Chasing the Vision of the Virtual Product

By Robert

In my first job two and half decades ago, the notion of a “virtual product design” would have been as remote a thought as the transporter from Star Trek. But over time we’ve all seen a lot of changes in technology, business processes and business models. Some of these trends started as a wave, but became a tsunami that transformed the Hi-Tech industry landscape.

The first evolution that seemed to me big at the time was the move from MRPII to ERP, and the fact that business processes from HR, Manufacturing, Quality, and Finance were all interconnected to produce good results to the bottom-line.

The second wave seemed to be the move from vertical to horizontal business models (remember when Solectron was a small start-up in Silicon Valley?) leading to the $150 billion USD out-sourced manufacturing model we take for granted today to produce our electronics products at the lowest cost. In addition to manufacturing, Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) companies are now also supporting Original Design and Manufacture (ODM) and Joint Design and Manufacturing models as a part of the business. These new models continue the wave for horizontal business evolution.

Now for me, I think I am seeing the start of a transformation as revolutionary in PLM 2.0. This starts with the ability to capture requirements, functional descriptions of features, models of system behavior and finally the engineering and physical product on a single platform. This Requirements to Features to Logical to Physical (R-F-L-P) model allows for us to begin the journey to create the ‘virtual product’.

Now product concepts can be reviewed, modeled and tested perhaps before we even invest in any ‘design resources’, let alone a physical ‘golden’ version of the product. The high costs of avoiding physical prototyping or finding ‘issues’ based on physical prototypes (translate this as ‘it’s not working) are revolutionary in my opinion. We can already see this type of innovation starting to occur in the ‘high-fashion’ consumer electronics industry, where several global Dassault Systemes customers are modeling and configuring product features and platform technologies prior to investing in expensive traditional design resources.

Many customers we talk to want to also find ways to eliminate the frustrating and manual processes required to track issues in the final product to the original requirements. This is where the RFLP model can be used in reverse, like a “Where-Used” function in traditional PDM (hey, where is this part or item used), but now much more effectively and with greater impact. Now, we can trace with PLM 2.0 and Dassault Systemes V6 from end-product, to design, to systems (features) and finally to the signed-off requirements for the product in a single platform, database, and system.

Of course, this journey will be a winding road, but like every major transformation the end result will be more customer intimacy and satisfaction, fewer products that miss the mark. Along the way, I believe companies on the leading edge of this vision will have greater efficiencies, greater long term success and the margins and markets that define winners from losers.

Best,

Robert

Encounter with Connex the 3D Printer

By Kate

Everyone has a first time for everything, and today was my first encounter with a 3D printer. Keep in mind I’m neither a designer nor engineer, so thanks for indulging me in my excitement.

I must confess that I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my mind around what is a “3D printer”. I’m coming from a Xerox perspective where ink gets jetted onto paper to print out text, images and occasional gag items like your hands.

After having seen some “printed” things, I’d argue that this is rather about producing objects, or as the professionals would say, prototyping objects. Replace ink jets with resin-spewing nozzles (200 per material I’m told), connect your CATIA or other CAD data to a machine like the Connex by Object, and then you let Connex purr away until it spits out items like:

This elegant decorative bowl:


How about a translucent head containing an anatomically correct brain?


Or a jaw fully equipped with teeth (notice those gorgeous roots):

Why not a gear thing-a-ma-bob to keep your fidgety fingers busy?

I find it particularly cool that with a lot of resin dots, each approximately .04 mm in size (think hair follicles), 3D printers like Connex can spew out complex, mechanically functioning objects. It’s almost like the dots are cells, but without the intelligence.

What a great way to quickly test your design concept. See if the object in question does indeed fit into your pocket, is easy to manipulate, etc.

I was hoping the resin used is biodegradable, but we’re not there yet. Maybe next year?

Many thanks to Object and their reseller from MG2 Systems who took the time to answer my questions and let me cart his “printed objects” around Devcon until I found the right photo spot. I did feel a little odd toting around the head/brain.

More to come from Devcon soon. Check out #DSDEVCON09 on Twitter if you’d like to see what people are tweeting, and please jump in the comments section if you feel inspired.

Best,

Kate

P.S. Here’s a snazzy video of Connex herself.

YouTube Preview Image

Fit for Use Lead Design

By Vincent

Robert Burns

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…

Robert Burns’ poetic words ring as true today as they did when he penned them in 1785.

This is especially true if you’re in the business of bringing new consumer products to market. Even with a disciplined, phase-gate project methodology in place, often you end up with a design prototype just before launch that scantly resembles the winning concept(s) blessed further upstream.

Why? Because the prototype misses the mark on any number of consumer, technical, and/or financial success criteria defined for the project in the marketing and design briefs, when your “best laid plans” were formulated. And too frequently just before launch you find yourself scrambling to make the design work, often at a significant capital cost.

So what to do?

Product developers know and accept that design changes are imminent. Consumer preferences, market dynamics, global economic conditions, supply chain capabilities, and production technologies are a few variables that could justify modifications to the design of a product as it moves through the phase-gate continuum. So eliminating design modifications in the new product development and introduction (NPDI) process is not a realistic option nor advised.

This predicament is significant, not because change is happening in the design, but because there’s no visibility to the impact of those changes on the marketability, manufacturability, and financial viability of the design until much too late in the NPDI process.

This is exacerbated by fragmented internal IT systems for managing design elements and the common practice of outsourcing design to our supply chain partners who have their own isolated systems.

But what if there was a way to see in real-time how proposed product design changes will impact the success of your new product? Specifically, from the perspective of the elements that matter to you most: the consumer, technical, and financial success criteria you defined in the project charter. Further, what if you had such visibility even if the proposed changes are coming from your supply chain partners?

A way to accomplish this is with Dassault Systemes’ Fit-For-Use Design Engine. It gives you visibility to the impact of every product design change in real-time. You define the consumer, technical, and financial success criteria for the project through the marketing and design brief (including the acceptable variance for each criteria), and the Fit-For-Use Engine measures how each design stacks up against those criteria in real-time, displaying the results in an intuitive, dashboard format.

Learning early and often through the design phase of a project – and being nimble enough to adjust prior to final design – is the way to go.

Sounds like a fruitful way to embrace change to me. What do you think?

Best,

Vincent



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