Model-based approaches to support process improvement in complex product development
The performance of product development processes is important to the commercial success of new products. The improvement of these processes is thus a strategic imperative for many engineering companies — the aero-engine is one example of a complex product for which market pressures necessitate ever-shorter development times. This thesis argues that process modelling and simulation can support the improvement of complex product development processes. A literature review identified that design process modelling is a well-established research area encompassing a diverse range of approaches. However, most existing tools and methods are not widely applied in industry. An extended case study was therefore conducted to explore the pragmatic utility of process modelling and simulation. It is argued that iteration is a key driver of design process behaviour which cannot be fully reflected in a mechanistic model. Understanding iteration can help select an appropriate representation for a given process domain and modelling objective. A model-based approach to improve the management of iterative design processes was developed. This approach shows that design process simulation models can support practice despite their limited fidelity. The modelling and simulation framework resulting from this work was enhanced for application to a wider range of process improvement activities. A robust and extensible software platform was also developed. The framework and software tool have made significant contribution to research projects investigating process redesign, process robustness and process optimisation. These projects are discussed to validate the framework and tool and to highlight their applicability beyond the original approach. The research results were disseminated in academia and industry — 72 copies of the software were distributed following requests in the first three months of its release.