Industries that rely on manufacturing processes also rely on the efficiency of those processes. Efficiency enables companies to create quality products at affordable prices. But, what, exactly constitutes efficiency? For some companies, it may mean updating or replacing old, outdated equipment. Others may need to better motivate their employees. While for some, creating a better design system may be the key.
One thing that we’ve learned from working with various manufacturing companies in many different industries is that efficiency and productivity gains in manufacturing are often realized by optimizing CAD processes. What exactly does it mean to optimize CAD processes? In general, it means that each employee in the design process is being utilized to the maximum effect.
Amazingly, some studies show that a typical engineer’s day may include as much as 30% to 40% of his or her time involved in non-productive activities. That doesn’t mean that the engineer is loafing! It means that his expertise is not being used for innovative design, but rather her time is being wasted on non-productive, routine CAD tasks. Non-productive tasks include activities such as:
- scanning and converting paper drawings
- converting 2D CAD drawings into 3D models
- simulation tests
- visualization designs
- reverse engineering
- recreating parts drawings that no longer exist
- parts revision and updates
- as-built modeling
- and similar activities
Product design and innovation should be an engineer’s primary focus. Keeping the engineer focused on these activities shortens the time to develop and launch a product. Moreover, when engineers are focused on their primary job function, the products that they design usually have more and better features, as well as higher levels of quality.
Companies that have found a way to augment the innovation process with a strategy that enables greater productivity are more successful than those that haven’t. This greater productivity is often a matter of being open to innovative ideas, technology, tools and systems that support product development. What are some of the first things that companies should consider?
Define Your Challenges
Before you can implement a strategy for improving efficiency and innovation, you have to review what you’re currently doing, as well as how you’re doing it. For most companies, product development involves these steps:
- Determination of the customers’ needs
- Brain-storming and idea production
- Managing requirements
- Initial Visualization/Prototyping
- Securing contracts and sales commitments
- Designing a producable product
- CAD drawings
- 3D models
- Visualization and testing
- Preparation for manufacturing
- Bills of material
- Parts lists
- Component management
- Quality control
Many companies address the complexity of this process by pursuing a broad mix software tools and systems. This broad mix of tools results in an overall strategy that is not coherent, resulting in complexity of data, tasks and process exchange. PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) attempts to address these issues. Often, turning to PLM results in the need for data translation from one CAD system to another, an activity that puts additional pressure on engineers, removing them further from their core job function.
Companies that desire a smooth transition to PLM often find that outsourcing the data translation process and other non-design CAD functions speed the transition.
For help with your CAD translation, PLM conversion or other CAD services, contact CAD / CAM Services — 30 years of professional CAD outsourcing.