CAD engineers aren't just doing CAD anymore. While engineers take on more project management roles, the CAD designs in which they formerly invested their time are being created with technology that doesn't even require an engineer's participation at all. The upshot: Engineers escape from the mundane task of updating CAD drawings and instead spend valuable time on tasks such as new product development.
That's what Sun Hydraulics (www.sunhydraulics.com), a designer and manufacturer of high-performance screw-in hydraulic cartridge, valves, and manifolds, is doing. The Sarasota, FL-based company is implementing technology from QSSolutions-Engineered Systems Group (www.qssolutions.com) that creates full assemblies from bills of material.
Sun Hydraulics' 20,000 different permutations of cartridges and 4,500 different manifolds convert to more than 20 million possible assembly combinations. "Engineering can't draw 20 million designs," says Jody Hubbard, e-business and project manager for the Sun Hydraulics team implementing the technology.
But Iced*CAD can. By the beginning of 2004, Sun Hydraulics customers will be able to go online and create a bill of materials, and then buy their assembly through distribution. "They will see a drawing of the completed assembly, which they have never been able to do before," she says. Hubbard notes that the assemblies will be gradually added to the website over time.
Thomas Kelly, president of Royal Oak, MI-based QSSolutions-Engineered Systems Group, says that Iced*CAD is "perfect for a company that has lots of variations on components." He adds that the ideal customer has an ERP system in place and has its components already in a 3D format. "One of the core goals that we had for Iced*CAD was to free up the engineer from doing non-value-added drawings for customers," Kelly says.
Iced*CAD reads the parts list from an assembly bill of material residing in a company's manufacturing system database, pulls the individual component drawings, and intelligently assembles the components on the fly in a company's CAD system using the program's existing APIs. It is fully integrated with Pro/E, Autodesk Inventor, and Solidworks, and works with any MCAD program with public APIs, Kelly says. When Iced*CAD creates an assembly from the CAD component library, it also creates the instructions for that assembly for the shop floor worker to follow. Kelly says this is one reason why communication between engineering and the shop floor is crucial.
"When a company gets into the implementation of the technology, it's fairly straightforward but the engineers on the shop floor need to communicate very clearly," Kelly says. "There are generally two sets of drawings, but now both the engineering and the shop floor set become one. So there are no drawings sitting on a shelf in red binders anymore," he adds.
For Sun Hydraulics, the potential benefits have yet to be realized. Hubbard says the technology will allow the company to grow without adding resources and will cut the workload ten-fold by reducing the amount of work done in CAD.
"Our desire is to let the engineers work on the development of new products as well as updating existing products, rather than chasing problems on the shop floor or updating existing drawings," Hubbard explains. "We wanted a way to enter the changes once and have everything current both on the shop floor and to the customer."