Jean-François Prevéraud granted us the privilege to draft a report of the day, in the Industrie & Technologies newsletter, dated Thursday May 15th

Schneider Electric Group just achieved a tremendous amount of unification and arranging work of its design approach. They have started rolling out Radar which is widely based on the Knowllence Software tools, to ensure the methodological consistency.

Schneider Electric increases the consistency of its design approach using the Knowllence software

I attended yesterday Knowllence / TDC Software Users club. Knowllence is a French software editor specialised in methodology tracking tools in the fields of new products/processes design, and risk mastering. These software greatly ease up traceability, capitalisation and methodological consistency.

Among various performances, I have enjoyed those of Philippe Raffoux and Philippe Bergin both employed at the Innovation department – R&D Efficiency & Quality of Schneider Electric . The presentation demonstrated how the electricity and automatism world leader currently sets a unified design methodology in all its divisions worldwide, and how TDC Software tools ensure its consistency mastering.

“This approach is part of the Group project “new2″ targeting excellence development. It was named Radar, for Required Activities of Design to Achieve Robustness. Our objective is not to have all designers in the Group enforce it immediately, but rather to prove the benefits that result from using it on semi-industrial projects,” explains straightforwardly Philippe Raffoux, project manager.

And the issue is a big one. Schneider Electric Group includes 25 R&D centers in the world, employing 7,000 engineers and researchers, as well as numerous “solution centers” dedicated to the major market sectors in which the Group is implied.

“Our goal developing Radar has been to develop world class product design and production process processes, i.e. groupwide serviceable. We meant to implement a “universal” sturdy design approach. It was to: optimise the development leadtime of our offers; take advantage of our existing information systems; increase our capacity of working in teams and fast; ease up standardisation whilst promoting innovation.

Six years of thinking and work

The project finds its origin mid-2002 when a first convergence mission was led with the major Group activity officials about development processes. It resulted in 2004 with the definition of a sturdy electromechanical unified design approach framework. “We soon came to the conclusion that much more specifical tools were needed, and that traditional office applications would not face the consistency management of such an approach. So, we spent the year 2006 assessing various methodological tools within semi-industrial projects , and eventually decide on the TDC Worksuite”. 2007 saw the industrialisation of this study Radar design approach, using such tools.

This design approach, so industrialised, has been validated by the division world representatives earlier this year. Its rolling out started in April. “It is not being imposed to designers, but we mean to help willing teams to test this approach in a “project coaching” mode, where we remain available to assist. There is nothing absolutely revolutionary. Base tools remain the same. Functional analysis, value analysis, FMEA’s, creativity supporting tools etc. are still there. But Radar models and streamlines these tools, and mainly ensures consistency.”

The V cycle of design

Besides, Radar is based on the traditional V cycle of design, from customer need expression to finished product, through various milestones. “On the descending branch of the V, matching the solution search, the first milestones of the Radar approach are dedicated to the client requirements. It encompasses the four following steps: customer expressed need analysis identifies the functional needs relating to a system or one of its parts; the functional description of the offer transcribes the customer requests into service functions, describes the product lifecycle milestones, identifies the expected performances, and the Supply Chain needs; the preliminary risk and priority analysis identifies the risks relating to the product use and affects each service function a severity level, thanks to AFMEA (function FMEA); eventually the product architecture is chosen after pre-dimensioning, simulation, component choice and material pre-selection,” as Philippe Bergin who contributed to Radar, explains.

These four steps end in the first main milestone of the V cycle, Select is where architecture is set. During this part, TDC Need is used. This external functional analysis and specification module from the TDC Worksuite ensures the information consistency. The right questions are raised when starting a new project, excluding solutions, thanks to the functional and exhaustive expression of the need.

Functional condition analysis comes next, also including four steps. The first step is innovate and develop . Physical solutions are to be proposed, here. Traditional CAT, calculation and simulation tools are used. Data are managed in the global information system based on Windchill from PTC, as far as Schneider Electric is concerned. This is also when we choose to develop the product internally or entrust it and engineering provider. The second step consists in describing the technical functions . Using the block diagram method for mechanics or SADT for electronics, the product architecture is broken down to identify its flow and contact technical functions, as well as extract its functional conditions linked to the studied solution. The third step consist in an FMEA method based analysis. Reliability is assessed and ensured, identifying the risks, affecting a severity level to the functional conditions and reducing the criticality of potential failures, both on the product and on its Supply Chain. ” But let’s not fool ourselves, the FMEA has to be continuously in the designers’ mind,” warns Philippe Bergin. The last step leads to the realisation of a functional conditions chart. This chart lists all the functional conditions linked to the needs and to the studied solution. It highlights the severity, FMEA based, linked to each of them.

This last step is crucial, as it leads to the milestone Do where the decision is made whether to carry on with the project. During these four described steps, the TDC FMEA module is the one mainly used, as it focuses on function FMEA.

Validate the solutions

The rising branch of the V cycle, matches the solution checking and validating. It gathers all steps dealing with product and component parameters. ” First, comes the design functional verification which goal is to demonstrate that the product design satisfies the requirements described in the product specification. A verification plan is handled thanks to TDC FMEA,” explains Philippe Bergin. Next comes the capable tolerance range choice that are reliable from a functional, technological and economical point of view; the functional condition setting based on a reality-close model so as to specify the nominal values of the parameters, and be able to use them in the simulations; the specification of the component and product quality check ; the FMEA Process to identify and assess the functional conditions linked to the production process, also handled via TDC FMEA; the risk analysis of the components and subsets, so as to prepare their quality control plan and guide the process and tool planning; last, the review of the supplier contract, so as to define their obligations and the information exchanges according to the environment. These seven steps lead to the Implement milestone where the investment decision is made.

The rising branch of the V continues with five more steps. The component and subset verification report enabling means and tools production, and the physical check of the components and the subsets; industrial prototypes come next, followed by semi-industrial product manufacture, first with the existing industrial means, to check the product performance, next with the serial production means to check and validate the product/process couple; then comes the product check where the functional conditions of the product made after prototypes and semi-industrial products, are verified; last come the product validation and process qualification that enable the validation of all the client criteria for the industrialised product; eventually are the quality control plans of the components and products to master the component, subsets and products manufacturing. Here is now the last milestone Produce where the decision to manufacture is made.

Adjust scope to the project challenge

“The first reaction of many designers is to say the approach is very exhaustive, maybe too much for what I design. Couldn’t you extract a light version that would better match my needs? The right solution is not to delete steps, but to adapt the scope to the project challenge implied,” thinks Philippe Raffoux.

One of the current challenges of Philippe Raffoux’s team is “not to let the soufflé go down”. “The Radar approach generated a lot of interest within our design teams. Now, we have to help them roll it out on semi-industrial projects so that they can feel the real profits available and make it theirs.”

As to choosing Knowllence Software tools, Philippe Raffoux is straightforward: “there is no miracle, here. They help materialise the processes and ensure their consistency throughout the design chain. They warrant the sturdiness of our Radar approach.”

This consistency will be all the easier to ensure as Knowllence / TDC Software started unveiling TDC System, its collaborative engineering platform, stemming from the CoDeKF project, which was developed within the “Pôle de compétitivité Véhicule du futur” (Vehicle of the future Cluster). This will ease up and greatly automatise the communication between the various modules of the TDC Worksuite. We will have further opportunities to talk about it. »
Reproduced with the author’s kind agreement, @ Industrie et Technologies

Jean-François Prevéraud is a journalist at Industrie & Technologies and at l’Usine Nouvelle. He has been working in the field of industrial data processing and more precisely design applications (CAD, TDM, Calculation/Simulation, PLM…) He created the bimonthly newsletter Systèmes d’Informations Technologiques, integrated into this weekly online newsletter, the chief-editor of which he is now.

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