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Concurrent Engineering – A Case Study

involving University and Industry
Elsa Henriques1, Paulo Peças1, Arlindo Silva2, Inês Ribeiro1
1

Instituto Superior Téncico, IDMEC, Av Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisbon , Portugal
{elsa.h,ppecas,ines.ribeiro}@ist.utl.pt

2

Instituto Superior Téncico, ICEMS, Av Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisbon , Portugal
arlindo.silva@ist.utl.pt

Abstract
Time to market, competition and manufacturing costs are only some of the reasons why concurrent engineering is an
increasingly used methodology for product development. The present paper deals with a case study of universityindustry cooperation to develop an improved part for an automotive application, with three main concerns: economic,
performance and environmental. Four universities gathered to attack this problem with an automotive company,
joined by a technology research center. The very short time span of the project called for the application of
concurrent engineering project planning and execution. The brainstorming that ensued resulted in, among other
significant outcomes, a new methodology for materials selection. Also, the application of concurrent engineering
methods to university-industry collaboration was very successful, regardless of the usual different timings of industry
and university.
Keywords
Product development, concurrent engineering, materials selection, manufacturing cost

1

Introduction

Nowadays, any innovation process and particularly product development is a concurrent effort
involving engineers, business planners, marketing staff and environmental professionals
functioning as integrated teams [Cooper, 2001]. Leading firms are introducing new products
with high-perceived quality, forcing other companies to respond accordingly in order to maintain
their competitiveness. This dynamic flow of new products is achieved by adopting new product
development methods [Rouibah, Caskey, 2003]. Emerging in this context, Concurrent
Engineering (CE) is a process in which a number of specialists from different areas work
interactively to meet pre-determined targets [Hilmes, Schatz, 2004]. CE philosophy has been
discussed since the beginning of the twentieth century, but only in the past decades it has become
the main approach in product development, due to the fast development of science and
technology and to the increasing multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinary nature of current
engineering problems [Jian, Oriet, 2005]. Within a product development context the main
purposes for CE principles are the creation of products with shortened development process,
lower costs and higher quality [Xu, Li, Li, Tang, 2004]. Many studies have been developed in
this area; some are focused on information exchange between expertise areas [Yassine,
Sreenivas, Zhu, 2006; Wognum, Bondarouk, 2003; Farinha, Gonçalves, Garção, 2003], some
explore leadership and team management strategies [Lin, Chai, Wong, Brombacher, 2007; Stach,
Pfennig, 2004] and others focus on applications and case studies involving concurrent
engineering applied to product development [McBeth, Tennant, Neailey, 2005; Loh, 2005;
Xiuchun, Ning, 2005]. Nevertheless, and whatever their approach is, all of them agree that the
basic principles of CE rely on concurrent work-flow, cross-functional work teams and early
involvement of constituencies, whose competences will be required or will be disturbed at some
point along the product development process.

1997]. these purposes have to be adjusted to the global aim of the project. its basic principles can be extended to cooperative research environments. Finally the early involvement of various constituents in the development process provides an avenue for various interest groups to express their concerns and to provide their input early into the process. As a result. including steel. including investigation of structural performance. The objective of this project was to bring together one company. and be able to withstand the high temperatures of the paint shop and low temperatures of winter.The concurrent work-flow. CEIIA (Centro de Engenharia e Inovação par a Industria Automóvel) was . involving universities and other research institutes together with industrial companies with or without formal R&TD departments. Each of these materials choices must satisfy a set of structural requirements: the fender must be strong and stiff. thereby establishing the project teams. composites (Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto) and process-based cost modelling (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). as a well coordinated effort to involve many areas into interdisciplinary teams has a great importance to the project duration and success. such as the package space for the part on the vehicle and the attachment points to the vehicle body. 2 Project goals and objectives Although CE practice has mainly been applied to product and process development activities [Chen. getting in manufacturing engineers in preliminary product development phases brings manufacturability issues into light. 2001]. Each university was chosen because of its expertise in metals (Instituto Superior Técnico. 1996]. In fact. While university professionals work with the main purpose of creating scientific results. Vonderembse. especially in an environment of rising fuel costs and increasing emphasis on the environmental impact of motor vehicle designs. IST). If information and partial outcomes from on-going activities are released early. Automakers have already demonstrated fender designs in several different materials. polymers (Universidade do Minho). light metals. A successful alternative fender design must also fit current manufacturing needs and standards. industrials seek to obtain the best results in terms of production. based on the parallelism of activities. As in any cooperative environment. Wu. implying that each technical component cannot be evaluated without considering its economic impact. is stimulated by an early release of information [Koufteros. Yan. thereby reaching industrial results as well as scientific work in the end of the project. Doll. one technology center and three universities to study the application of three different material types in the manufacturing of an automobile fender already in production. and plastics. exceed vibration standards. As teams have different purposes. process based cost modelling and environmental analysis. project goals definition is important. and contributes to the reduction of lead time from design conception to delivery of the product. engineers can begin working on different phases of the problem while final designs are still evolving. Cross functional work-teams appear in CE as a logical answer to overcome barriers to communication and information sharing particularly when decision processes cut across the distinctive competences and functional authority [Wang. the decision as a whole is extremely cost driven. Hsiao. The study would focus in comparing different material alternatives in producing the fender. Furthermore. there is a major benefit from the integration of CE principles to increase interaction between different research groups in university and industry. Time-consuming rework is also avoided because the detection of design nonconformities is promoted. fiber reinforced composites. 2001]. Projects involving university and industrial professionals are often originated in teams with different objectives. Zhou. For example. organization and leadership of this type of teams is a challenging task [Allen. Yet the incentives to find a successful lightweight fender solution are real.

Note that at first. The goals were different between partners but were not conflicting. its aims went beyond the project punctual results. and every week within each university team of groups. especially with industrials. in charge of the manufacture process analysis. some of the research team specific goals were not fully understood by the industry team. Therefore. 2000]. As the research teams had a wider scope. This incorporation was possible by the perception of the project length. In the particular case of the Instituto Superior Tecnico project team. but also costs and environmental impacts. The group’s tasks were not . dynamic process. being therefore possible to spread out the particular case study and acquire systemic knowledge about the conducted analysis. Project planning was developed using CE principles. Braha. Graves. where new or different data and results can appear and have to be rapidly integrated. the team included a design group. as parallelism is intimately associated to concurrent engineering. Goals validation was needed. considering not only the materials technical performance. as subgroups existed within each university team. in charge of studying metallic alternatives. These models allow comparisons and sensitivity analysis to different situations. 2003]. as the project targets were not the same within partners. 3 Work methodology and timetable The first step was to establish the project scope and goals. There is a clear difference between conventional design project and concurrent project in terms of parallel activities. thereby seeking to promote cooperation not only between university groups. 4 Project description. These meetings proved to be very useful. responsible for the fender design specifications. it is necessary to plan carefully for network activities [Haberle. modular and parameterised models were developed. a manufacture group. Each subgroup had a leader. The organization and leadership of these project teams revealed to be a demanding task. as not only information exchange was required for the project development. methods and outcomes The present project aimed to select a material for an automobile fender. coordinating teams and planning the project in advance. Burke. the management was based on CE practices. planning the tasks and goals in order to integrate MSc Theses. Team cooperation was intended to transform the project into a more agile.brought in as technology centre and as liaison with the company (AutoEuropa). Yet. so this issue was not critical. which had to solicit cooperation from other subgroups during the project. but also between university and industry. they were considered to be potentially important. To achieve this purpose. as it becomes possible to coordinate teams with the purpose of concluding the project in the shortest time. considering the industry requirements and design limitations. Figure 1 shows the timetable of the project. Planning the project in advance is a crucial part in CE. a materials group for the pre-selection and analysis of possible materials. an economics group for the study of the material alternatives costs and an environment group for the estimation of the options on the environmental impacts. meetings were planned every other week between university teams. Hence. with a total duration of six months. Another important purpose for these models was the project context of concurrent engineering. but also some innovative ideas were achieved by the brainstorm meetings involving professionals with different expertise. Project deadlines were defined. The project scope was defined between the industry and university. the industry purpose was to reach the best production results in terms of economic outcome. While the research team goal was to obtain scientific results from the study with possible use in education. These meetings were held throughout the project along with some meetings between university and industry. The success of CE largely depends on the ability of sharing timely information among cross-functional teams [Yassine. that is.

In order to achieve this. required machines and tools and necessary raw material.independent and communication between them was crucial for finalising the project in time. with a total duration of six months for the Instituto Superior Técnico team. the manufacture group studied the production process. which had six months duration. Materials selection based only on production costs. several requirements and constraints were imposed by the automotive company. However. because all he materials envisioned were metallic. the actual fender was analysed in order to develop a technical baseline for the study. therefore supported by the automotive company. As the automobile already exists in the market. as fenders using other materials had to perform similarly in terms of response to external loads. After defining the projects scope. could be made at this point. Project Goals Industry Requirements Manufacture Information Exchange Project Scope & Design Phase Meetings for Tasks Assignment List of Possible Materials Technical Analysis to Current Fender Technical Baseline Product Design Specifications for other Materials Technical Performance of the Possible Materials Material Selecion based on Production Cost Manufacture Processes Conditions Manufacture Processes Analysis Production Costs Fender Life Cycle Material Selecion based on Life Cycle Engineering Life Cycle Cost Life Cycle Engineering Life Cycle Assessment Weekly Meetings Within University to Exchange Information Time Figure 1 – Project timetable. in particular a reduction of production scrap. Manufacture optimizations were developed at this point. in cooperation with the economics and . A list of material candidates was proposed and based on the current fender technical baseline. different fender designs only differ on the fender thickness. The other university teams had to come up with very different designs. In the particular case of the IST team. because composites and polymers have a radically different mechanical behaviour. this project aimed to include also technical and environmental considerations to materials selection. defining among others the production time. Information from the manufacture group and industry allowed the economics group to estimate production costs for the candidate materials. in particular in fender design. With the fender designs for the other metallic materials. the materials group evaluated materials only considering their mechanical and chemical properties and the environment group developed a life cycle approach using a Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) methodology. the design team determined other fender designs using the material candidates.

Company & University Team Company requirements (design constraints) Project Goals Technical Analysis to current fender List of possible materials Technical Baseline Product Design Specifications (for different material alternatives) Manufacture Processes Conditions (for different material alternatives) Optimization Manufacture Processes Analysis Production Costs Design Group Material Selection based on Production Costs Product Life Cycle LCC LCA Materials Technical Performance Manufacture Group Materials Group Life Cycle Engineering Economics Group Environment Group Material Selection based on Economical. The present project was therefore a combination of conventional tools for material selection. Industry plays an important role at this point. Zhang. Figure 3 shows some of the results. environmental and technical). The first step of the project was the technical analysis of the fender. Betz. to define a set of baseline design parameters for future designs to meet or exceed. 2003. as the importance to give to each dimension refers to the company strategy. Static and vibration tests were performed to extract strength.materials groups. These results will focus mainly on the work performed by the Instituto Superior Técnico team on metallic materials. Figure 2 shows a simplified diagram of the project development within the Instituto Superior Tecnico team. Since no standards are available for this part. environmental. an experimental and numerical structural analysis was performed on the current fender. Schuckert. environmental impact and economic performance as competing criteria for the . stiffness and natural frequencies of the existing fender. LCE can be defined as a decision-making methodology that considers performance. 1998]. The methodology used lead to the creation of a triangular chart that can ultimately plot technical performance. This evaluation based on life cycle approaches (LCC and LCA) and on material properties allows materials selection under these three dimensions (economical. Ertas. Silva. Technical and Environmental analysis Figure 2 – Project diagram within the Instituto Superior Tecnico team 5 Some project results A very brief description of the project results is presented here [Roth. and some final results comparing all the material solutions from all the university teams. Viana. life cycle perspective methodologies and the principles of CE for the team management. guiding design engineers towards informed decisions [Wanyama.developed by the environment group) and Life Cycle Cost (LCC – developed by the economics group) methodologies. Herrmann. Camanho. 2008]. and cost dimensions throughout the duration of a product. LCE includes Life Cycle Assessment (LCA . Ekwaro-Osire. and a technical evaluation of the materials (materials group).

A. 2008]. . Eval. E.. P. Henriques. and FEM mesh with loading and constraints and static analysis results on the right. on the left.selection of a particular material to the given application [Silva. % Dimension Weight DOCOL 1000DP C Tech. I. 90 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% HX220YD+ z100MCO % 10 % % 20 80 % B A DOCOL 600DP 10% Envir. Econ. Eval. 2008. Figure 4 shows an example of this type of plot for competing metallic materials. 70% 80% 90% Economical Performance Figure 4 – Triangular plot with the best metallic material for the different criteria. Peças. Eval. Henriques.. A 10 90 0 B 40 50 10 C 50 20 30 ce an % rm 0 rfo % 3 Pe 40 al % nic 50 ch % Te 60 % 70 % 20 % 80 En vir on 70 me % nta 60 lP % erf 50 orm % 40 an % ce 30 % 90 10 % Figure 3 – Experimental setup and loading and acquisition points of dynamic data. Ribeiro. Silva..

there is a notion that university research occurs in a time span that is incompatible with industry time constraints. when the objectives are well defined from the beginning and the outcome will have a significant impact. References Allen.edu/>. and this cost varies substantially with production volume. it is possible to have industry and university working together in a very short time span. The project is a combination of conventional approaches for material selection (the ones currently used by the industry) and advanced methodologies based on life cycle perspectives designed in order to allow a detailed evaluation of the different impacts on technical.. Figure 5 shows the plot obtained. and the different goals are compatible within the expected timeframe. Also. with the assumptions made. and a company with real interest in the Project outcome. cross-functional work teams and early involvement of constituencies affected by the results. J. It shows that. relied on concurrent work-flow. This project proves otherwise. for the different materials considered. university and industry can collaborate fruitfully. December 2001. The outcome. an integrated framework to support materials selection. the application of concurrent engineering methods to university-industry collaboration was very successful. Acknowledgement This work has been partly funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. its application to an industrial case and the transfer of knowledge between academia and industry in the field of global comparisons of materials. Traditionally. economical and environmental performance of the final product. Figure 5 – Manufacturing cost varying with production volume. Available on <http://lean. 6 Conclusions This project was possible because of the involvement of the four universities with expertise in different areas of knowledge.mit. using concurrent engineering methods of product development. there is a significant difference in manufacturing cost for the different material types studied. . As long as there is a clear understanding of the main expectations of all the partners involved. It can be seen that. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Lean Advanced Initiative. The complexity and short time frame of the project and the need to make compatible different objectives of the partners involved called for the application of CE principles. (2001) Organizing for Product Development [online]. the result was a plot of different materials (metallic and non-metallic) with the cost of a fender for different production volumes. This plot includes all the manufacturing costs. T.In the end.

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