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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S016406/1
Title: Assuring the quality of design descriptions through the use of design configuration spaces
Principal Investigator: McKay, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Robinson, Dr M Hogg, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Advanced Forming Research Centre Lanner Group Ltd Nuclear AMRC
Rolls-Royce Plc (UK)
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2019 Ends: 16 September 2022 Value (£): 1,204,456
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design & Testing Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Aug 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 7 and 8 August 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The success of today's global supply networks depends on the efficient and effective communication of design descriptions (including design intent and shape definitions) that suit the requirements and capabilities of the wide range of engineering functions, processes and suppliers involved in the delivery of products to markets. Technical product data packages are used to provide these design descriptions. At a recent industry summit, a representative of Boeing noted that some 40% of the technical data needed to create a product resides outside the shape definitions in the technical product data package. The focus of this project is on the Bills of Materials (BoMs) that are integral parts of both shape definitions and the 40% of non-shape related product data. BoMs are fundamental because they act as integrators: adapting detailed design descriptions to suit the needs of particular engineering processes. The ability to reconfigure BoMs while maintaining internal consistency of the technical data package (where all BoM configurations are complete and compatible with each other) is a major challenge.

This proposal builds on a feasibility study that explored the use of embedding* to associate multiple BoMs with a single design description. From an engineering design perspective, based on discussions with four local SMEs and work on a case study related to a Rolls-Royce combustion system, we uncovered an urgent industry need to be able to associate multiple BoMs with one or more design descriptions. This need has remained hidden because current design technologies tend to subsume BoMs in proprietary data representations. However, engineers use BoMs and other design structures to adapt design descriptions for specific purposes. For this reason, new design technologies are needed that make BoMs and other design structures available for engineers to work with directly. From a design technology perspective, we have demonstrated that hypercube lattices can act as computational spaces within which BoMs can be reconfigured. However, the generated lattices are vast and, although we made in excess of hundred-fold improvements in the speed of lattice generation after consultation with the Leeds Advanced Research Computing team, the problem remains exponential in nature. For this project, the lattices will remain in the background, as a part of the technical apparatus. From an organisational psychology perspective, the ability to reconfigure BoMs creates opportunities for new ways of managing engineering knowledge in product development systems that take account of human and organisational behaviours, and individual preferences.

The goal of this project is to establish theoretical foundations, validated through a series of sharable software prototypes, to enable the reconfiguration of BoMs. The software prototypes will be designed for use by academic and industrial users to experiment with their own data and build understanding of the kinds of functionality required in such design tools. This will allow companies to better specify their long term information technology requirements for their IT system providers. A staged software engineering process will be used and a series of open source prototypes published at roughly six month intervals. This will create opportunities for meaningful interactions within the research team, and give industry partners early access to the research and opportunities to influence the research direction. In parallel, through the development of case studies in collaboration with industry partners and colleagues in other disciplines, we will build understanding of other types of design structure that occur in engineering design processes and develop cross-disciplinary learning opportunities.

* Embedding is a mathematical mechanism that allows one instance of a construct to be superimposed on another.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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