Increasing Product Development Agility with Data and Automation

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“Get me the latest drawings!” 

Did you ever hear this phrase shouted around your workplace? Even when you know that the latest design and engineering information is saved on the server where it should be? 

When we can’t trust the data we are working with, it slows us down. We have to double check to make sure that the data we have is correct—and current. Typically, this means multiple formal and informal coordination meetings with the data originator and anyone who significantly influenced the data along the way. 

In a crisis, there simply isn’t time to manually compile this audit trail, leading to late nights at the office and, potentially, unsatisfied customers. 

How can we increase our ability to respond to change, while improving our colleagues’ trust that the design and engineering data they have is correct and current? Even better: how can we use data and automation together to do this in a reduced design cycle time? 

“Using integrated solutions like the Product Design & Manufacturing Collection allows us to reduce our design time by half. We’re not repeating work, which is a big time savings. If we have standard projects that use components from the library, we can minimize engineering time as well. On top of that, we’re eliminating the risk of losing time correcting errors because we’re all using accurate data.” 

Assaad Hani, Business Analyst, Technica International 

Data management and collaboration 

Agility means being able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. This can be difficult when you are dancing on the shifting sands of unreliable data. 

Data management is at the heart of engineering agility. A product data management system (PDM) keeps your design and engineering CAD files in order and provides permission controls so only the right people see the right data at the right time. 

This reduction in administration frees up the time you need to assess new information and helps you to communicate changes in design—without concern that releasing new information will cause confusion. 

The power of Autodesk Vault is its ability to share correct, current data securely with your entire organization, including the tools needed to view, measure, and interrogate CAD files. How much time could you save if you simply had fewer interruptions from non-CAD users who need information from the 3D design model? 

If you’re looking for a great resource to learn more about implementing Vault, check out Lauren Drotar’s class, What You Need to Know Before You Go: Tips and Tricks for Transitioning to Vault

How about stakeholders from outside your organization? An easy way to share 3D CAD data is through the Shared Views feature. A Shared View can be viewed, marked up, or commented on using a web browser. The viewable data is limited to what you want to show, and it does not give the viewer access to your CAD files.  

Mike Thomas of Prairie Machine walks us through the process in his AU class, Get More Out of Your Connected Vault Professional

Is that enough? For many companies, collaboration runs deeper. Design work is often shared across multiple companies, requiring collaboration around a single shared 3D CAD model. 

Sharing CAD files with a vendor or customer sounds like it could save a lot of design work, but it can also create a lot of administrative work when design files from outside your organisation are updated. This process needs to be managed. 

In their AU class, Joshua Wilson and Carlos Caminos of Bridgestone Americas share how they implemented Autodesk Vault with Project Sync and Fusion team to maintain a secure collaborative working environment while reducing bottlenecks and time spent wrangling vendor data. 

Data management supports agility in product design by improving trust, automating administration, reducing time spent providing or clarifying information, and freeing up time to focus on the value you add—design and engineering. 

Design automation 

Creating a 3D CAD model of your design can be a time-consuming process. Thankfully you have a lot of experience in the design and manufacture of your companies’ products. If you could only explain these rules to the computer, you could save yourself a lot of time! 

Automation of engineering design takes many forms—from the use of templates and model libraries to speed up 3D CAD modelling to the use of design accelerators to automatically calculate fasteners, gears, and drives. 

Thom Tremblay’s AU class, Better Machine Design with Inventor Design Accelerators, is a great place to find out more. 

In addition to automating modelling, engineering processes can also be automated using iLogic, the integrated rule engine in Autodesk Inventor. 

iLogic can be used to automate repetitive tasks, such as ensuring drawing title blocks are filled out correctly, or to capture engineering knowledge in the form of configurable designs.  

You can try out some examples of iLogic in action for yourself using the resources from this hands-on lab, Five Autodesk Inventor iLogic Productivity Hacks for Non-Programmers, led by Paul Munford. 

Beyond engineering, the logic that you’ve built into your configurable design model can be repurposed to become a sales tool, or even a customer-facing web configurator, safe in the knowledge that colleagues or customers cannot choose configurations that are unmanufacturable.  

Providing the opportunity to configure designs within design engineering parameters can speed up the time it takes to provide a quote to your customers, improve quote accuracy, and reduce the engineering time spent supporting sales inquiries. 

 You’ll find some good examples in the AU class, Shorten Lead Times by Integrating Design Automation in Downstream Processes, led by Peter van Avondt and Sven Dickmans. 

CAD standards, standard operating procedures, templates, libraries, dedicated applications, and iLogic help you to automate your design engineering process so you and your team can work more efficiently and create time to focus on innovation—and imagination. 

Automating design process management 

Improving data management and automating design engineering processes can get you a long way along the path to an agile product development process. 

How much time do you spend compiling design information for other teams in your company? 

Coordination meetings, progress reports, enquires—how much more could you get done if you had fewer interruptions? 

Design engineering data is at the heart of the product development process. When the information you provide is easily available to your colleagues, the impact on productivity is undeniable. 

So how can we automate the process of passing on data to downstream colleagues? Could we send out automated alerts so that next person in line knows that new information is available? Could we capture this data in a project dashboard, so that progress can be monitored—without taking up our time? 

 You can gain insight into Giancarlo Caldarella and Samuele Gallazzi’s journey with the De Nora Group as they implemented Autodesk Vault for data management and Fusion manage for product lifecycle management (PLM) in, A Corporate PLM Journey: The Case of De Nora Deploying Vault PLM Worldwide

Learn more about agile product development 

To continue learning how design engineers like you are using automation and data to reduce administration overhead and free up time for innovation, checkout these playlists of classes from AU, the design and make conference: 

For additional free resources for designers and engineers, including case studies and software training, visit our Design & Engineering page