According to Giebels, concurrent engineering refers to the design of a product’s lifecycle through the use of design team, production tools and automated engineering (46). The concept of concurrent engineering emphasizes on the interdependence between equipment and people in the design and lifecycle of a product. Developing a unique product design requires a close coordination between human resource and machines.
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Phases of concurrent engineering
In the manufacturing sector, firms have come to realize that people must work closely with the machines to help in reducing operational costs, and improving quality of the products (Micky 12). The figure below shows different phases of concurrent engineering.
Figure 1: Phases of concurrent engineering
Source (Sullivan, Erevelles, and Gwan 2)
As shown in the figure above, the initial stage of concurrent engineering is the identification of the components of the design system. They include the machines and people who are expected to take part in the design of a given product. As Dickey says, the computers used must be relevant to the product that is to be designed (World 206). It must have the relevant software and capacity to come up with the exact features desired of the product.
The people involved must know what they are looking for out of a produc. They must also know how to use the computers to come up with the designed which is desired. The second step is the design itself. According to Turkle, this is one of the most complex stages of concurrent engineering (82). At this stage, the designers will try to come up with a product that is new in the market.
It is important to note that the computers used do not come up with the design of a product. They only aid in the process of developing the design. The designers must think of the right features of the product, including shape, size, color, and other designs of the product. It may take a long time to design an acceptable product that is acceptable in the market.
The next step is the development of a prototype. In many cases, Condric says that a team of designers may not come up with a successful product in the first attempt (340). For instance, the first prototype may meet the primary needs of the target customers but may fail in other aspects. The team may be required to adjust the prototype till it meets the expectations of the targeted customers.
The fourth step is the initial production where samples of the product are taken to the market to test its acceptability. If it is accepted, then the final stage will be to launch it (Holden 202). During the launch, the product is manufactured in mass and distributed to different markets.
Applications of Concurrent Engineering
Concurrent engineering is applied in the manufacturing sector (Ylvisaker 15). The main advantage of this technology is that it helps manufacturers to design products which meet the expectations of the customers in the best way possible by including all the features that they desire using computers. It makes the manufacturing process simpler than when using traditional methods.
Concurrent engineering is based on integration of computers and designers when developing new products (Lehdonvirta 62). These two components must work together to achieve success.
Relationship of concurrent engineering and computer-aided designs
The computer-aided design is a process of concurrent engineering. It falls under the second phase of design in concurrent engineering.
Gaps of current concurrent manufacturing
Gaps in the current concurrent engineering may need to be addressed to help enhance its application in designing products. Ylvisaker identifies one of the gaps as the inability of the designers to test their products in a virtual world (41). It forces them to produce a prototype to test the effectiveness of the product. Another gap is the limited knowledge of the current designers when it comes to using computers.
Computer-Aided Designs (CAD)
Computer aided-designs have become very popular due to the advancement of information technology. Xu and Miro define computer-aided designs as “The use of information technology (IT) in the Design process” (544). As the name suggests, the designers rely on computers to generate product designs that meet the expectation of the stakeholders.
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Salmon says that the designer plays a central role in the entire process, from the initial stage of problem identification to the final stage of implementation (72). He/she acts as the driver with a clear vision of the final destination of the process. In many cases, the design process may involve many experts.
Some experts may be specialized on the components and structure of the product while others may be specialized on shape and color. The use of computers makes it possible to come up with complex designs within a very short time (Salt, Atkins, and Blackall 84). Given the fact that the initial products will be developed in a virtual world, wastage is also eliminated.
Features of computer-aided designs
Computer-aided designs have unique features that make them relevant in the current manufacturing setting. According to Bordegoni and Rizzi, CAD uses digital sketching in a virtual world (49). This is completely different from what is the case when using traditional design tools. It makes it possible to come up with different sketches of a product within a short time. The designer can experiment with different designs before identifying the one which is appropriate.
Bartle says that CAD uses flexible modeling tools that fit in different contexts (117). In the past, designers had to use tools tailored to act in a given way. However, this changed with the invention of CAD. Designers now have the liberty to come up with distinctive products using different approaches. They can experiment with different methods before coming up with the right product.
The use of computer-aided designs has brought about unprecedented realism in a virtual world of design (Grenfell and Idda 38). It facilitates visualization of design in a way that makes it appear as real as possible. One of the main challenges that were witnessed in the initial stages of using computers in the design processes was that the designs shown in the computers were slightly different from the actual designs of the product given as the prototype.
The model helps the designers to view the product in all angles before authorizing the production of the prototype. Other important features of CAD include accuracy, quality, and precision in product development (Ortiz-Catalan at al. 41). This technology emphasizes on precision when it comes to issues such as color, size, shape, weight, and other dimensions of a product. The precision helps in enhancing product quality. It also promotes standardization of the products delivered to customers.
Usages of computer-aided designs
Computer-aided design is majorly used in companies at the design stage of product development. It is a popular technology among large-scale manufacturers (Dittmer 145). This technology is also used by people practicing fine arts.
Limitations of computer-aided designs
The main limitation when it comes to using computer-aided designs is the need for special expertise. The designers must have the capacity to use complex computer programs to come up with products. In many cases, it may force a firm to spend more in training its designers on how to use new software.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Bilalis defines virtual reality as “Computer based, interactive, multi-sensory environment that occurs in real time” (3). This technology uses computer software and hardware to create an environment that appears to be in the real-world. Virtual reality is used in various fields, from communication to trade and manufacturing. Its ability to create a virtual environment that appears to be real environment to the users is its most outstanding feature.
Differences between CAD and VR
Computer-aided designs and virtual reality technologies have one fundamental difference. A person using virtual reality will feel to be part of the virtual environment. It means that when one is using VR technology to design a product, he/she will be able to feel the product as it changes from one stage to the next (Savin-Baden at al. 56).
The designer and the product under development will be in the same world. This is not the case with computer-aided designs where designer and the product are in different worlds till the stage where a prototype is produced.
How VR can overcome limitations of CAD
It was mentioned that sometimes the product seen in the computer when using CAD technology may have different features from the one produced because the product and the designer are in different world. This limitation is addressed using VR technology (Savin-Baden 55). The product seen in the virtual world will be the same as that which is finally produced.
How VR can be a successful part of concurrent manufacturing
Virtual reality can be successful part of concurrent manufacturing, especially in the design process (Dickey Teaching 110). It can help designers to come up with superior products in a virtual world that meets the expectation of customers.
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