Rethinking the Automotive Design and Development Processes for Product Realization 2008-01-0861
Analytical thinking is the most prevailing attribute among engineers and applied scientists. Breaking systems or subsystem down to its fundamental components to understand each and every detail is core of analytical thinking. By examining most educational and training programs in applied sciences and engineering the resulting conclusion will be that analytical skills and its development is the core of these programs. While truly analytical skills deserve that role it is important to understand its effects and how it is used in different contexts. For example, while analytical skills are key in reverse engineering of a product or a process it is the integrative skills that are needed to build such a product or a process. In other wards those who are skilled in one type of activity should understand its limitation in certain context to achieve the desired results.
From their points of inception most engineering design processes are created by highly skilled analytical engineers and scientist. For this reason, in addition to the multitude of knowledge and skill sets needed to create an automobile, most automotive design and development processes are traditionally sequential and segmented in nature. Also the lack of fast and reliable modeling and simulation tools added to the separation between not only design and manufacturability but also between design and analysis for many years. By carefully studying these design processes it easy to realize that they are the natural product of their times and genius analytical skills that produced them. These skills are manifested in tackling the complexity through the sequential and segmented structure of the processes and overcoming the lack of modeling and simulation tools by a series of physical builds and tests.
As the competitive drives, technologies, and knowledge have increased it is becoming very clear that there is no need for the sequential, segmented, build and test aspects of the traditional automotive design and development processes. Terms like architectural integration, performance integration, and concurrent engineering are shaping a new paradigms in automotive industries. For the last few decades the automotive design and development processes have been continuously evolving and reflecting these new paradigms. This evolution process, however, is slow and in some cases costly. Therefore, to save time and cost, there is a need for getting back to the drawing board and re-design the automotive product development processes based on today's realities.
In this paper, a guide to rethinking the product development processes is presented. This approach reflects the natural flow and integration of the creation phases from inception to realization. The design and validation processes, in this approach, are looked upon as natural phases for creation in which innovation, analysis, and integration are necessary for the realization of the desired product attributes and qualities. For example, designing for manufacturability as an attribute during the development phase is a natural way of thinking and not an afterthought. To further demonstrate the approach and illustrate the concepts, presented in the paper, several examples are discussed.