TRacebility of ENgineering INformation (TRENIN) EUREKA Project

State of the art

The preset practice of recording the outcome of the product development process is for highly formalized model of the product to be produced, in the form of conceptual sketches, calculations, computer-aided engineering models, bills of materials, engineering change orders, maintenance instructions, etc. However, the detailed process, activities and rationale by which the product design has been created and engineering information has been developed are recorded in informal manner (if at all).

A consequence is that is difficult to retrace or audit the engineering reasoning that has taken place during the process of engineering information evolution without extensive work to assimilate and digest product development documentation. The identification of relevant parts of the information within the information records requires significant skill and often an intimate knowledge.

Also, little is currently understood about the requirements for information traceability in product development and there are few methods by which effective traceability can be ensured. There are a number of methods which contribute partially to the traceability of information development in general, but the emphasis here is either on description of the product data management or workflow management rather than the explanation of development and rationale on information antecedents.

In general, traceability is accordingly to the Eppler (book "Managing Information Quality" published by Springer in 2003) a prerequisite for establishing the credibility of the information. It also enables a more comprehensive evaluation of the information because its sources and the methodology of its development can be established. By providing a context or environment that acts as the information's background, the information becomes clearer and its limits become more apparent, the traces of information development become visible and the information can be more easily updated or otherwise modified, or deleted if necessary.

TRENIN State of the art
Eppler's Information Quality Framework

Why is the achievement of engineering information evolution traceability in modern highly-automated product development environments, still so difficult? The proposers contend that the reason has as much to do with processes and human factors as with issues of heterogeneous tools and distributed teams. However, the current product development environment frequently militates against traceability since people exchange engineering information across corporate and discipline boundaries, they reuse existing information in new and unpredictable contexts and often information is transposed from one format to another during which information loss occurs.

As a consequence, retrieval of the engineering information objects (e.g. with respect to format, type, and contents) as well as correct interpretation of its content (due to the specific domain context) is hindered. This, amongst other things, impedes product innovation and produces unnecessary development iterations. Current approaches and studies give no guidance on which engineering information evolution traceability scenario exists and are the most feasible, useful and reliable, nor how to assure quality in traceability of engineering information evolution.