Computers in Industry 42 Ž2000. 99–108 www.elsevier.


Rapid product development — an overview
H.-J. Bullinger ) , J. Warschat, D. Fischer
Institute for Human Factors and Techonology Management (IAT), UniÕersity of Stuttgart, P.O. Box 800469, D-70569 Stuttgart, Germany

Abstract The success of innovative engineering processes depend on short and iterative development cycles which offer the possibility of high quality products, cost-efficient on the market and thus to stand up to today’s tough competitive pressure. All these new methods are subsumed under the term ‘‘Rapid Product Development’’ ŽRPD.. Research focuses attention not only on the products, but also their development process. By pursuing several variants with modern methods the optimal solution can be found. In order to guarantee the continuity of the whole product development process, organisation structure, process and resources have to be connected ideally. Enhancing the Simultaneous Engineering approach, RPD is an interdisciplinary evolutionary methodology to combine all influences of an engineering process to an iterative product development. To shorten the development process several tools are available: physical and digital prototypes for the early and cost-efficient evaluation of different alternatives, the representation of knowledge for different experts by means of an Active Semantic Network ŽASN. for the integration of interdisciplinary teams, technical support of communication and cooperation within the team by adequate synchronous and asynchronous media. The Engineering Solution Center ŽESC. demonstrates the realization of these technologies and methods in detail. Published by Elsevier Science B.V.

1. Introduction Today’s market is characterized by a keen international competition, increasingly complex products and an extremely high innovation dynamic. Parallel to the shortening of innovation cycles, the life cycles of products and the time until investments pay off are decreasing ŽFig. 1. w1x. Thus, time is presently the most challenging parameter. As the fast and successful positioning of new products on the market has become vital for a company, the development of innovative products needs to be accelerated. The production of proto-

types is significant for a Rapid Product Development ŽRPD. process. Generative prototyping technologies, like e.g. Stereolithography ŽSTL., reduce prototyping lead times from a few hours up to three months, depending on the quality required. New powerful CAD-technologies provide the possibility to check design varieties in real-time, employing Virtual Reality ŽVR. tools. The use of virtual prototypes, especially in the early phases of product development, enables a time- and cost-efficient decision-making. ATM 1 networks and Fast Ethernet w11x enable a quick and save exchange of relevant data and thus supports the development process tremendously. The

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ATM: Asynchronous Transfer Mode.

Bullinger et al.g. The mere application of SE-organisation on the functional level leads to a disproportionate coordination expenditure. especially in late changes of customer requirements w14x. e. legislation or new technologies. 2. on the other hand. SE sets up the framework within which RPD organises the rapid. v to shorten the time to market Žfrom the first sketch to market launch. Communication and cooperation is further supported by CSCW 2 tools w4x. In contrast to traditional approaches with defined design phases and respective documents. to develop innovative products by optimizing the factors time. The whole RPD cycle is triggered by the project environment. considers single tasks and the respective expert team responsible for each task.g. such as market developments. RPD.-J. RPD is a holistic organisational concept that describes a rapid development process achieved mainly by combining and integrating innovative prototyping technologies as well as modern CSCW tools into the R & D process. the understanding of how these new technologies can be integrated into one continuous process chain has been neglected. for example specification lists or concept matrix. via the World Wide Web or messages. The overall RPD approach is based on the idea of an evolutionary design cycle w4x. The objectives of RPD are: v v to increase quality in the sense of the principle of completeness. Product life cycles and development times. However. By combining these technologies within an R & D organisation effectively. All these new technologies have been in the focus of scientific and industrial interest for quite a while now. 1. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 Fig. result-oriented performance of functional activities. A R & D management able to handle uncertainties efficiently is necessary. costs and quality 2 CSCW: Computer Supported Cooperative Work.100 H. RPD and simultaneous engineering (SE) SE considers the complete development process and thus carries out the planning on the whole. . e. the product development time can be reduced decisively. the different design phases carried out are result-oriented. Internet provides access to relevant information from all over the world in no time. an appropriate high performance organisation is missing.

if results from the prototype generation lead to experiences. Bullinger et al. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 101 Furthermore. an integration of tasks is needed in the sense that labour is planned. The RPD approach will become more transparent by comparing it to the concept of SE w3x. from previous project or project phase Milestone oriented Integrated approach Standardized CSCW Organization Resources a ASN: Active Semantic Network. Whereas SE exhibits a formalized frame with milestones. The application of processes determines the product development and its effectiveness and efficiency. changes are made through new design methods and tools. market trends. from concept to design. Project management as a method. namely the abandonment of a homogenous definition of a product throughout the project. For example. Thus. Communication and coordination are important key-factors in discussing processes. until nearly the end of the development process.: v v v v Organization Processes Human and technical resources Product. The idea of evolutionary design implies that previously unrecognized product requirements or technological progress must be considered and incorporated. In between. whereas the RPD concept will be checked and redefined according to the project progress. which uses certain tools. innovation is achieved as a result of an initial product concept with the referring product specification. In a SE approach. the execution of the cycle is not necessarily sequential.H. There should. they can be directly incorporated into a new design phase.-J. One can distinguish between product data generation and management process. RPD therefore offers the possibility to integrate new technologies. exist an individual R & D life cycle. etc. . it RPD Process in detail Continuous improvement and redefinition of concepts Active process element Continuous testing and redefinition of concepts Individual according to project progress Within the project Continuous Standardized and continuous CSCW and ASN a Product Avoidance strategy Unique approval by responsible source Homogenous according to modularization Standardized product and process dataŽSTEP. measuring nominalractual discrepancies at certain steps. controlled and steered by one responsible person or team. The organization of a company defines its structures. it is important for the SE as well as the RPD approach to achieve a process orientation in which both product data generation and management process are aligned along the value chain. influences the organisational change to a large extent. Organizational changes. This issue leads to an important feature of RPD. investment in new machines. rearrangement of processes. for each product module. like for example the formation of organizational units as well as the coordination between the units. RPD requires a continuous project management methodology. The influenceable and controllable parameters of a company will serve as a frame for comparison Žsee Table 1.. For both development approaches. For next. training of staff as well as new solutions for product structures are Table 1 SE and RPD Parameter Process Element Structure Innovation Source Development cycles Documents Definition Data Management LearningrExperiences Project Management Labour Data Integration Communication and Coordination Media SE Process on the whole Initial product concept necessary in order to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the product development process. The initial concept is conceptualized for the complete product as well as the final integration of the modules. Hence.

g. prototypes are a key-factor of the development process. A documentation focusing on product and process data guarantees project transparency for all the persons involved. Therefore. The RPD approach only sets rough borderlines within which the modules mature individually. Whereas SE focuses more on coordinating different teams. Used as communication. Besides the conventional manufacturing of physical prototypes Že. RPD requires team-oriented communication systems. andror integration tools as well as milestones. The aim of all documentation activities is to support information management. .allocation of resources or a continuous synchronization of the process w4x. Today’s most common techniques. for example automotive and electronic design. They need to offer support not only for management decisions. to minimize mistakes and to integrate different functions.102 H. including the testing and most important evaluation of the design. it can be examined how far requirements are met.1. like STL. rapid prototyping. for further improvement. which are presently still subject to research w7x. the RPD process documents are subject to persistent alteration until a certain deadline. milestones. etc.-J. ship building. for example drawings of machine tools. such as Žre. The production of prototypes is an important factor that supports product design as well as process planning. as probably the most promising attempt to standardize product data and application interfaces. With the aid of prototypes. Physical prototypes In order to optimize the product development process decisively. great effort has been made to develop RPTs. STEP 3 . and Fused Depo- 3 STEP: Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data. the Rapid Prototype Technologies ŽRPT. The change of design concepts and specifications is supported by a fitting framework. certificates. plans.. RPT provides the possibility to produce a physical artefact directly from its CAD model without any tools. This results in specific project management questions. figures can be changed or agreed and borders narrowed. Prototypes are not only the physical embodiments of a product almost at the end of the development process. CNC-milling. they help to learn rapidly. Results of the product development process are the documents of the generated product. for example specifications. to improve their processes and to increase the accuracy of the produced parts. which open up new ways of cooperation.g. such as product models. Elements of RPD 3. gain more and more importance. In the past. as well as the respective documents of the process. Bullinger et al. additional tools and methods of different key areas are required. 3. Common SE approaches are based on a standardized product data integration. With conventional prototyping.. bill of materials. Short paths and multidisciplinary teams for quick decisions are essential for both approaches. learning. Moreover. the RPD process focuses especially on the management of variants and versions. whereas RPD requires an additional dynamic data management in semantic networks in order to enable short adaptation cycles. etc. it would take several weeks to build the same part.. Solid Ground Curing ŽSGC. calculations. etc. The standardization of the whole product data is a basic prerequisite for evolutionary and phase-oriented approaches. Whereas SE harmonizes documents at a certain time Že. Selective Laser Sintering ŽSLS. They are absolutely indispensable for the success of a company. The international competition and the resulting short time to market require the quick availability of models and samples during the whole development process. bill of materials or process data are a requirement of RPD. it is possible to build the prototype of a complex part already within a few days. Design iterations are a wanted and therefore supported element in RPD. RPD lays more emphasis on knowledge sharing within one team and with other teams w12x. Further. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 facilitates the change management. Hereby. offers for quite a few application fields applicable solutions. Thus. but also for the decision-making during the generation of product data. work plans. Documents reflecting on parts of the complete product data generated. process plans.

6x enables a qualitative evaluation of the results ŽFig. the employment of virtual prototypes in the early phases of product development optimizes the whole development process w13x. Simulation w8x and CAD-data produce quantifiable results. there are promising developments in the field of coating technologies or sheet metal and solid modelling. Thus. Especially. faults concerning fabrication or the product itself can be detected already in the early development phases and thus be eliminated without great expenditures. The aim is to build a tool directly by an RP process for the series production of plastic components. Bullinger et al. Digital prototypes Physical prototypes are often time. whereas the connection with VR-technologies w2. The digital demonstration allows an early modification and optimization of the prototype.. the process of product development and testing can be considerably ameliorated. additional synergy effects can be expected. it is necessary to develop powerful technologies for a rapid production of prototypes with nearly serial characteristics. the time-consuming production of a tool by follow-up technologies can be avoided. A new field within Rapid Prototyping ŽRP.-J.. is Rapid Tooling ŽRT. Due to the early overlapping of development and fabrication. like vacuum casting etc. product features can be easily verified and thus development times can be reduced enormously. However. which will be a valuable contribution. Thus. Therefore. 3. simulation and VR. In addition to new or improved RPTs. prototypes can be produced faster and cheaper as before. are necessary to achieve near serial properties of the prototype Žsee Fig. sition Modelling ŽFDM. for example material or surface quality. Follow-up technologies for SLS and STL.H.. VR and Reverse Engineering. Pre-requisites for Digital Prototyping are the following three areas: CAD.2.and cost-intensive and thus need to be reduced to a minimum. it leads to a cost-saving increase in the variety of prototypes. Therefore. followup technologies. By combining CAD technologies. Furthermore.. RP. By means of virtual prototypes.. They are used primarily for aesthetic. Besides. . are mainly used to produce design or geometrical prototypes. ergonomic and assembly studies or as pattern masters for casting or moulding processes. This provides the possibility to start product planning already at an early stage. 2. 3.5. In order to accelerate the development process. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 103 Fig. technical and functional prototypes are of great importance. up to now current materials and process limitations have hardly enabled the use as technical or functional prototypes. The strategic advantage of Digital Prototyping is the advancement of decisions from the test-phase with physical prototypes to the early phases of product development with digital prototypes. 2.

it is necessary to make knowledge on technology. it can be said that creating physical or virtual prototypes of the entire system is of utmost importance especially in the early phases of the product development process. This primary. 4.-J. An enormous advantage of the DMU is the shortening of iteration cycles. the increasing complexity of products and processes require an early collaboration and coordination. Knowledge representation Besides the short iteration cycles. function and technological coherences. effects of the product design can be detected already in a very early phase of product development. 3. like aircraft construction. shipbuilding or the motor industry. quality and costs available for anyone involved in the development process. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 cess without DMU. This forms the basis on which the modelling and simulation Žtesting. specifically in the design and testing phase. They operate autonomously and are directly responsible for their respective task. This way. function and efficiency before producing the physical prototype. the time-to-market is considerably reduced. The decisive changes of the digital prototype are carried out while the physical prototype is being built. design. Thus. The objective of DMU is the current and consistent availability of multiple views on product shape. .104 H. However. possible weaknesses of the physical prototype can already be detected and corrected in the design phase. Thus. current systems do not consider the dynamic of the development process sufficiently. digital design model is also called the virtual product. this is a fundamental prerequisite for an effective cooperation. construction and packaging. During this period. a discipline and an approach which increase the rate of learning and integration within the development process. An important component of Digital Prototyping is the Digital Mock-Up ŽDMU. needs further tests with several physical prototypes before the end product can be produced. The development pro- To sum it up. Application triangle. This means that by employing the DMU. On the one hand. The idea is to test the prototype regarding design. can be performed and communicated for an improved configuration of the design. process. Fig. Digital Prototyping offers enormous advantages to many different branches. the DMU-platform offers the possibility for a technical integration of product conception. on the contrary. The virtual product is the reference for the development of a new product. a purely digital test model of a technical product. Besides. before the physical prototype is built.. On the other hand. Bullinger et al. design. Conventional databases are not sufficient for an adequate representation of the relevant product and process knowledge. The extensive use of prototypes provides a structure. the DMU-process can achieve almost 100% of the required quality by means of corrections resulting from the simulation processes. Additionally. the interdisciplinary teams are an essential feature of the RPD concept. there is no possibility to assess the consequences of one’s definition. Fields of application for Digital Prototyping in car manufacturing are for example: v v v v v evaluation of components by visualization evaluation of design variations estimation of the surface quality of the car body evaluation of the car’s interior ergonomic valuation with the aid of virtual reality.

technical support is indispensable. like shared whiteboard application. The engineering solution center (ESC) The use of recent information and communication technology. However. Furthermore. During product development. CSCW and CMC 4 tools are applied. but react automatically to modifications. all available sources of information can be used right from the beginning. Thus. w9. Because of the dynamic development process. In detail. These gained perceptions will support the current and future development process. Communication and cooperation The presented RPD concept is fundamentally based on the early and intensive cooperation of experts from different disciplines.-J. . etc. the needed ASN contains. and in the relevant context. This form of spontaneous information exchange between decentralized development teams requires CMC and cooperation techniques. negative and positive knowledge Žrejected and followed-up alternatives. communication and cooperation structures as well as the necessary knowledge to select the suitable manufacturing technique. besides causal connections. Bullinger et al. This fact provides the possibility of an active and automatic distribution of modifications throughout the whole network. Nevertheless. chat-box. are stored therein. The currently existing systems provide the possibility to bridge local barriers.10x. electronic meeting room and audiorvideo-conferencing. The communication architecture therefore should enable the modelling of direct and indirect interactions between individuals. interdisciplinary teamwork and an effective network is essential for the shortening of devel- 4 CMC: Computer Mediated Communication. The system should therefore possess sufficient flexibility to be able to keep track of the modifications. which maintains the autonomy of decentralized teams. The initial incomplete knowledge is incrementally completed by diverse experts. the ASN forms the basis for the concept of RPD. a usual or ‘‘natural’’ communication is possible and sensible. it is necessary to represent the knowledge in the form of an Active Semantic Network ŽASN. the communication basis should be able to represent information that is not isolated. Thus. the cooperation within and between the autonomous multifunctional teams is of great importance. a technical support and an electronic documentation might still be helpful. At this point. there is a necessity to establish appropriate local and temporal relations among team members w4. The selection and use of suitable information and communication technology is indispensable. which enables the modelling of cause and effect relations. they neglect the requirements of a person-to-person communication and cooperation. For instance. Information exchange is considerably determined by the local and temporal situation of cooperation partners.H. This concept therefore provides the possibility to bring together the various expert knowledge in the early phases of product development. If the cooperating team members are situated at one place. All in all. This results in a harmonized product development. 5. In case cooperation partners are located at different places. frequent and rather short ad-hoc sessions are preferred. Furthermore. They permit a faster approach and lead to a closer cooperation of experts. the ASN provides the possibility to represent and to manage the design. these relations change.11x. It is characterized by active independent objects within a connected structure. The objects in this network are not passive. representations of methods. 6. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 105 To cope with the given requirements. especially within creative sectors. In contrast with conventional systems. quality and cost knowledge together with the know-how of technologies and process planning in the form of the explained dynamic chains of cause and effect. For this. the ASN should contain the following functions and characteristics: v v v v v on-line dialog capability dynamic robustness version management transparency.

The Power Wall is a cost-efficient entrance into large three-dimensional presentations because it consists of only one canvas. as we have demonstrated. for the whole product life cycle. for example. . Data Management ŽEDMr PDM. CAM. Tools. All respective systems are installed and the required interfaces already exist.. Unlimited number of persons can view the three-dimensional model simultaneously. Thus. CAQ. A particular advantage here is that these tools are already combined to a continuous process chain. databases. Computer-based information and communication technologies are integrated into already existing engineering systems ŽCAD. Another essential component of the ESC is the Engineering ŽProduct. It offers the possibility to project three-dimensional CAD models and virtual prototypes onto a huge canvas. the ESC offers.106 H. recent methods and technologies are integrated into a continuous process chain. The EDM encompasses a holistic. Thus.g. etc. An important part of the ESC is the Power Wall: a recent.and cost-intensive pro- Fig. Prerequisites for an effective cooperative work are continuous. CAD and FEM simulations are integrated into the continuous flow of data. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 opment times. the complete set of tools necessary for producing a DMU. supporting the cooperative engineering effectively. Inconsistent or obsolete information stocks are reduced to a minimum through the use of EDM. In this way. In the ESC. The innovative approach realised here makes the ESC so special. from the first CAD draft over the selection and fabrication of suitable prototypes to the test phase ŽFig. these systems are the backbone of the technical and administrative information processing. 4. or the modification of already existing products.-J.. knowledge management. The EDM systems manage the processing and forwarding of the produced data. The ESC integrates recent technologies into a continuous process chain. very effective and cost-efficient visualization technology.. By the use of virtual prototypes. They provide interfaces to CAD systems and other CA x applications Že. CAP. like Internet. 4. company-wide data flow. The ESC is equipped with all the necessary technology for a fast and cost-efficient development of innovative products. system. these systems enable a continuous. The Engineering Solution Center. Bullinger et al. This process chain comprises all phases of product development.. structured and consistent management of all processes and the whole data involved in the development of innovative products. the time. computer supported process chains and new visualization techniques.

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. Fischer received an award from the Verein zur Forderung der produktion¨ stechnischen Forschung in 1995.-Ing. and the Fraunhofer-Institute for Industrial Engineering ŽIAO. Hans-Jorg ¨ Bullinger. graduated as Dipl. in 1987 and graduated with the title Dr. The institutes are renowned for carrying out projects both in Germany and abroad.. c. habil. At Stuttgart’s Fraunhofer-Institute of Production Technology and Automation.. He has published more than 100 articles in these fields including the following books: Forschungs. Joachim Warschat Žborn 1949. Stuttgart and director of the Sonderforschungsbereich ŽCollaborative Research Center.. he was responsible for many applied research projects in the field of design and manufacturing.. an honorary Professor at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei Ž1991. Honorary member of the Rumanian Society of Mechanical Engineers Ž1994. Concurrent Simultaneous Engineering. . studied Production Engineering at the University of Stuttgart. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Stuttgart in 1994. together with the companies Robert Bosch.und Entwicklungsmanagement. Dr. Warschat is lecturer at the University of Stuttgart for Project Management and Simultaneous Engineering and at the Stuttgart Institute of Management and Technology for Project Management.108 H. Daimler Benz and others. Dr. Dietmar Fischer Žborn 1959. Member of the World Academy of Productivity Science Žsince 1993. he has worked as a scientific researcher and project manager at the Fraunhofer-Institute for Industrial Engineering ŽIAO. In 1994. .-Ing. Since 1990. Intranet. Bullinger has written over 1000 articles and books in the area of industrial engineering. Project Management and Knowledge Management.-Ing.. he became a member of the Management Board of the Institute for Industrial Engineering and the Head of the Competence Center ‘‘Rapid Product Development’’. Prof. VW. Dr.. the Distinguished Foreign Collegue award from the Human Factor Society Ž1986. Among his honors are the Kienzle-Medal from the University Group of Manufacturing Ž1978. Groupware.h. Expert Systems in Design and Process Planning. Hans-Jorg ¨ Bullinger Žborn 1944... He works as a scientist and consultant in the fields of R&D-Management Organisation. ŽPhD..-J. Bullinger et al. Bullinger is also the head of the Institute for Human Factors and Technology Management ŽIAT. h. and the Order of the Federal Republic of Germany Ž1998. in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Stuttgart ŽGermany. Dr. Dr. Currently. and was promoted to Private Lecturer at the University of Stuttgart in 1997.-Ing. ŽPhD. he is the deputy-head of the department R&D Management.. besides his role as chairman of the University. He is Director and Head of the Department R&DManagement at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering Ž IAO . the Arthur Burckhardt Award Ž1995. Since 1987. r Computers in Industry 42 (2000) 99–108 Dr. Fischer became director of the Sonderforschungsbereich ŽCollaborative Research Center. He graduated with the title Dr. and lecturer for the faculty of Design and Production Engineering at the University of Stuttgart. Information and Communication Systems ŽInternet. e. and graduated with a Master’s degree and PhD in Manufacturing from the University of Stuttgart. Dr. an honorary Doctor at the University of Novi Sad Ž1991.Ing. ‘‘Development and Testing of Innovative Products’’ until 1999.. Dr. Prof. the gold Ring-of-Honour awarded Ž1982. by the German Society of Engineers ŽVDI. Siemens. Qualitat ¨ der Arbeit. In 1995.. For his research on ‘‘Object oriented databases’’ Dr. ‘‘Development and Testing of Innovative Products’’ since 1999. began his career as a manufacturer for the Daimler-Benz company in Stuttgart. Dr.