Many engineering enterprises are involved in routine design operations. Routine design, in such cases, is concerned with varying the size and/or configuration of the chosen system using established solution principles, i.e. no new solution principles are introduced. However, in most engineering environments that deliver custom products to customers, the processes followed in ensuring that these routine designs are viable, are dependent on complex interactions within the organization. For example, customer delivery requirements may dictate material selection based on timely availability and scheduling logistics, manufacturability, adherence to codes and standards and test procedures, in addition to technical design issues such as stress and fit calculations.

This paper explores a practical and generic approach to help understand the design process, and then to subsequently prioritize the appropriate automation potential from a business standpoint. Using a structured methodology that equally emphasizes business process modeling, design process modeling, information modeling and final process implementation, the engineering enterprise is able to identify a technical focus area and an associated implementation plan. Upon identifying the technical focus, structured methodologies are again applied to develop and implement the design automation function.

We illustrate this methodology using, as an example, a production-level automation capability that was developed within the framework of routine design operations at TDW, a designer and manufacturer of pipeline fittings, a company that services the major oil, gas and utilities companies. The complete program was carried out over a two year period and the company has successfully reduced the tedious manual design process of complex pressure vessel systems to a streamlined automated process that has resulted in vast improvements in time to market, product quality and consistency, and significantly shorter design cycle times.

This automated system was developed on the UNIX platform, and integrates TDW proprietary algorithms and rules with SDRC’s I-DEAS (SDRC, 1994), a geometric modeling system, ORACLE (ORACLE, 1992), a database management system, and KES (KES, 1988), a commercial expert system shell.

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