Take a Step Back

Creating a painting involves many separate steps and skills. From preparing the canvas or board to receive the medium, to mixing the medium to achieve the correct hue, to the use of different brushes, knives, and brush strokes to achieve different effects, to the final framing of the finished work; all require different skill-sets. The artist employs color theory, perspective, and different tools along the journey to produce a work of art.

Many of the master’s work were done in answer to a patron’s or stakeholder’s requirements for the work. A landscape of a certain size, a portrait of my wife or family; at times the artist is given free reign of subject but is still given certain parameters as to size and overall color scheme.

Framing of the completed work again entails different tools, materials and skill sets. Carving tools, finishing mediums for the frame itself, hammers and saws to construct the frame, and specialized tools to attach the painting and accessories to mount on a wall. Traditionally many artists did this work themselves, but it is now normally done in separate silos of design and expertise.

One of the skills that artists learn early is to step away from the painting, to view the work in its totality, not just the small part of the work they may be currently working on. One takes a holistic view of the oeuvre to understand how the separate features of the piece are working together as a whole. Are the proportions correct, are the colors applied blending together to achieve the artist’s vision, does the frame complement or detract from the finished piece, are the stakeholder’s requirements being met? This identifies problems to be resolved before finishing. This stepping away skill is applied often and continuously throughout the process.

Creating a product follows many of the same steps although the tools, mediums, and processes may differ. Everything starts with the stakeholder’s requirements. What function are we trying to accomplish? Is it a completely new design, platform, or framework? Rare, most products evolve and are iterations on previous work. What are the specific parameters we need to accomplish? Speed, acceleration, safety, size, mobility for example. What are the regulations governing the design? The design for the rear-view mirror on a Mercedes sedan has over 2,000 regulations that apply.

First thing to do is step away from everything and take a holistic approach to analysis, focused on how a system’s constituent parts interrelate and understanding how the system should work over time and within the context of larger systems. If the product is to be a rework of an existing system, and you are fortunate to have a PLM platform in place that can supply knowledge of the past design experience such as traceable requirements throughout the lifecycle of the product, or a digital thread relating the separate engineering domains together, you are far ahead of the game.

Once the high-level requirements are understood then some of the traditional reductionist engineering methods can be employed. High level requirements are broken down into higher levels of granularity so that individual engineering domains can apply their specific knowledge, skills, and tools to bear in fulfilling the requirements. The danger here is that traditional reductionist engineering creates silos of activity and knowledge largely unrelated to the overall system. Knowing how to react to upstream changes in requirements is critical. The PLM platform that can trace requirements and enable a culture of trans-disciplinary understanding, is critical to avoid cost overruns, rework, non-compliance, and failures in the field.

It is important then to take a step back and see how the system being created is performing and might perform upon completion. Increasingly simulation tools allow us to take a step back and see how the work being done in most, if not all domains, is adhering to the requirements. This is problematic for many PLM systems that grew out of CAD systems, evolved into PDM systems, and with a few other tricks bolted on, declared themselves PLM, while still being largely focused on the mechanical domain. While today’s products retain a sizable mechanical component, they are electromechanical systems with software in some cases literally driving the system. This requires a higher level of collaboration between engineering domains that can only be achieved if knowledge transfer can be handled by the PLM platform. Can only be achieved if everyone involved with the design process can take a step back, take a holistic view of how the system’s parts are interrelated and how the whole system is performing. Can only be achieved where the PLM platform enables systems thinking from requirements through the product lifecycle to service and maintenance. Can only be achieved if we can step back often to test and simulate cross discipline work product.

Aras PLM is the only resilient platform built from conception offering low code platform technology that enables rapid delivery of flexible upgradeable solutions for the engineering, manufacturing, and maintenance of today’s complex products. Take a step back and look.

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