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Distributed engineering :tools and methods for collaborative product development

by Törlind, Peter, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
Engineering design is fundamentally social, requiring much interaction and communication between the people involved. Additionally, good design often relies upon the ability of a cross-functional team to create a shared understanding of the task, the process, and the respective roles of its members. Coordination and exchange of information between participants in a distributed product development team is technically difficult and time consuming, where different locations and time zones further complicate communication. It is therefore important to provide tools and methods so that a geographically distributed design team can also collaborate as co- located teams do. Successful teamwork in geographically distributed teams is not only dependent on formal meetings; they are also highly dependent on tools that support informal communication, such as opportunistic and spontaneous interaction. Such informal communication is responsible for much of the information flow in an organisation. A distributed engineering environment must support many forms of collaboration: formal meetings with high quality videoconferencing, brainstorming sessions where people use their body language and whiteboards to clarify their ideas, and informal and mobile communication. This thesis presents a distributed engineering environment that uses broadband conferencing, shared multimedia, shared whiteboards, application sharing, and a distributed virtual reality environment for sharing engineering information. The system also supports lightweight informal communication such as the web based contact portal combining several information channels in one place, e.g. e-mail archives, awareness cameras, diaries, instant messaging, and SMS. The Contact Portal is the natural starting point for initiating and maintaining contact with remote team members. The thesis also presents how mobility support for distributed collaborative teamwork can be designed. The physical environment where the collaboration is done is also very important; the design of several types of collaboration environments is presented and evaluated, from high end studios to low end personal workspaces. The development of the environment is based on several case studies of distributed work where the tools have been used and evaluated in a realistic environment in close collaboration with several industrial companies such as Volvo Car Corporation, Conex, Hägglunds Drives and Alkit Communications.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Luleå tekniska universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2002

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