By many measures, U.S. industry is no longer the leader in developing world class products. U.S. product development and manufacturing systems need substantial improvement to assure a successful future. The Superior Engineering Design Program (SEDP) was created within the University of Tennessee’s College of Engineering in 1987, with a mission to improve the teaching and practice of product development. Within this program, the authors have developed a computer-based learning tool, the “SEDP Product Development Guide” (“the Guide”), to help senior and graduate engineering design students learn “superior” product development processes.
The Guide incorporates the latest product development strategies and techniques, as practiced by some of industry’s most competitive product development teams. The software is an assistant, but is specifically not an “artificial intelligence” system that purports to make decisions for the user. Rather, the guide provides structure and asks “critical” questions at appropriate times during the product development process. While design tools are available for assistance, the student engineer is always responsible for answering the “critical questions” satisfactorily to assure that the designed product meets customer requirements.
A prototype SEDP Product Development Guide has been installed for evaluation in the SEDP’s Engineering Design Center, located in the University’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.