Abstract: The requirements of European industry
in the field of machinery, in terms of knowledge management,
have been investigated in the context of the E.C. funded project
IST-XPERTS (N° 11961) and reported in this paper. The issue
of this investigation is mainly focused on the state of the art
and industrial requirements for knowledge management in this
domain. A number of general user requirements and industrial
needs and expectations are also highlighted.
Knowledge Management (KM) is
an increasingly important new business opportunity. The machinery
industries generally deal with long, complex research and development
cycles comprising design, requiring access to large amounts of
scientific and technical or product data from experts, which
is constantly changing and must be meticulously tracked. In the
machinery engineering domain, it is essential to ensure that
up to date, correct design rules are applied and furthermore,
adequate standards are taken into account.
The KM technologies are not
commonly used in the machinery engineering domain in Europe even
though for design, it pays off in fewer design errors, less redundancy,
minimising loss of expertise, quicker problem solving, better
decision making and reducing design costs and delays. For companies
already using KM strategies, access to information and expertise
is speeding up problem solving and response time to customers.
The requirements of European industry in the field of machinery,
in terms of knowledge management, have been investigated in the
context of the E.C. funded project IST-XPERTS (N° 11961)
and reported in this paper.
The investigation carried out
was specifically focused on the following aspects:
- collection of general information
about the responders and their activities, e.g. company's size.
It should be noticed that the XPERTS questionnaire set up for
inquiry and forwarded for getting feedback, was anonymous;
- the European state of the
art in the machinery engineering domain and in particular for
design activities, e.g. methods and tools presently used;
- general user requirements
gathering in order to provide a better visibility on the future
trends, e.g. computer tools needed;
- the specific user requirements
of knowledge management in the machinery engineering domain.
2. Profile of responders
Most of the companies having
provided input, data and information to the XPERTS inquiry were
the designers and manufacturers in the machine tool industry.
These responding companies are mostly SMEs (Small and Medium
Sized Enterprises) having a staff number of less than 250 which
is the limit size for a SME as mentioned in the E.C. procedures.
Research centres and universities are not represented as they
should have been.
83% of the responders are private
companies and only 17% are public. These figures are understandable
as most of the SMEs working in the machinery sector in Europe
are usually private companies.
Data related to machine types
concerned by the responding companies, shows that:
- the milling machines and machining
centres are frequently listed. Both machine types represent a
high implication of the corresponding companies in the machine
tool industrial sector;
- the Prototypes, Lathes, Test-beds,
Electrical Discharge Machines (EDM), Filtering systems, Grinding
machines, Punching and Transfer lines are specific products of
a number of responding companies and represent indeed a minority
3. European state of the art
in the machinery engineering domain
According to the issue of the
XPERTS investigation, knowledge management tools are not currently
used within the European machinery engineering domain. It should
be noticed that in this sector, the industries are not really
aware of benefits of using such a tool. Moreover, only a few
commercial tools which can be considered as real solutions, are
available on the market.
For new product or machine
development and design, the most currently used tools are:
- calculation programmes;
- Finite Element Analysis (FEA);
This latter tool (2D-CAD) is
also commonly used for the following design activities:
- product customisation;
- generation of product variant.
The use of PDM and even drafting
boards is not significant when compared to the other design employed
It appears that for new machine
tool design, all available tools are extensively used.
In the machinery engineering
domain as well as for concurrent enterprises, it is crucial to
ensure that up to date, correct design rules, procedures and
standards are applied. From the survey of standards used for
each category of product activity, the following conclusions
with respect to standards can be drawn:
the ISO standards are important
in the machinery sector. Indeed, the ISO 9001 standards are taken
into account for any design activity whatever the purpose of
design is (e.g. new machine tool development or not);
- the IEEE-IEC, ASME, UNE NF
DIN and AFNOR standards are also employed but less than the ISO
- the UNE NF DIN standards are
specifically used in the machinery sector;
- the use of CENELEC, ISO-STEP,
AERO, MIL STD, DXF, IGES, European Directives is not yet significant
when compared with other standards;
- the European directives as
well as the ISO-STEP are emerging. The level of familiarisation
with these new emerging standards and regulations seems low;
- there is no unique and agreed
standards used in the machine tool sector except the general
ISO 9001 guidelines.
4. Industrial needs within
the European machinery-engineering sector
The machine tool industries
need databases, workflow, document management facilities, product
data management (PDM) and knowledge management (KM) implementations,
because they have crucial needs to address the economical challenge
mainly imposed by evolution of regulations and the loss of skilled
As an example, most of the
companies consider that they need a database mostly comprising
mechanical component data, but the purpose of using such a database
is different from a company to another. It seems that the most
mentioned purpose of using such a database is for:
- lessons learnt - experience
return and somehow for keeping the traceability in terms of different
- design and pre-design activities.
For pre-design tasks, databanks are already used in a lesser
- maintenance activities either
preventive or corrective.
The level of required databases
in the machinery sector for the quality assurance aspect and
operations does not seem significant.
The analysis focused on Knowledge
Engineering requirements in the machinery engineering sector
shows an explicit requirement for an appropriate methodology
with respect to knowledge acquisition and its encapsulation.
The following type of knowledge are under consideration:
knowledge about legal problems
and and regulatory requirements (necessary certificates, allowances,
security, safety regulations, etc
- knowledge about the mechanical
- knowledge about pin point
key design issues and high level expertise;
- knowledge about the design
procedures and work flow;
- knowledge about the organisation
of design activities (who is responsible for what?);
- knowledge about the available
resources and means (what machine is needed and where is its
- knowledge about the customers
- users and operators and lessons learnt or experience return.
The main focus of the KM requirements
is to produce a knowledge based engineering system, which will
be used by designers of machine tools in order to help them in
their daily work.
The general requirements and
industrial needs of the European machinery sector are identified
in the context of the E.C. funded project IST-XPERTS (N°
11961). The requirements are mainly gathered from private SMEs
working in the machine tool industry and in particular for design
purposes oriented to:
- development of a new product
- product customisation;
- generation of variants.
There is a need for design
process and design rules formalisation.
The software integration in
order to produce a software toolkit for design activity with
the goal of facilitating the design tasks, is welcomed by industrial
companies. Such a software toolkit should normally contain a
2D and 3D CAD - FEA and a wide range of calculation modules having
a pre-processor and preferably a graphical post-processor.
Although the ISO, IEEE-IEC,
ASME, UNE DF DIN and AFNOR standards are presently used within
the machinery industrial sector, special requirements exist for
ISO 9000 and UNE DF DIN or ASME standards. The degree of familiarisation
is low for ISO-STEP 10303 standards as well as for E.C. directives
and regulations which are emerging.
There is a clear need for technical
data exchange on an electronic format. The data should be textual
and graphical. The data sources should be: the information provider,
internet and the company itself. Data bank should be used: personal
data banks and data banks of component providers and suppliers
(e.g. INA and FANUK). The main purposes of data banks are for
lessons learnt and experience return.
The hardware to be considered
is mainly PC. The relevant languages are C++, C and Fortran.
Most of the companies are interested
- a mechanical data base;
- a documentation repository;
- knowledge engineering and
This work has been partly funded
by the European Commission through IST Project XPERTS: Experts
enablers in the machinery engineering domain (No. IST-1999-11961).
The authors wish to acknowledge the Commission for their support.
We also wish to acknowledge our gratitude and appreciation to
all the XPERTS project partners for their contribution during
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