Published 29 October 2013
Updated 2 July 2015

While manufacturing is still one of the most important pillars of the European economy, contributing billions in GDP and providing millions of jobs, European manufacturers are facing increasing pressure on every level, especially from emerging markets like Asia. To stay competitive on a global level and ahead of other competitors European manufacturers have to produce the highest-quality products at the lowest possible cost;

Disclaimer: This is a guest blog post - the author is not working at the European Commission.

In order to do this the LinkedDesign project (led by SAP together with consortium members consisting of industry partners: Aker Solutions ASA, COMAU, Holonix, TRIMEK, UBITECH, Volkswagen Group and academic partners: Aalto University, BIBA, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Institute for Applied Computer Science at the University of Leipzig, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (partially involving also SINTEF) and Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI)) has developed an advanced, innovative and integrated software platform which will support product designers, engineers and manufacturers to collaborate and gather as much information and knowledge as they may need from all areas along the product’s lifecycle.

This may be information on the cumulated cost of the product, from the design phase, through installation and maintenance, right up to disposal. It may be information from the production line on the other side of the world. The information can even come directly from the machines that actually made the product. While the collection of all types of data definitely provides an added value, it brings the risk of information overload and difficulties in processing such a large number of different sources. LinkedDesign offers a solution for such challenges by developing  a knowledge management system for manufacturing design. The developed system not only provides a wide variety of tools to process the raw data for meaningful information. It also takes into account the user context: from the type of project we are working on, through our role in the project up to favourite tools we are using, in order to provide a view on our computer screen tailored exactly to our needs.

To better illustrate this with an example, when a manufacturing designer wants to create a new car part, the designer has no way to easily measure the effects of the new design on cost, maintenance, or reliability. By using the platform developed by LinkedDesign, the designer can access all types of documents that capture the experience of other engineers with similar problems and contact them directly. Furthermore, the designer can access lifecycle information to estimate the cost of this specific part in the long run. What if maintenance is expensive or the material is hard to recycle or dispose of? The production statistics that come from factory machines are also just a click away. The platform allows the user to answer similar questions in the production cycle, enables the re-use of engineering knowledge, and links and correlates information from different actors along the production process. All of this reduces the potential errors and accelerates the design process. The use of the LinkedDesign platform with an integrated view on the involved data, persons/actors and procedures will improve not only the engineering process but also the business processes related to the product's lifecycle, influencing competitiveness of the European industries in on the global market.

You can find more information on project website and Fact Sheet description. For updates and news follow the project on Twitter: @LinkedDesignEU

The project is funded by the European Commission FP7 –ICT Programme in the domain of Factories of the Future  (FoF) Programme and has been presented as one of the success story during the Conference: "Cyber-Physical Systems: Uplifting Europe's innovation capacity", 29-30 October 2013 in Brussels.