CAD Services – A Cost-Efficient Approach to Manufacturing
Over the past decade, many firms in many different manufacturing areas have discovered the cost-effectiveness of outsourcing various CAD services. For some, this outsourcing may be a simple matter of paying an outside CAD service firm to convert paper drawings to digital files for incorporation in their internal CAD systems. Some manufacturers may use CAD service firms to convert from one CAD format to another or to generate 3D models from 2D drawings. There is any number of ways in which a CAD service firm can provide cost-efficient labor for converting existing drawings or CAD files into some other format. As manufacturing design costs increase, manufacturers are beginning to look at outsourcing their CAD work at earlier stages. That is, rather than using a CAD service firm to convert existing designs, some progressive manufacturers are outsourcing the actual design and development of models to highly skilled CAD service firms that employ certified engineers.
Challenges of CAD Service Outsourcing
Although outsourcing the design and development can significantly reduce manufacturing costs, it also creates new management challenges:
(1) Can design and development integrity be maintained?
(2) Can the manufacturer’s corporate privacy and trade secrets be ensured?
(3) What reporting methods are needed during the product development cycle?
If a manufacturer wants to exploit the full benefits of outsourced CAD services, then a simple new corporate model should be developed in order to harness the benefits and reduce the liabilities. This model should describe the technical specifications at the beginning and the product specifications at the end of the product development cycle. Within the scope of this model, then different intermediate tasks are defined to obtain the initial best-guess process recipe from the target product specifications. The complete technology development should be detailed and agreed upon between the manufacturer and the CAD services firm, with reviews during the various phases of design and development.
To ensure corporate privacy and maintenance of trade secrets, the manufacturer should require the CAD services firm to sign binding non-disclosure agreements. In some instances, non-compete agreements may also be appropriate. A lot depends upon the industry and the nature of the product being developed.
While this may seem cumbersome at the outset, once the process is in place and the relationship is established with the CAD services firm, the manufacturer can automate many stages of the design and development reporting process, which enables a reduction in in-house personnel and the resulting savings in salaries and benefits.
Analyzing the Cost-Effectiveness of Using CAD Services
Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) should be used to compare the relative costs and outcomes in-house product design and development vs. outsourced design and development. Since most manufacturing firms will already have sufficient cost history based on previous design and development projects, it should not be difficult to compare that information to similar design and development projects selected for outsourcing with a CAD service firm.
Most manufacturing firms will want to run a number of test cases with a CAD service firm before committing to a full change in the way they do business. But, however cautiously approached, most manufacturing firms find that the cost benefits of CAD services outsourcing far outweigh the drawbacks.
Choosing a CAD Services Firm for Design and Development
Manufacturers should choose the CAD service firm with which they will collaborate as carefully as they would choose a design engineer for an employee. Since the CAD service designers and engineers will work virtually side-by-side with the manufacturer, it is important to ensure ease of communication, similar corporate standards, and day-to-day control, as well as project commitment and dedication. Solid teamwork is as important with a CAD service firm as it is with the manufacturers own employees.
Qualified engineers within the CAD service firm will ensure that the manufacturer meets their specific objectives in the most cost-effective manner possible while adding the real value of an as-needed workforce. Manufacturers should build a long-term strategic relationship with the CAD service they choose in order to ensure ongoing service, continuity of support, and innovation in their design and development project. Using qualified, low-cost outsourced CAD services for design and development can provide manufacturers with both high standards and competitive advantage.