This paper describes development and application of a knowledge based Product Configurator for specialist vehicle manufacture. The need to specify Bills of Material quickly, thus freeing valuable design time and increased parts procurement time, justifies this project.
The solution approach adopted was to apply a proprietary software shell (EASyBOM) in the definition of logic for vehicle build configuration. The test product chosen was a recent fire engine design. Over a period of six months expert knowledge was solicited and recorded on proven component systems and feasible component combinations. A single workstation model was then generated and tested, with resulting configurations being reviewed by engineering and marketing personnel. The next stage of development moved the knowledge model to network availability and trials within the marketing function. During this test programme use and maintenance of the knowledge base was transferred to marketing and engineering personnel. A priority in the project was to design in knowledge base maintenance by non-computing staff.
The successful completion of the network based application introduced a new integration phase to this industrial application. The model was installed on the company BULL DPX2 computer system and integrated with the MAX MRP software package. This made the knowledge based system available to eighty users concurrently, providing seamless data transfer to and from the MAX database. Anticipated gains from this include easier quotation pricing, improved materials control and better product planning.
The concepts of the knowledge base are described and the management and implementation tasks associated with this industrial application are detailed. The supporting role played by management of the company, DENNIS Specialist Vehicles, will be highlighted as an important factor in this successful case-study. Conclusions on the benefits of knowledge bases in advanced manufacturing will be derived from this development and application project.