I used to live in Dayton, OH, home of the Wright Brothers, and got to learn much about how the first Wright Brothers plane was designed. There was no design or stress or manufacturing department to Wright Brothers, Inc. – Orville and Wilbur did it all and accomplished a great feat. I now live in Seattle and have been to the Museum of Flight where you can see how the early Boeing airplanes were designed. Great things can be accomplished by people with a passion for an idea.
Today, designing an airplane is much different. There are many people with different skill sets and functions that are required to design and build an airplane. Although this type of organization leads to very deep knowledge in each discipline required to design and build an airplane, it can create problems elsewhere due to a lack of collaboration at different stages of the process. Many executives spend their time trying to break down the silo barriers and get the different disciplines collaborating throughout the design and manufacturing cycle. It is a difficult task because people have different skill sets and it is not always easy to communicate your objectives and constraints to someone that is not familiar with what you do. As a result, many times people just focus on doing their job and not trying to understand the implications elsewhere in the cycle.
One of the successful ways we have found to promote collaboration and dialog is with our software tool OptiStruct which is a topology optimization tool that produces organic looking design concepts with input on the design volume, the loads, and boundary conditions. In the early design stages, running an OptiStruct study will produce some design concepts that can then be reviewed by all of the stakeholders (design, styling, stress, manufacturing, etc.). It provides a great medium to foster communication and dialog. The OptiStruct results are just based on physics but each stakeholder can provide input on the additional constraints they would need to consider for their role in the design cycle. As one of our customers stated, it gets the “bias” out of the design process since the design concept is not based on anything other than the physics of the problem you posed to the computer.
We have often seen that early OptiStruct results provide the “glue” that can bring design, engineering, and manufacturing together. Organizations spend huge sums of money in technology, software, and training, to try and get their people collaborating more. I have found there is no better collaboration method than getting people to stand around a physical or virtual table discussing a proposed concept they can all see.
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- Takeaways From the 2018 LeichtbauGipfel – Lightweight Design for the Mobility of Tomorrow - March 26, 2018
- The Future of Mobility Landed in Detroit (and it is not a Meteor) - January 19, 2018