The PACE Project
A Practical Approach to Concurrent Engineering
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Contents:

Introduction
Problem Situation
Approach
The PACE Knowledge Platform
The PACE Workbench
The PACE Implementation Framework

On other Pages:

The PACE Consortium

Publications:

PACE'96 - Proceedings of European Workshop Proceedings
PACE'97 - Proceedings of European Workshop Proceedings (NEW: all papers for download)


The PACE Project

1 INTRODUCTION

In recent years, Concurrent Engineering (CE) has become an important paradigm in product development and a widely accepted concept within the industrial and academic arena. Literature is full of examples, case studies, surveys and company-specific reports, advocating the potential benefits to be gained by adopting a CE approach. Upon reviewing the literature it is relatively easy to deduce that a large proportion of these studies is a prescriptive preaching of what to do and the potential benefits achievable by moving towards CE principles. Examples of how to do it and imlementation support are quite rare. These, however, are of major interest for companies facing today's competition.

Thus the underlying rationale behind the PACE project (A Practical Approach to Concurrent Engineering) is from the "how" perspective. The project's aim is to develop a holistic infrastructure supporting companies in the implementation of CE. The PACE Consortium comprises five industrial and three research partners, located in four European countries, namely, Germany, UK, Denmark and Portugal.

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2 PROBLEM SITUATION

Today CE is widely used as a common term for new approaches towards engineering. Its potential advantages are compelling. However, no generally accepted implementation paradigm actually exists. Though it is well known that changing towards CE practice requires simultaneous, careful and detailed consideration of organisational, human and technological aspects with respect to the company-specific environment, concrete and practical approaches are missing. Problems that hinder companies in implementing CE can be seen in three main areas: Currently, the commercial availability of CE approaches in Europe is mainly in the form of consultancy services which are often product-oriented and expensive. PACE is bridging the gap between a more ad-hoc approach to CE on one hand and the resources and possibilities of large companies regarding consultancy services and in-house R&D on the other hand. The PACE project concentrates on developing a methodology and tools which companies can apply themselves for the self-organised implementation and configuration of CE, appropriate to their specific needs.

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3 APPROACH

PACE directly addresses the above problems with its prime aim to provide a holistic technology transfer infrastructure consisting of tools, methods and techniques. These are intended to support the simultaneous, controlled change of the major elements of engineering organisations in general. The research objectives are of a practical nature, emphasising the development of a supporting infrastructure for the application of CE principles and self-organised implementation approaches for the end-user companies.

From each of the above problems, a major question arises. They represent the typical needs of an engineering manager responsible for the change process and each is addressed by one component of the PACE project:

Therefore the overall CE-technology-transfer-infrastructure is decomposed into three main components: the Knowledge Platform, the Workbench and a dedicated CE Implementation Framework.

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3.1 The PACE Knowledge Platform

The purpose of the Knowledge Platform is to provide almost complete pertinent information on CE. The need for such a platform can be derived from the problem of information dissemination in a highly dynamic field like CE. Currently this information is scattered throughout conference proceedings, journals, vendor literature, corporate records, etc. and is difficult to access. The level of abstraction is often not really targeted at the actual end-users, e.g. engineering department managers. The platform is to capture information from the areas of theory, standards, practice and management using a conceptual model of the CE domain. The presentation of the information is by means of facts and their relationships as in hypertext systems.

Also the purpose of the platform is that of a data repository for the Workbench tools and data from the implementation phases. For example, the tool selection function of the Workbench uses the platform to store relevant information on computer aided engineering support systems. Workbench tools will be able to directly exchange company profile data gathered prior to, and during, an implementation project.

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3.2 The PACE Workbench

The Workbench is to provide decision support in the planning phase of a concrete CE implementation project. It comprises a corresponding set of complementary computer-based tools as well as didactic and information material like courseware, guidelines and questionnaires. Individual elements of the Workbench provide support for: It is important to note, however, that both the Knowledge Platform and the Workbench do not eliminate the need for the involvement of qualified personnel during the planning and implementation phase of CE. Nevertheless, the combination of both supports the responsible people by ensuring the precise structuring and definition of the as-is situation (by capturing the company profile data) and the transparent consideration of decision alternatives.

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3.3 The PACE Implementation Framework

Finally a CE Implementation Framework comprises an implementation methodology which will be both generic and customisable. It will be formally modelled as part of the Knowledge Platform. The results will be applied, evaluated and refined in the form of pilot projects in four end user firms located in four countries in Europe.

The project objectives and tasks are explicitly oriented towards pragmatic applicable results for industry. Although the results will be heavily based on information technology as a vehicle, they are to be provided as comparatively simple, easy-to-use tools in the hands of the non-computer expert.

The quality of the work in terms of matching the relevant requirements and broad applicability will be secured by four end-user pilot studies with a real-life scope. At the same time the studies will be of a manageable size and performed under closely controlled conditions in order to gain significant feedback about the provided infrastructure. Four studies, three of which are based on different product domains (mass, high-tech mechatronics and OKP tooling), ensure a sufficient scope.

It should be noted, that in contrast to most other pilot projects and examples that are presented in literature, the PACE project is intendedly not basing its pilot projects on the participation of highly motivated engineers, "tiger teams" or fully committed leaders, but on average employees with average motivation and average skills as they are typical for every company. Only if succeeding in such a "normal" environment, the developed approach can be seen as really practical to CE as intended by PACE.

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Frithjof Weber

Bremen Institute of Industrial Technology and Applied Work Science (BIBA)
Hochschulring 20, D-28359 Bremen, Germany
P.O. Box 33 05 60, D-28335 Bremen, Germany
Phone: +49-421-218-5536 (direct line) or +49-421-218-5530 (secretary)
Fax: +49-421-218-5510

eMail: web@biba.uni-bremen.de

Last change: November 15 , 1998- 22:30