Product Modeling and Product Development Processes (Are we doing this with BIM?)

The design of complex engineering products is characterized by parallel problem solving of large design teams, distributed team work, and complex project management patterns. So the long standing question remains how to support this work with digital technologies and databases that can store the quickly evolving, changing, and complex data over the product development life-cycle.

The digital solutions to support complex process patterns have to support a number of different varying needs with respect to how product information is represented. A good categorization of different representation forms is provided in the seminal paper of Krause et al. that I want to reiterate here:

  • Structure-oriented product models that describe the components of an engineering system and that lend themselves well for managing the suppliers, parts, quantities of the engineering product
  • Geometry-oriented product models that, well, describe the geometrical shape of the engineering product
  • Feature-oriented product models that represent the product in terms of form-features that often can be directly related to different geometries
  • Knowledge-based product models that describe the engineering product in terms of an ontology mapping the knowledge that is required during the product development process

All these different ways to represent a product, of course, are required during designing and engineering a complex engineering product. All these different ways also need to be combined and adjusted to the required engineering processes at each stage of the engineering design process. Now quite some of the processes at each stage are also running in parallel (yes: Integrated engineering). So the question is how well we support this with the existing BIM applications in civil engineering design? Again something I would like to post here as food for though for an ongoing discussion.

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