We report on our experience using an Internet-based collaborative environment to enhance the design and manufacturing process of a custom-designed artifact transport system (ATS). Specifically, we focus on overcoming the hurdles associated with exchanging heterogeneous information that includes text, graphics, and computer-aided design (CAD) data among 15 to 20 geographically separated project participants, each with his own unique workstation and operating system. To share this heterogeneous information among the team''s members, which included designers, physicists, manufacturers and managers, we implemented a collaborative workbench (CW) that was specifically designed for platform-independent technical collaboration. The workbench consists of two principal parts: an Internet-accessible portion and a platform-specific collaboration notebook. The Internet-accessible portion runs on a local server and consists of a Project Area that contains project-specific information such as drawings, specifications, and schedules, and a Document Vault, which stores files of any type that can be uploaded via client World Wide Web browsers. Based on specifications from the physicists, designers created and represented ATS components and assemblies on their respective CAD systems. The designers published their designs on the CW and informed project team members of the newly available CAD drawings via automatic email. Team members then commented directly on the CW representations of the CAD drawings, and those comments were republished with the drawings. This process continued until team members reached a consensus, or until face-to-face meetings helped resolve conflicting issues. Similar processes occurred with documents such as reports and schedules and with digitized photographs of manufactured components. We conclude that environments like the CW can be effective in helping teams overcome the problems associated with diverse computing environments and heterogeneous data formats, and can be effective in facilitating consensus-based decision making necessary for collaborative design.
Proceedings Title: Proceedings of the 1999 ASME Design Engineering Technical Conferences, Paper No. DETC99/DAC-8573
Conference Dates: September 12-15, 1999
Conference Location: Las Vegas, NV
Pub Type: Conferences
collabortive engineering, consensus, design, manufacture, teamwork