January 19, 1998 Design News
DESIGN NEWS EDITORIAL
Beyond the tools
Paul E. Teague
CAD and finite element analysis (FEA) are critical
tools for design engineers. CAD programs enable them
to, among other things, quickly and easily try different
approaches to solving design problems. FEA software
helps engineers determine design fitness--whether the
product will break--without the time and expense of
Virtually all CAD and FEA vendors offer training to
their customers to ensure they get the most out of the
software. Many do more. Besides having a consulting
arm, SDRC, for example, has stationed more than 100
applications engineers at Ford to help that company
implement I-DEAS software. EDS Unigraphics has assigned
applications engineers to help General Motors implement
its software, and offers all customers a VPD (Virtual
Product Development) assessment to see if companies
have the right processes for realizing the fullest benefits
CoCreate's consultative approach includes customizing
its software for specific customers, teaching them how
to customize it, running seminars, and sharing best
practices. Parametric Technology Corp., too, provides
design assistance. In fact, its Pro/ENGINE software
helps automotive engineers get the best out of its software.
Algor publishes books to help its customers and others
get the most out of finite element analysis.
Perhaps no one goes further than The MacNeal-Schwendler
MSC views the strategic services it provides customers
as one of its biggest strengths, says Ken Blakely, Vice
President of the company's aerospace business unit.
Those services include, among other things, process
audits, seminars, software customization, and advice
on improving the engineering process. MSC started providing
those services to aerospace companies, and has expanded
them to automotive companies, too. "We can do that
because we're organized by industry, and because we
have experience in those industries," Blakely says.
Recently, MSC worked with Boeing Commercial on a process
audit, studying everything from the way the company's
engineers compute external loads to the way they prepare
and deliver FAA certification reports. MSC engineers
interviewed more than 70 Boeing employees, and, interestingly
enough, only about five of them are users of MSC products.
"Everyone in aerospace has the same MSC tools,"
says the company's Mark Kenyon. "The real competitive
advantage is in how you use the tools.