It wasn’t that long ago that designing in CAD was nothing more than drawing lines on a screen, rather than on paper. A lot has improved since then, but it’s time for the next step. With CAD/Design automation, you’ll benefit from some great advantages and beat your competitors in many areas. In this blog, you’ll learn what CAD automation is, why you want it and what the benefits are. We also share practical examples, the problems CAD automation solves and what pitfalls there are.
CAD automation is the process of automatically generating CAD models from the configuration process. It promotes innovation in your team of engineers and supports sales by providing accurate product drawings. An important condition is that you use the configure to order method, at least partially. If this is not the case, and you use the engineer to order method, then you are literally designing a product that does not yet exist, and that can never be automated.
Engineers are hard to find these days. And if you find them at all, they probably have little desire to perform simple data entry tasks. Yet that’s what they’ll have to deal with if you don’t get started with CAD automation. Your engineers spend an unnecessary amount of time manually copying data from the configuration process. With CAD automation, this process is automated, allowing your engineers to focus on more complex issues.
If you use CAD automation, you will experience a number of interesting benefits.
As mentioned above, CAD automation reduces the amount of repetitive and manual work your engineer has to do. At the same time, by opting for CAD automation you are also opting for configure to order, and therefore modular construction of your products or machines. This makes the design process much more efficient, because your engineers don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. Moreover, within a modular structure there is still enough room for customization for your customers, so everyone gets what he wants.
In the transfer between CAD drawing and production, a lot of mistakes can be made. This disappears when you choose CAD automation. The necessary output data linked to 3D models are automatically transferred to production. So orders for certain operations no longer need to be passed on manually. This not only saves time, but also ensures uniformity and an easily repeatable process. It becomes predictable and the necessary knowledge and logic is easy to log and replicate. This, in turn, ensures that new employees are more quickly settled in and that no mistakes are made at all in this process.
Configuring a product may still be sequential now. From customer it goes to salesman, to sales engineer, to engineer and the whole way back again. This process is extremely time consuming and unnecessarily prone to errors. Thanks to CAD automation you can combine all this into one process, allowing your customer to see his drawing while he is sitting down with your salesperson.
When it comes to CAD automation in practice, the possibilities for integration are basically endless. So is the integration between CPQ software and Autodesk Inventor. Suppose you make conveyor belts, then you can very well specify in Inventor that there must be a support leg for every meter or that the frame must be reinforced if more than 50 kilos per meter is transported. By linking Inventor to Elfsquad you can retrieve this information during the configuration with your customer and fill it in, after which you immediately have a 3D model. Your sales rep can immediately show your customer what his configuration looks like, and your customer knows exactly what he can expect. Compare that to your competitor, who draws a machine on the back of a napkin, so to speak, and where the configuration has to go back and forth between the customer and the engineer several times. You’ve won that battle anyway.
Whether you’re an engineer reading this and fearing for your job, or an employer expecting to save money by laying off a few engineers, hold your horses!
CAD automation is primarily an opportunity to make better use of your engineers’ capacity. Instead of configuring customer specific orders, CAD automation gives your engineers time to do what they are really good at: R&D and modularization of your other products. This not only makes your work more fun, but also more useful: you have time to keep up with market demands, while your competitors have to pull out all the stops to keep up…
For the engineers among themselves, CAD automation also has the advantage of recording more logic. This makes it easier to exchange projects, which is nice in case of absence or illness.
Getting started with CAD automation is easy: you first look at the end result. That means you first consider what you will need on a shop drawing, a production drawing or in an ERP system. At Elfsquad we always recommend starting with some kind of “standard product”: for example, start with one of your best sellers, automate that and take out the options that are hardly ever chosen. This will force you to think about modularity and allow you to test and finetune the process regularly.
Pitfalls exist too, but fortunately they are simple to avoid. For example, you may want to make all your products modular right away, but that’s just not realistic. So don’t. Another possible problem is that your engineers are not eager to participate because they fear for their jobs. You’ve already read that there’s no need for that, so all you have to do is show them how much more enjoyable their work will be.
Also, don’t forget that your templates will still need maintenance. Automating doesn’t mean you never have to look at them again. Finally, CAD automation and modular work is not something you do as a side project, so take your time. Elfsquad makes it a lot easier to make the possibilities visible quickly, so shall we take the first step together?
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