PLM research: Engineers spend significant time on manual CAD repair

Studies show that users seldom get all they can from CAD and PLM deployments. Breaking out of silos and using functions saves engineering time.

By Control Engineering Staff December 11, 2008

Survey shows few companies achieve full potential benefits of PLM systems. Results include information in silos, poor communication between engineering and production, and engineers cleaning up CAD data manually. Solutions to solve the problems are available.

Longview Advisors , in a recent survey of 538 discrete manufacturing professionals, finds persistent inefficiencies in design data handling, even though effective solutions are available. The 2008 Collaboration & Interoperability Market Report includes results and analysis from Longview’s fourth annual survey, along with articles on related industry topics. Download the report .

“The survey shows a large portion of companies reporting ongoing CAD migration projects,” says Longview Advisor president David Prawel. “Last year, our study showed the CAD migration market of software and services is about $5.7 billion this year.”

Another key finding in the industry best practices survey indicate that engineers are spending an average of 3 to 10 hours per week fixing CAD data, but only a third of them are using data translation tools. Yet, 45% of respondents who do use third-party translation software indicate that the applications give satisfactory results better than 75% of the time.

“This brings up the question: with so many engineers spending so many hours in wasteful cleanup of CAD data, why are so few companies using data exchange tools, especially if the applications show effectiveness?” asks Prawel. “In this age of lean thinking, why squander valuable engineering resources by working on problems that technology is proven to address fairly well? These are the questions manufacturers should think hard about. Decreasing manual CAD data repair would free talented people to innovate more, build better quality products customers want, and beat their competition.”

The free annual publication compiles results in subjects like data exchange practices, preferred platforms and formats, 3D data handling and deployment processes, tool requirements matching, CAD translation effectiveness, and other related topics.

Longview has also issued a new whitepaper, “The Advent of Visual Manufacturing,” that examines how 3D visualization technology can play a profitable role in improving interoperability and communication between engineering and production. Download the whitepaper .

In the whitepaper, Prawel suggests that almost every large manufacturing enterprise has a gap between engineering and production– in terms of open communication and in compatibility between different automated systems the departments use. The strategic vision of a data system that spans the gap and the entire lifecycle of a product (product lifecycle management), is rarely achieved in actual practice.

Product data management systems make CAD files the main currency in tracking and exchanges of project workflow. Prawel writes, “Too often critical data is held captive in regional or divisional silos — inaccessible to typically thousands more people who could benefit from it.” He examines a new alternative, that of 3D visualization platforms, which are easier for production personnel to use than traditional CAD applications, calling this new deployment of 3D data in downstream processes “the paradigm of visual manufacturing.”

Prawel explores two business cases of manufacturers who cast a larger net over their processes with the use of lightweight visualization data as the means of communications within production departments, and between production and engineering. He writes, “Visual manufacturing supports the complete and comprehensive manufacturing process. All the required data flows freely as needed between and among the people who need it (and who are authorized to see it), enabling fast decision making and standard, more efficient workflow.”

To bring these theories down to earth, CIMdata , another PLM consulting and research firm, haspublished a new review of Siemens’ PLM Software’s Velocity series portfolio. This review provides an overall description of the market dynamics that drive mid-market companies to invest in PLM, along with CIMdata’s assessment of the Velocity program, and a brief review of experiences from a number of Velocity partners. The paper provides a perspective on the program since its inception, its current status, and observations about its progress. This is an assessment of the entire Velocity program and is not focused on any individual component of it.

Ed Miller, president of CIMdata explains, “To become more effective, more innovative, and more successful, businesses around the world are investing in PLM at increasing levels.” He adds that while PLM has been implemented mostly by the world’s larger organizations, “Mid-sized enterprises, faced with the same challenges as larger organizations, are turning to PLM to improve their competitiveness. While the need is similar, the solutions and approaches that are required vary.”

Also read: Whitepaper tips and tricks: Product data management systems ready for small, medium companies .

– Edited by Peter Welander, senior editor Control Engineering News Desk Register here and scroll down to select your choice of eNewsletters free .