Proposal for a meta-model of product-development processes

Article written with Isabella Bozza and presented at the 2nd International Conference on Planned Maintenance, Reliability, and Quality, Oxford, England, 2-3 April 1998, ISBN 0953257606

The success of BPR within the product-development areas strongly depends on the availability of a functional model of the As-Is process, suitable to be analyzed and restructured on the base of innovative rationalization/reengineerization strategies.
In the authors’ experience, only rarely the documentation of the product-development process available in the company can constitute an effective base for BPR. The available models are usually at a very high-level and are focused more on the company’s organizational structure than on the functional one; the other technical documentation is usually concerned with design criteria, dimensioning rules and procedures to solve very specific problems. So, the modelization of the As-Is product-development process is a key phase of BPR and, considering the intrinsic complexity of such kind of process and the problems connected to the knowledge elicitation, it’s also the most critical one.
The paper illustrates a meta-model of product-development processes to use as a modeling guide within  various production contexts: aeronautic, automotive, etc. The meta-model provides a functional description of a generic product-development process:

  1. it covers all the development phases of an assembled product (from the specification definition phase to the tools manufacture and type-testing phases), emphasizing the relations existing between the design of the assembly/sub-assemblies and the design of the parts included on such assembly/sub-assemblies;
  2. it clearly highlights the functional structure of the process, the product and information flows and the review/optimization cycles.

The meta-model, codified by means of the IDEF0 graphical language and including a glossary, offers an effective modeling base:

  1. it is generic but expressive, easily readable and interpretable and, therefore, it is able to properly drive the knowledge elicitation on specific product-development processes; 
  2. it can be contextualized on specific organizational and production environments, both by mapping the terms used on the company’s specific terms, and by further detailing the sub-process of interest for the BPR activities.