An object-oriented database approach for supporting product evolution in agile manufacturing

Date of Completion

January 1997


Engineering, Industrial|Computer Science




As technology continues to develop, both the engineering products and the processes that produce them have become increasingly complicated. In order to respond to rapidly changing market demands, new products need to be developed by reconfiguring already existing parts and components. Product evolution is one of the key success factors in agile manufacturing environments. One of the important database issues for supporting product evolution is the storage and manipulation of different versions of products and their associated components.^ The object-oriented database approach appears to be particularly attractive for supporting the design and manufacturing of large and complex products. This study investigates and develops an integrated solution for managing the evolutional process of products in agile manufacturing environments. The potentials of object-oriented data models and databases have been explored and enhanced for supporting the representation, versioning, evolution, configuration management, and traceability of composite products.^ Evolving composite products are represented with a well-defined scheme, in which the attributes of composite products are classified in terms of functional, physical, and structural aspects. Product version explosion and proliferation are controlled by means of attribute classification and hierarchical configurability. If a version of a component product is derived due to the changes to the interfaces of the component product and it is related to the interfaces of the composite products, it is propagated to the composite products along the product composition hierarchy via version notification and acknowledgment. All the possible versions are not explicitly maintained. However, valid configurations of composite products are provided flexibly by using the developed configuration management mechanism. The concept of hierarchical configurability makes it possible to check only the configurability of the direct subproducts of a composite product when constructing configurations of the composite product rather than checking the configurability of all components. Product instances that represent the actual products produced under different versions of product types are stored and manipulated in the product database. Traceability of products and their associated components is provided for product maintenance and inventory control during the entire product lifetime. The information on product classes, versions, and configurations is also traceable. ^