Production System Design Specification: An approach to simplifying the specification process for the production process and system
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Enterprises have faced more intense competition during recent decades. Consequently, development pressure has increased due to the reduced time available for development. There is less time and scope for failures and iterative development approaches. Therefore, the development task must already be headed in the winning direction at development start. At this stage, however, the information available is limited compared with what will be known by the end of the development process. The progress and outcomes of the development process are strongly related to the input values. Traditionally during development, most attention is given to the physical product and related development activities. At the end of the development process, the focus is directed towards the production process and system. The sequential progress is challenging; for example, there may be difficulties in realizing individual components or in matching defined quality parameters. Undesired development situations or outcomes require additional resources, sourcing, and time for fixing. A major goal of this dissertation is the improvement of the work method in a development process. In general, the development process is an interdisciplinary process where the disciplines involved contribute based on different activity levels – from active to passive – at various points of time. The author’s special interest is the role of the production development discipline and its contribution to the development process, especially in a parallel development process environment. In addition, the author is interested in the early stage of the development process. This stage is characterized by limited information and knowledge about the final solution. At this stage, it is necessary to find answers for challenging tasks, which are of significance for post-sequential development stages. The author is interested in research that is useful to industry. Therefore, surveys have been performed in Norwegian manufacturing industry to map the prevailing situation in industry’s development process. The surveys’ results have been compared with existing theories and scientific development approaches. The author concludes that the widespread sequential development process needs to be replaced by a holistic development process, which favours a common successful outcome for all disciplines involved – not only for the product. Therefore, in a holistic development process approach, the influence of the product development discipline is reduced while the influence of other disciplines such as production development is strengthened. Thus, the production development discipline is involved from the start and contributes throughout the development process to reduce the number of iteration loops and to ensure development progress that is more goal-oriented. It is uncommon for the production development discipline to be involved in the early stages of product development. At that stage, it is necessary to work more on an abstract level instead of a detailed focus level that is preferred by production development in general. No tools or methods exist to support production development engineers in switching from a detailed to an abstract focus level. A further objective of this thesis is to suggest a method of work that may support such switching. The use of a prepared checklist is intended to guide the user through the abstract focus level to improve understanding of the current development task. The information generated is to be used for the formulation of a goal description, a specification that is used to structure and organize the development process. Such development support might be most valuable for smaller companies where it is not possible to have specialists for all development stages. The formulation of development goals at early development stages is difficult. However, it is a prerequisite for the planning, organization, and performance of a successful development approach. Specifications are useful tools to guide development towards the desired goal. Specifications can be elaborated for various levels, e.g. organization units, or focus criteria. During work with specifications on various levels, it is important to ensure that all specifications support the overall goals or the next higher level respectively. A strong relationship exists between the product and the production process and system. Both are dependent on each other. Without this dependency, the desired outcome would not be possible. This dependency must be taken into account during the formulation of the development goals at early development stages. A goal-oriented development approach helps to reduce the development time. To achieve this, the goals of the individual discipline need to be synchronized in compliance with and in support of overall goals. Often the product goals are described in a product design specification (PDS). This thesis presents a complementary specification, the production system design specification (PSDS). Both specifications are sub-elements of the design specification (DS), which focuses on the holistic development project. The elaboration of specifications is difficult because different stakeholders need to agree on the best possible solution, which is often a compromise. The different time perspectives of the product development department and the production development department complicate this. The product development department focuses on the next product generation. In contrast, the production development department needs to focus on a medium- to long-range perspective, which means several generations. These perspective discrepancies cannot be solved, but it is possible to negotiate a common goal that enables the realization of the desired goal. This thesis directs attention towards the role of the production development discipline in early phases of a holistic development approach. However, the development of production processes and systems is a particular form of product development. The suggested approach of improving the contribution to production development at an early stage represents a first phase of methodology development. Further research must be performed to refine this methodology.