Related Resources: Design for Manufacturing

Concurrent Engineering Standards

Engineering Applications and Design
Design for Manufacturing and Assembly

Concurrent engineering through product data standards
National Bureau of Standards
Gary P. Carver
Howard M. Bloom
84 pages

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Concurrent engineering involves the integration of people, systems and information into a responsive, efficient system. Integration of computerized systems allows additional benefits: automatic knowledge capture during development and lifetime management of a product, and automatic exchange of that knowledge among different computer systems. Critical enablers are product data standards and enterprise integration frameworks. A pioneering assault on the complex technical challenges is associated with the emerging international Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data (STEP). Surpassing in scope previous standards efforts, the goal is a complete, unambiguous, computer-readable definition of the physical and functional characteristics of a product throughout its life cycle. U.S. government agencies, industrial firms, and standards organizations are cooperating in a program. Product Data Exchange using STEP (PDES), to develop and implement STEP in a shared-database environment. PDES will lead to higher, integrated levels of automation based upon information standards and frameworks. U.S. manufacturers will benefit from concurrent engineering without sacrificing the historical strengths and traditions of individuality, initiative, and intellectual property rights. Concurrent engineering, through information technology and standards, represents the power of a new industrial revolution. The role of the NIST National PDES Testbed, technical leadership and a testing-based foundation for the development of STEP, is described.


Product data standards will revolutionize U.S. manufacturing and enable U.S. industry to build on its traditional strengths and regain its competitive edge for the twenty-first century. Standards will enable concurrent engineering to be utilized in the diverse, dynamic and heterogeneous multienterprise environment that traditionally has characterized U.S. industry.

Concurrent engineering provides the power to innovate, design and produce when all possible impacts and outcomes can be considered almost immediately. It is the use, in all phases of a manufacturing activity, of all the available information about that activity. It represents the commonality of knowledge applied to a production goal.

Concurrent engineering can stimulate and maintain the diverse and individualistic nature of the entrepreneurial environment by expanding access to knowledge. It forces a global optimization among all of the product life cycle processes within a design and production system.

However, in an automated environment, concurrent engineering is impossible without standards. That is, the full automation and integration of industrial processes is impossible unless standardized hardware and software, especially standardized knowledge and knowledge models, exist to allow intercommunication among all types of computerized systems. The significance and potential impact of this assertion are the subjects of this document.

In principle, concurrent engineering does not have to be an automated process; it could be people interacting directly with other people. In practice, in today’s manufacturing environment, the increased complexity of products and processes and the use of computerized systems precludes sole reliance on people-to-people concurrent engineering. The approach to concurrent engineering has to be through the automatic sharing of knowledge by computerized systems. It can be thought of as automated concurrent engineering, or computer-aided concurrent engineering.

In the U.S., the introduction of concurrent engineering to an enterprise, or to a group of connected enterprises, through people-to-people interactions requires usually unacceptable cultural changes. Because it emphasizes teamwork rather than competition, people-to-people concurrent engineering may be in conflict with a company’s culture or management style. Or it may interfere with established relationships among the departments within a company or among the companies within a group of companies.

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