The Pressures Companies Face
First lets take a step back and look into the pressures driving the need to improve the engineering design process. A detailed study was conducted by Aberdeen Group on more than 400 companies to determine what the leading pressures are in their industry.
Leading Pressure for Companies
The need to launch products quickly, and customer demand for lower costs are the top pressures that most companies face today. The company’s need to launch products quickly to market is no surprise, as releasing a product ahead of the competition allows companies to bring in revenue and recoup development costs before the competition releases similar products.
The customer’s demand for lower cost and high quality is growing, especially during the countries recovering economy, so customers are carefully considering what they spend their money on, in hopes of having a higher ROI for their purchase. These criteria add complexity to the design process, especially when complying with industry standards and regulations.
Balancing these demands with competitive release schedule makes it clear that improving the engineering design process is a necessary objective. To acquire this balance, improved workflow and the flexibility to quickly analysis different designs to make cost and quality trade-off decisions is a must. The more effective CAD software can promote a better design process and allow companies to take advantage of new market opportunities.
Obstacles That Reduce Design Efficiency
A plethora of design challenges impeded and sometimes prevent companies from balancing conflicting design goals in time to exploit market opportunities. The figure below shows the top design challenges companies face during their engineering design process.
Engineering Design Process Obstacles
The top obstacle for companies is that projects frequently have design changes throughout the entire process. Design parameters are quite frequently changed during development to accommodate functions and situations that weren't original part thought about.
This results from poor insight into how assemblies interact or problems with manufacturability. Frequent changes to design parameters impede the design process as designer abandon previous work and focus on new methods to fix the new accommodations. The later that these changes occur in the design process, the more difficult it can be to remedy these accommodations. However, if the information is not released correctly to manufacturing it can result in wasted time, higher cost, and increased product wasted.
Design Process Improvement Using CAD
To see how companies successfully used CAD to support their design process efficiency, the Aberdeen Report documented performance of participants and categorized them as Best-In-Class, Industry Average, of Laggard (bottom percentile of companies). Five key performance identifiers were used to measure the success of pressures driving companies to improve their engineering design process.
Pressures Met within Companies
Best-In-Class had a high level a success, meeting around 90% on all pressures met. They balanced its design process goals with the conflicting pressures that companies commonly face. Industry Average companies hovered around 80% succession, while laggard struggled to meet their targets.
Best-In-Class demonstrated that effectively using CAD software in their design process had reduced development time by 30% since their last CAD implementation. This is double the improvement realized by Industry Average companies. Laggard have seen no change in development time following their latest CAD implementation.
Development Time Change
All participating companies have seen some performance improvement since their last CAD implementation. However, Best-In-Class experience far great in return through improving their engineering design process. These include reduction in overall product costs, development costs, and average time to implement an engineering change order. The figure below shows which areas performance improved for each category.
Company Performance Improvements
Design Constraints and Managing Design Configurations
You may be asking yourself right now, why is the Best-In-Class companies getting a better return vs. the others if they all implemented the same CAD solution? The report identified many areas where the best companies used CAD to improve efficiency that was overlooked by their competitors.
The first area was design constraints and managing design configurations that are automatically enforced by the CAD software.
CAD Enforced Constraints
- They established standard design rules and constraints, allowing them to design within their known limit. By involving manufacturing in the design process, their knowledge and expertise can prevent assemblies from being designed that cannot be manufactured.
- They also developed configuration rules to automate the creation of new features and parts. Developing standard design rules allows engineers to automatically build features based on parameters inputted. By automating the features across different configurations, this capability sped up the design process and reduces the need to redo work already done.
Planning for Large and Complex Assemblies
The larger and more complex the assembly can result in costly delays and impact product quality. By preparing for complex assemblies the Best-In-Class placed themselves ahead of their competitors. The goal here was to effectively plan from the start and equipping engineers with institutional learning.
Accounting for Complex Assembly
- They started by developing a design process by creating a rough reference model.
- Further, they planned assemblies from the top down for each part in the model. Using the references during the design phase planning. Each design is then developed using the rough version of the final assembly as a benchmarker. This allows flexibility into the model so that changes can be made easily as the design evolves.
- They are also likely to participate more in best practices in standard design rules and guidelines, compared to their competitors. This permits all designers to build from the collective experience and learning of the company.
Poor modeling practices can result in models that can be difficult to change without losing references or causing total model failures. This causes delays in the design process and elongates the time needed to take the product to market. Standard company guidelines also ensure consistency across models, which further ensures products remain with constraints and quality goals.
Improving Design Process with CAD
Changing to any CAD tool does not mean that you can expect improvements by simply purchasing the software. Improvement was achieved with CAD software through improvements to a better engineering design process. You can expect improvements by changing CAD programs, but to get similar results, as the Best-In-Class, your company needs advance their design process further.
Improvements can be seen if your existing CAD software has noticeable and set limitations that other softwares on the market do not suffer from. Companies that implement the right capabilities and employ them effectively can expect to see performance improvements on par with the Best-In-Class.
Do you think your existing design process has room for improvement? What would you like to see implemented better in your engineering design to see productivity improvements?