‘Intelligent Engineering’ can be described as using a balanced and optimised combination of people, processes and the most appropriate technology, to drive the maximum advantage for a company’s operating model and business processes. Note the order I have used: people; processes; technology. People are at the heart of intelligent engineering in our new Industrial Revolution, they drive innovation, they seek continual improvements, they create efficiency. Processes permit that to happen and technology provides the bedrock. The term may be new – and let’s face it, the modern buzz words of ‘Cloud’, ‘Intelligent’, ‘Smart’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ are everywhere but there were no such buzz words just 40 short years ago when our predecessors in Dassault Systèmes began to use relevant, digital, data driven technologies to enable their innovative thinking to take shape and achieve form.
Dassault Systèmes pioneered the use of 3D design software in the aerospace industry, enabling aircraft engineers to design aircraft and create the digital mockup. This pioneering work was taken up by the automotive industry, then transformed into product or project lifecycle management and finally, today, into the creation of life and work experiences through the use of configured and integrated data on a dynamic platform to enable timely and relevant decision making, and to create the environment for research and experimentation. All this was derived through the ability of people to create ideas, lead innovative thinking and then have the courage to give meaning to that innovation through ground-breaking technology. It was ‘Intelligent’, is ‘Intelligent’ and will form the foundation of future intelligent practices, processes and systems.
This intelligent engineering approach is now reflected in many areas of Industry and will embrace many more as the Fourth Industrial Revolution starts to push the boundaries on digitised and automated manufacturing. I use the term ‘manufacturing’ in its widest sense – it covers a whole range of activities from traditional engineering to the manufacture of consumable items, to the design and manufacture of next year’s aircraft or car model and to the design and construction of buildings and communities.
We are witnessing a change from the drive of the last decade to increase the rate of manufacture of standard consumer products, to an era in which there is greater customisation as people seek the experience of using products which match their requirements and their sense of relationship with the world around them. As a result, Industry is seeking digital solutions which enable innovative and precise design, virtual mock-ups and realisation, and a lifecycle management process which drives production and revision such that products continue to meet the experience and expectations of consumers.
It is however recognised that central to this are people and the way their skills could be developed and harnessed in a combined approach by academia and industry, to create an industry for people as we move into the age of experience. We need to harness the power of the human mind and couple it to science and technology to drive innovation and change, to transform the way businesses operate as they seek greater efficiency, productivity, reduced costs and faster time to market.
The experiences being shaped and enhanced by Intelligent Engineering, are starting to transform the way we live, work and play. Cities want to become ‘Smart’ or ‘Intelligent’ by accessing relevant data to enhance the way they are managed and developed for people. But true intelligence comes from configuring, assessing and using the data in an integrated form to sustain the past, manage the present and plan the future – that is really intelligent!
Integrated and configured data gives the politician and business leader, the people who are forging global and national economies, a window into their world – a window into what might be as they struggle to manage the legacy of the past, develop the reality of the present and shape the future.
To conclude, we describe Intelligent Engineering as the optimisation of people, processes and technology. I would go further – it is the relationship between customers and their expectations, business and its drive for efficiency and competitiveness, and academia as the powerhouse for developing the people at the heart of the digital future.
(John will be giving a keynote address on this subject at the 2016 Intrinsys UK Intelligent Engineering Forum at the MTC Conference Centre in Coventry on 22nd June)