How do I shorten the lead time of engineering?

Order engineering of complex products is somewhat old-fashioned. By automating customer-specific engineering of complex products, human work can be utilized in a much better way. And we will show you how.


One of the most important aspects of the developments within smart industries is the reduced lead time of engineering. Order engineering of complex products is old-fashioned. A lot of human work is required for customizing customer-specific orders. By (largely) automating customer-specific engineering of complex products, human work can be utilized in a much better way.

In this article we will demonstrate the best practises to start reducing your time spent in order engineering. Concludingly, we will demonstrate a workflow in which the lead time of engineering is minimalized.

1.       Define customization and standardization

First of all it is important to clearly imagine which components of the product can be built modularly, so which will eventually be able to be standardized. It is likely your product already sees a lot of standardization, but by staying engineer-to-order the overview is easily lost. Analyze your product and see what really needs to be custom, and which components can be made standard. Custom jobs are no longer seen as measurements or dimensions of a parametric product you are able to produce by the millimeter. Custom jobs are the components of your product where you really have to go back to the drawing table and have to deliver components that you have never built before.

2.       Build a parametric model in CAD

From the CAD program you or your engineers work with, a parametric model needs to be built. By building the model parametrically in CAD, it is possible to automate repeated edits and product parts. This is because the design is set in stone with assistance from functions and restrictions. Changes are directly tweaked in the model, and it is child’s play to group up components.

3.       Integreer CAD met Elfsquad

When using Elfsquad CPQ software, it is possible to let it ‘communicate’ with an integrated CAD program. On the basis of a use case we will demonstrate the application of an integration of CAD with the configurator:

Imagine, your product can be built modularly for 80%, but the last 20% is engineered customer-specifically. After conducting the configuration model in Elfsquad, an assembly is made ready on the server, in a project folder. This assembly consists only of the modular part of your product. Making the assembly ready happens on the basis of a trigger in Elfsquad, for example when a quotation is won. The assembly is then directly made ready in the server. To eventually finish off the assembly (the last 20% that need to be engineered) clear instructions are provided from Elfsquad. For example, this could be a sketch for the pipework of a tank. On the basis of the sketch, the engineer is able to provide the last bit of custom work.

How does the CPQ compare to CRM, ERP, and CAD?

Most questions about integrating CAD with Elfsquad are about the workflow in combination with CRM & ERP. We explain an extremely common workflow, but naturally there is a lot of room to choose the best fitting workflow for your company process.

1.  A sales opportunity in CRM reaches the phase ‘Create invoice’, or a similar phase depending on your CRM package.

2.  The transition to a new status in CRM triggers the configurator. A concept quotation is made and filled with all of the necessary data from CRM.

3.  Next, it is up to the salesman, customer, or dealer to fill the quotation with one or more configuration models. The user rolls out the quotation after filling it in, resulting in the status of the sales opportunity in CRM being triggered and changing to status ‘quotation rolled out’ (or a similar status).

4.   The customer receives the quotation through mail, completely automatically, and can accept it through signing digitally. Accepting the quotation triggers CPQ as well as the CRM, and the status shifts to ‘sold’.

5.  To wrap things up, an assembly is made ready in the server, in a project folder for CAD. The bill of materials that flows out of this (from the configurator or from CAD) is used to feed ERP. Where the stock is updated, and the work preparation for production can begin.

By automating many processes in the way described above, you greatly improve efficiency. Many (human) mistakes, during sales as well as production, can be prevented by working this way.

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