Product development needs to become faster, more flexible and less expensive. Advanced Systems Engineering, a research program from Fraunhofer IAO, shows that efficient methods of data administration can play a key role here. A plug-in lab is to provide companies with hands-on experience of the benefits of this approach.
Product developers face growing pressures on all sides: increasing digitalization, greater system complexity, the emergence of new and disruptive business models, mass customization, growing market volatility, and a lack of skilled workers. Given the circumstances, how can companies react flexibly to market demands and devise new products and solutions more quickly? In response, product developers are having to constantly question and adapt their methods.
Advanced Systems Engineering (ASE), a strategic research program at Fraunhofer IAO, addresses this problem. A team made up of members from the fields of process engineering, system development and IT architecture is developing methods and systems designed to help companies deal with this growing complexity and, at the same time, exploit the full potential offered by an efficient and integrated planning for products, processes and resources. The objective of ASE is to cut costs and increase flexibility along the entire process chain, right up to the finished product. This means, for example, ensuring that factory throughput times are shorter than the delivery times demanded by the market. Key approaches here include model-based systems engineering (MBSE), software-defined manufacturing (SDM), smart manufacturing models, management of information flows in product creation, and artificial intelligence (AI). Using collaborative tools, it is possible to model at an early stage the data and information flows generated in a manufacturing process and then directly simulate them. This means that product variants for different markets – and the requisite variations in production processes – can be calculated from the beginning and then reserved for when they are required.
The ASE program aims to develop tangible, interactive demonstrations of various aspects of research and development in this field. Given its proximity to industrial practice, the aim is also that the program should spawn high-quality consulting services to help companies with product development. In other words, ASE will provide a platform for sharing knowledge with industry and for training. A stationary model to be built in Stuttgart over the course of the project will offer hands-on experience of the methods and systems developed for ASE. In addition, a plug-in lab housed in a container provides a mobile version that will go out to Baden-Württemberg companies and demonstrate how ASE can support product development and the production process right up to the end product. In this way, they can learn about process digitalization, information and data connectivity, co-development by interdisciplinary teams, and the use of AI in product creation. The miniature mobile lab will above all benefit small and medium-sized enterprises that are about to undertake important steps toward digitalization and automation.