Category Archives: Articles

‘What-if’ Design as an Integrative Method in Product Design

‘What-if’ Design as an Integrative Method in Product Design

Author: Fred van Houten, and Eric Lutters

Abstract: In product development, many different aspects simultaneously influence the advancement of the process. Many specialists contribute to the specification of products, whilst in the meantime the consistency and mutual dependencies have to be preserved. Consequently, much effort is spent on mere routine tasks, which primarily distract members of the development team of their main tasks of creating the best solution for the design problem at hand. Many of these routine tasks can be translated into problems with a more or less tangible structure; often they are in fact an attempt to assess the consequences of a certain design decision on the rest of the product definition. Therefore, such questions can be formulated as: “what happens if. . . . .”. The question is subsequently translated into a need for evolution of the information content determining the product definition. Based on this need for information, immediate workflow management processes can be triggered. This results in a ‘train’ of design and engineering processes that are carried out, leading to a viable answer to the question. As the structure of a ‘what-if’ question is independent of the domain under consideration, the ‘what-if’ questions can relate to any aspect in the information content at any level of aggregation. Consequently ‘what-if’ questions can range from anything between ‘What if another machine tool is used’ to ‘What does this product look like if it is made from sheet metal’. Such a way of looking at products under development obviously strongly binds different domains and downstream processes under consideration, thus enabling a more integrated approach of the design process.

Two approaches can be applied simultaneously:

  • A generic top-down approach, focusing on the methods of answering structured ‘what-if’ questions, whilst disregarding any specific domain information, and avoiding any bias of solution routines
  • A bottom-up approach, contributing to understanding the application of a ‘what-if’ system and support systems in general.

‘what-if’ design can be described as the information-based and workflow-driven, structured approach to the chart the consequences of design decisions or changes in a design.


Directions of Next Generation Product Development

Directions of Next Generation Product Development

Author: Tetsuo Tomiyama and Bart R. Meijer

 Abstract: For the last 20 years, the focus has been on product development processes and developing tools to support them, addressing not only technological but also managerial issues. While these tools have been successfully supporting product development processes in a general sense, consensus on the direction of future development seems to be lacking. IN the paper, it is argued that horizontal seamless integration of product life cycle knowledge is the key towards the next generation product development. Knowledge fusion, rather than just knowledge integration, is considered crucial. In this paper, we will try to outline the directions of the next generation product development its tools, and necessary research efforts.

¬†. . . we pointed out that “horizontal” “seamless integration of knowledge” about product’s life cycle is the key to arriving at product development for better, more innovative, quicker, and still greener products.

A knowledge system that represents a mono-discipline required for developing a simple, mono-disciplinary product.


We may then need a set of closely related knowledge systems for multidisciplinary product development. Integrating these closely related knowledge systems requires defining at least interfaces. Such multidisciplinary integration is a key for innovative product development.

knowledge2However, to be more innovative, we may need to go one step further; knowledge fusion.

knowledge3Knowledge fusion is to create a new knowledge system that can be operated as a whole to develop truly multidisciplinary products. Knowledge integration is still a collection of independent knowledge systems with clearly defined interfaces and describes common concepts among those integrated knowledge systems, while knowledge fusion is a situation in which these systems have been totally fused to create a new knowledge system.

. .. the directions of the next generation product development and necessary research efforts. Three key issues were identified. The first issue is “more horizontal integration” to include a wider range of engineering activities. The second is “seamless integration of activities” beyond data and knowledge level integration. The activities within product development can include such tasks as design, computation, procurement, prototyping, and testing, and might even be extended to SCM and VCM based on PLM. The third is product development still pursues” better quality, lower costs, more innovation, higher speed, and yet greener performance.”

For these three issues, knowledge integration plays a crucial role. However since knowledge integration only arrives at a set of knowledge collection of which interfaces are clearly defined, we may need another step; knowledge fusion.

Economic Growth, Business Innovation and Engineering Design

Economic Growth, Business Innovation and Engineering Design

Author: Gunnar Sohlenius, Leif Clausson, and Ann Kjellberg

Abstract: Scientific knowledge of engineering within innovative industrial decisions process has a great potential to improve quality and productivity in industrial operations and hence improve profitability. This is a precondition for economic growth, which in turn is necessary to improve welfare. Innovative processes have to combine creativity with quality and productivity in order to achieve profitability and growth. The most important ways to improve profitability in industrial production are through an improved ability to meet more advanced requirements in new products and processes by using new knowledge and inventions and higher productivity through investments in more advanced and automatic tools. This is the fundamental mechanism behind industrial production seen as an engine of welfare. Besides the real world of products and production processes, the mechanisms for this development can be classified into three worlds. These are the decision world, the human world and the model world. In striving to obtain increased welfare through industrial production, fundamental knowledge about these worlds and about their relations to products and processes has to be developed. This paper is a contribution to this understanding, which is necessary in order to combine Total Quality Management, (TQM) and Total Productivity Management (TPM) into Total Effective Management (TEM) by understanding Means.




  • Axiom 1: A design maintaining the independence of functions is superior to coupled designs.
  • Axiom 2: A design with higher probability to meet the functional requirements within specified tolerances is superior
  • Axiom 3: A design requiring less energy to be realized is superior
  • Axiom 4: A design requiring less time to be a realized is superior

Competence Management Process


Industrial Company as a Business System