The digital product model

“It grows together what belongs together.” – Mechatronics, Systems Engineering, OSLC, ReqIF, AutomationML, feature teams, cross-functional teams, … After a strict separation of the engineering disciplines in the past, now the movement is unmistakably towards a closer integration.

The market demands ever more complex systems in ever shorter time-to-market times. This is clearly demonstrated by hot spots like industry 4.0, Internet of Things or cyber physical systems. The organizations that want to successfully develop the systems of the future have to adopt new methods and tools. You can’t develop ever more modern systems for tomorrow with yesterdays tools. Or does your software engineers still use punch cards?

The interplay of disciplines, developing a product is not to see black and white, but a balancing act. Of course there must be a separation of the engineering disciplines and we still need specialized experts in mechanical or software engineering.

But we can no longer separate the disciplines with high walls and communication channels build on documents only. The disciplines must work closely together
to jointly develop the best solution for a system function.

Systems Engineering plays a significant role in that scenario. It is a discipline that covers all engineering disciplines, but looking at the system on an abstract and
holistic level. Well performed it is the perfect glue between the disciplines.

Engineering disciplines and product features

Engineering disciplines and product features

The information and their dependencies behind a product that needs to be handled by an engineer are enormous. A systems development project produces and works with a variety of documents and models. The models are ideally the source of the information and the documents are only the views. The increasingly close integration of the disciplines must also lead to an integration of the models. Single model repositories of engineering disciplines are combined into a single conceptual digital product model. In an ideal world, the engineer can immediately identify the impact of proposed changes in the system and in other disciplines. While SysML, CAD, Simulink, Modelica & Co. are part of the digital product model, product lifecycle management (PLM) provides the methods and structures to manage the individual product components and their dependencies.

The digital product model

The digital product model

The sendler/circle is a group of CEOs or marketing directors of major software and service providers in the PLM environment to exchange experiences and to discuss the general market trend. I am a member of the circle as CEO of oose – a leading German consultancy for software and systems engineering.

The sendler/circle adopted four theses about digital product models in the Bavarian village Hechenberg on May 19th, 2014:

  1. The basis of innovative, “smart”, connected products are digital product models.
  2. The digital product model must contain all the elements of mechanical, electrical, electronics and software and may reflect their interaction virtually.
  3. Digital models make development, production and operation of complex products manageable.
  4. The integrated management of digital product models throughout their entire life cycle is an important prerequisite for the realization of Industry 4.0.

(see also Hechenberger Theses from the sendler\circle on Industrie 4.0).

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