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Making sense of engineering design review activities

  • Gregory Huet (a1), Stephen J. Culley (a2), Christopher A. McMahon (a2) and ClÉment Fortin (a1)

Engineering design reviews, which take place at predetermined phases of the product development process, are fundamental elements for the evaluation and control of engineering activities. These meetings are also acknowledged as unique opportunities for all the parties involved to share information about the product and related engineering processes. For product development teams, the knowledge generated during a design review is not as secondary as it may seem; key design decisions, design experiences, and associated rationale are frequently made explicit. Useful work has been carried out on the design review process itself, but little work has been undertaken about the detailed content of the meeting activity; it is argued that understanding the transactions that take place during a meeting is critical to building an effective knowledge-oriented recording strategy. To this effect, an extensive research program based on case studies in the aerospace engineering domain has been carried out. The work reported in this paper focuses on a set of tools and methods developed to characterize and analyze in depth the transactions observed during a number of case studies. The first methodology developed, the transcript coding scheme, uses an intelligent segmentation of meeting discourse transcriptions. The second approach, which bypasses the time consuming transcribing operation, is based on a meeting capture template developed to enable a meeting observer to record the transactions as the meeting takes place. A third method, the information mapping technique, has also been developed to interpret the case study data in terms of decisions, actions, rationale, and lessons learned, effectively generating qualitative measures of the information lost in the formal records of design reviews. Overall, the results generated by the set of tools presented in this paper have fostered a practical strategy for the knowledge intensive capture of the contents of design reviews. The concluding remarks also discuss possible enhancements to the meeting analysis tools presented in this paper and future work aimed at the development of a computer supported capture software for design reviews.

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