Product Family Design Knowledge Representation, Aggregation, Reuse, and Analysis

Jyotirmaya Nanda
Henri Thevenot
Timothy W. Simpson
Robert B. Stone, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Matt R. Bohm, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Steven B. Shooter

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A flexible information model for systematic development and deployment of product families during all phases of the product realization process is crucial for product-oriented organizations. In current practice, information captured while designing products in a family is often incomplete, unstructured, and is mostly proprietary in nature, making it difficult to index, search, refine, reuse, distribute, browse, aggregate, and analyze knowledge across heterogeneous organizational information systems. To this end, we propose a flexible knowledge management framework to capture, reorganize, and convert both linguistic and parametric product family design information into a unified network, which is called a networked bill of material (NBOM) using formal concept analysis (FCA); encode the NBOM as a cyclic, labeled graph using the Web Ontology Language (OWL) that designers can use to explore, search, and aggregate design information across different phases of product design as well as across multiple products in a product family; and analyze the set of products in a product family based on both linguistic and parametric information. As part of the knowledge management framework, a PostgreSQL database schema has been formulated to serve as a central design repository of product design knowledge, capable of housing the instances of the NBOM. Ontologies encoding the NBOM are utilized as a metalayer in the database schema to connect the design artifacts as part of a graph structure. Representing product families by preconceived common ontologies shows promise in promoting component sharing, and assisting designers search, explore, and analyze linguistic and parametric product family design information. An example involving a family of seven one-time-use cameras with different functions that satisfy a variety of customer needs is presented to demonstrate the implementation of the proposed framework.