Seattle, WA--For all the benefits that CAD has brought to the engineering world, it alone does not hold the key to every manufacturer's challenge: how to get better products to market faster and on budget.
"There are plenty of great engineering tools out there," notes Brian Seitz, worldwide engineering industry manager for Microsoft. "The big challenge is integrating them properly to speed development time."
Seeing that Microsoft has created the environments to make such integration easier, such as Windows 95 and Windows NT, Seitz's mission is to find and promote examples of how companies are harnessing diverse software tools for more efficient product development. Seitz likes to talk about "the engineer's total desktop," in which CAD is responsible for only about 20% of computer work time. Other major elements of the desktop include:
Analysis tools, such as finite element analysis, cost analysis, value engineering, design for assembly, and house of quality.
Engineering support systems, including PDM/EDM, workflow, decision support, project management, and concurrent engineering tools.
Administrative tasks, ranging from wordprocessing and spreadsheets to presentation and communications tools.
In the opinion of Seitz, who had considerable experience in computer-integrated manufacturing and systems engineering with Rockwell and IBM, companies have a long way to go in this quest for smoother integration of their computer tools. He believes there is far too much waste of engineering time and resources. That's of particular concern, given the mounting burdens on engineers today. The average design team is now working on 80% more projects annually than it was a decade ago, according to the 1997 Study of the Design Engineering Universe from the Simmons Market Research Bureau.
Seitz, of course, isn't the only one worrying about the twin problems of making engineering software easier to use and share. Rosetta Technologies, based in Beaverton, OR, has enjoyed skyrocketing growth of more than 650% over the last five years selling product data imaging software. Regardless of the computer platform or software used to generate a 3-D drawing, Rosetta's PreVIEW software lets a wide range of professionals -- manufacturing engineers, marketing, purchasing agents, suppliers, customers--view the drawing, extract information, and make notations.
The big benefit, says company co-founder Kenneth Vartanian, is to shorten design iterations and enhance manufacturability. Customers include many of the world's OEM kingpins: Xerox, Lockheed Martin, Allied Signal, TRW, IBM, Pitney Bowes, ABB, and Johnson Controls. Because the use of such software crosses into so many different disciplines, Vartanian notes that its adoption is clearly an "enterprise-wide decision," one that reflects sharp changes in a company's whole manufacturing culture.
Still another element in this integration drive is what Microsoft's Seitz calls the "electronic cocktail napkin," extremely easy-to-use drawing packages that allow a wider range of people beyond CAD specialists to add their input to design concepts. Such products include Intergraph's Imagineer and Visio Corp.'s Visio Technical. For example, the new 5.0 version of Visio Technical offers 2000 predrawn industry-specific shapes that automate drawings for fluid power, HVAC, and electrical engineering applications.
Such trends show that software is moving well beyond the race to introduce the most sophisticated 3-D CAD package.