Aspects of distributed conceptual design support

Schueller, Andreas (2002-04)

Thesis (PhD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The findings of an investigation into the requirements of a support system for distributed conceptual design in small and medium enterprises are presented. Distributed conceptual design refers to the collaboration of spacially distributed design teams during the early stages of the product development process. Three main elements of a support system were identified. The first element, 'Design Methodology', places a framework for specification development, functional analysis, concept generation and concept evaluation at the designers' disposal. It systematically guides the users through the different steps of the design process. These steps can be performed either alone, or together with other team members. The users are also aided in documenting their steps in order to allow the team members or designers of followup projects to understand the decisions made. The second element, 'Communication and Information Transfer', co-ordinates the communication between the distributed designers and provides a platform for the exchange of design-related data, e.g. customer requirements, ideas, sketches, comments, and decisions. A case study was carried out to assess the use of various tools for communication and information transfer during synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. The case study is described and the results are presented and discussed. Both elements make use of a support service providing various 'Input Devices for Conceptual Design', the third element of a support system. While standard tools such as mouse and keyboard meet the requirements of subsequent stages of the design process, they are often impractical in creating or annotating sketches. Various low-cost input devices were investigated. A framework was developed to integrate the three elements into one support system. The 'Distributed Design Assistant', abbreviated as 'DiDeas', is an Internet-based system that allows simultaneous multi-user collaboration. A relational database is located on a central web-server and stores all design information entered into the system. The user interface was realized in the form of a collection of Microsoft Active Server Pages, which can be accessed platform-independently via a standard webbrowser. The development of the database structure and of the user interface is described in detail. A second case study was carried out to evaluate the Distributed Design Assistant. The case study is described and the results are presented and discussed. The low-cost system has proven to be a very useful tool for distributed conceptual design. The Distributed Design Assistant systematically guides novice and experienced designers through the stages of specification development and conceptual design. It facilitates the easy collection and the fast exchange of a large amount of textual and graphical information during these stages. Although the system is relatively simple, compared to professional product data management systems used in later stages of the design process, it strongly enhances the productivity of designers and distributed design teams. Keywords: Distributed Design, Conceptual Design, Systematic Product Development

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die bevindinge van 'n ondersoek na die behoeftes van 'n ondersteuningstelsel VIr verspreide konsepsionele ontwerp in klein en medium ondernemings word aangebied. Verspreide konsepsionele ontwerp is die saamwerk van ruimtelik verspreide ontwerp spanne gedurende die aanvanklike fases van die produk ontwikkelingsproses. Drie hoof elemente van 'n ondersteuningstelsel is geïdentifiseer. Die eerste element, 'Ontwerpmetodiek' stel 'n raamwerk vir spesifikasie ontwikkeling, funksionele analise, konsep generasie en konsep beoordeling tot beskikking van die ontwerpers. Dit lei die gebruikers stelselmatig deur die verskillende stappe van die ontwikkelingsproses. Die stappe kan of alleen of tesame met ander lede van die span uitgevoer word. Die gebruiker word ook ondersteun met die dokumentasie van die stappe sodat die lede of ontwerpers van opvolgprojekte die besluite wat gemaak is, kan begryp. Die tweede element, 'Kommunikasie en Informasie Oordrag', koordineer die kommunikasie tussen die verspreide ontwerpers en bied 'n platvorm vir die uitruil van ontwerpinformasie, byvoorbeeld kliënte behoeftes, idees, sketse, kommentaar en besluite. 'n Gevallestudie is uitgevoer om die gebruik van verskeie gereedskapstukke vir kommunikasie en informasie-oordrag gedurende sinchrone en asinchrone samewerking te beoordeel. Die gevalle studie is beskryf en die resultate is bespreek. Altwee elemente maak gebruik van 'n ondersteuningsdiens wat verskeie 'Invoergereedskap vir Konsepsionele Ontwerp' voorsien, die derde element van die ondersteuningstelsel. Terwyl standard gereedskap, byvoorbeeld 'n rekenaar muis en sleutelbord, die behoeftes van die latere ontwerpsfases bevredig, is hulle dikwels onprakties vir die maak van sketse en byskrifte. Verskeie laekoste invoergereedskap is ondersoek. 'n Raamwerk is ontwikkel om die drie elemente in een ondersteuningstelsel te integreer. Die 'Distributed Design Assistant', verkort 'DiDeas', is 'n Internet-gebaseerde stelsel wat sinchrone multi-gebruiker samewerking moontlik maak. 'n Gekoppelde databasis is op 'n sentrale webbediener geplaas en versamel al die ontwerpinformasie wat in die stelsel ingevoer is. Die gebruikerintervlak is geskep as 'n versameling van Microsoft Active Server Pages. Toegang tot die stelsel is onafhanklik van die rekenaar bedryfstelsel en kan verkry word met 'n standard webblaaier. Die ontwikkeling van die databasisstruktuur en van die gebruikerintervlak is in detail beskryf. 'n Tweede gevallestudie is uitgevoer om die Distributed Design Assistant te beoordeel. Die gevallestudie is beskryf en die resultate is bespreek. Die laekoste stelsel het homself bewys as 'n baie nuttige werktuig VIr verspreide konsepsionele ontwerp. Die Distributed Design Assistant lei nuweling en ervare ontwerpers stelselmatig deur die spesifikasie ontwikkeling en konsepsionele ontwerp stappe. Dit fasiliteer die maklike versameling en die vinnige uitruil van 'n groot hoeveelheid teks en grafiese informasie gedurende hierdie stappe. Ofskoon die stelsel relatief eenvoudig is in vergelyking met professionele produkdata-bestuurstelsels, verhoog dit die produktiwiteit van ontwerpers en verspreide ontwerp spanne aansienlik.

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