Adding Cognition, Machine Learning, and Prediction to Products: a Far-Fetched Dream or Worthy Endeavor?
Every year, at Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES), industry leaders gather to discuss — and sometimes speculate on — characteristics and attributes of the tools and technologies next-generation engineers and designers might need. This year (COFES 2014, April 2014), in the track titled “Cognition?,” Engineering News Record‘s editor Tom Sawyer asked, “With the formation of the IBM Watson Group, we are at the early stages of deployment of what can thought of as applied cognition … What are the implications and opportunities for design and engineering?” Later, a roundtable discussion continued the talk: “[IBM] Watson’s combination of natural-language capabilities and an ability to generate hypotheses should be able to address big problems in fields such as customer relations, finance, healthcare, and R&D … What will machine cognition mean to engineering and design?”
In a room just a few doors down from Sawyer’s discussion group, Microsoft’s PLM Solutions director Simon Floyd hosted a track to discuss “Microsoft’s role in machine learning, predictive analytics, advanced decision-making, and the impact on design & engineering.” Another roundtable posed the possibility of “Swarms, Autonomous Devices, and Self-Programming Machines.” The summary read, “Design theory and concepts are emerging for these autonomous systems — particularly for swarms of multiple-specialty systems, and for systems that design systems. What types of tools will we need to do this? What’s our role once they have been set in motion? How do we build in safety? What don’t we know?” Continue reading
When he assumed the role of a project traffic cop at CNH Industrial Parts & Service, Collin Fagan didn’t realize the tangled web he was stepping into. He had a rude awakening when someone showed him the company’s project-tracking method. It was “a 165-column spreadsheet with more than 70 pivot tables, with thousands and thousands of rows,” he recalled.
Despite its complex setup, the spreadsheet wasn’t accurate either, because it relied on more than 20 users to input departmental statistics. Fagan recalled a colleague spending days fixing data errors resulting from input. Just to check on the status of certain parts in development, it took rounds of communication from senior staff. “These were talented engineers hired at fairly expensive rates,” Fagan noted, “and we were wasting their time — at least 20-25 hours a week — just on data gathering.”
It quickly became clear to Fagan that, instead of managing product launches, he risked becoming a clerical person. So he decided to take a stand. “I went to my boss, and I said, ‘Fire me if you have to, but I won’t take over that spreadsheet.’ ” Fortunately, Fagan’s boss agreed the business had outgrown the spreadsheet. Fagan, responsible for product development & platform integration, is a much happier man now that project activities are flowing through Aras PLM, implemented a year ago. Continue reading
At Converse’s design-your-own-sneaker portal, you get to create your own pair of Chuck Taylor, Jack Purcell, or Poorman. You pick the fabric print. You pick the sole and lace colors. You can even specify the eyelets — the rings through which you fasten your lace. Want something with more support than a lightweight Converse? Head over to Reebok to design your own running shoes. Marvel now lets you envision your own crime-fighting crusader at its Create Your Own Superhero portal. You choose the skin type, the headgear, and the outfit. If you’re so enamored by your custom superhero that you’d like to put him or her on your iPhone cover, head over to Skinit to upload the saved image and order your own cover.
The DYI consumerism is now spilling into larger products, including cars. Ford wants you to create your own custom Mustang V6, Gt, or GT500. Renault and Maserati are also happy to let you configure your own car online, outfitting it with from preferred bodywork, wheels, and carpets. Partly driven by instant visualization over the web, partly driven by the buyers’ participatory behavior, shopping seems to heading into the virtual world, into an environment that accommodates instant input and feedback. Continue reading
Instead of heaping on a laundry list of new bells and whistles, the latest release of Aras PLM concentrates on the user interface and scalability functionality—key attributes to supporting the next wave of adoption as PLM extends beyond engineering. Continue reading