source architecture and a peer-to-peer architecture, have been studied and both entail disadvantages, not only for the integration of KBE but also for management of IT. The main drawback of the single-source architecture is related to its implementation, as a “one application fits all engineers” mindset is impossible to implement in practice. In the peer-to-peer architecture every new IT implementation brings about large costs and requires many resources, which affects the possibility to support the idea of each engineer making a small KBE application that adds to a bigger whole.
service oriented architecture
product development process