The issue of improving quality, costs and delays indicators in design and manufacturing is more relevant than ever in the industry. After lean manufacturing, well known in production process, the lean engineering approach is being implemented today in the field of design, taking the name of lean product development.

The management of knowledge and know-how (existing, new or to be acquired) is the heart of lean engineering. In our suggested methodology this is implemented through a new generation of tools called Knowledge Configuration Management (KCM) and Knowledge Extraction Assistant (KEA).

KCM tools are lean engineering components that provide analytical approach to knowledge management and knowledge-based engineering. These tools require a highly integrated approach that involves, for example, predefined geometrical parametric 3D models, such as CAD templates. But this approach cannot be deployed in all engineering sites.

We propose to complete this KCM approach introducing a semantic network approach, coupling with Feature Identity Card (FIC). FIC contains a set of metadata and information existing in the Product Data Management (PDM), connected with information extracted from 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design) models. It allows contextualizing information and ensures semantic connections, in order to manipulate the right parameters with mathematical algorithms. Those algorithms will search candidate relationships between design parameters extracted from CAD models.

Our suggested approach aims at extracting knowledge in cases where design never came out of Knowledge Based Engineering (KBE) applications. In those situations, it seems important to complete classical knowledge management approach, and to find out the implicit knowledge embedded in 3D CAD models. This is achieved through a global approach, focusing on the product’s 3D definitions.

We suggest introducing the latter approach by a suite of digital KEA tools (interfaced with KCM tools). Extracting knowledge from projects information stored in the Product Data Management does this.

More precisely, the methodology is based on a commercial 3D similarity search tools for CAD models and on mathematical algorithms that search relationships between extracted design parameters. The goal is to submit new rules to the process and design experts.

Implementing this methodology, a deeper knowledge of the product and its associated process can be acquired. This ensures a more productive and efficient design process.

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