Cases

Technical Feasibility

A heavy engineering company wanted to develop a new excavation machine, to be programmed with a dig profile and operate automatically using sensors and closed loop control. As such this new product would necessarily have a lot of electronic control logic and safety systems. The company had already held an internal review of this product and requested an independent, expert and confidential review of the electronic control systems, by an external team, facilitated and organised by Michèle Routley.   Michèle had searched for a suitable consultant team incorporating suggestions from the engineering company, and four were selected to attend the review meeting.

The primary objective of the meeting was to provide external expert benchmarking on the proposed electronic and hydraulic control systems for the new digger.  Consultants were given a three-page background-briefing document with the company objectives and aims for this project to review prior to the meeting.

Steps upThe meeting started with the head of R&D presenting brief background information for the project, and the engineering lead presented the functionality of the digger in more detail, outlining areas of interest and areas for assistance.   Technical discussions included hydraulics, sensors, mechanical simulations, software and electronic control systems.  The consultant team were able to make several specific suggestions in terms of starting a suggested simple controller that may identify problems and validate the understanding of the system, moving on to fuzzy logic as a potential method of control, recognising that it has limited usefulness, but can be relevant where there is significant non-linearity in a system. It can be driven by programming or a learnt response.

Overall there were no major problems identified with the planned approach the company had for developing this project.

Several suggestions were made to highlight areas the consultant team thought needed further development or investigation. In line with the objectives of the meeting, no solutions to problems were identified, but rather ideas were put forward for the company to follow through if they are deemed to be relevant.