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With PLM; Take Early Design To Fabrication & Manage Complexities

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Stepping up through design changes, updates, innovative products and launching them in market is a crucial competitive stage for every manufacturer. Just being early in the market is not enough; the products need to mesh with the market requirements. The need to incorporate latest innovations and being first in the market is compelling manufacturers to sail through the iterative design procedure quicker, and on to a full accelerated production stage. While iterative designs can be easily dealt with CAD; managing complexity still is a challenge, throughout.

Today, design complexity is the new normal. In the race to innovate and maintain market leadership, the business of product design and development prior to fabrication is characterized by several factors. Some of them include, need to reach the markets early, overwhelming flow of design data set, increased risks, fluctuating customer demands and trending technology adaptation. When all this is added to cost pressure and interdependence, managing complexity in designs becomes a major challenge.

“Twenty first century will be the ‘century of complexities”, says Stephen Hawking, infamous scientist.
In an era of complexity, manufacturers are turning to Product Life Cycle Management [PLM] and CAD tools to streamline their strategies and have a coherent transition between various stages of product development. PLM caters collaboration between the design and manufacturing teams with the outside resources like suppliers & contractors. With PLM, data related to product design, can be managed in CAD software within engineering and other departments. In essence, PLM integrates people, assets, processes and systems in a way that forms backbone of product data. With PLM, managing product related tasks is not limited to existing products, but the benefits extend to New Product Development & Information [NPDI] related decisions as well.

In a single information file, PLM enables the manufacturing company to manage all the information concerning the product and spread it downstream of their supply chain. It enables the entire set of processes, for product development, to be managed; from concept evolution to the finished product. 

Does PLM have any direct benefit to manufacturers?

More so in today’s prevailing environment, accelerating innovation and launching successful new products is at the center of importance for manufacturers. The legacy of these manufacturers of serial, fragmented, and at times some paper based documentation related to product make the companies suffer; especially when a new product development task is undertaken.

PLM integrates various aspects [viz. mechanical and electrical] of designs in a single system and empowers manufacturers to develop agility with the volatile markets.

Upon developing 3D CAD models in CAD software like SolidWorks, they can directly be stored and acted upon as a database for securing information of the product, helpful in PLM. Usually, these prototypes are developed for conceptualization, & expedition of new product development can be directly employed for PLM purposes.

Using PLM with CAD reports and updates any changes made, and flags them accordingly. When there are changes in designs, their effects on Bill of Materials – BOMs are directly reflected in the CAD models, thus; helping to route the changes directly to stakeholders for approval. While in the initial design stages, these changes are smaller and concerns only engineering discipline, but as the product gradually moves along the production path, it concerns people from different disciplines such as purchasing and manufacturing and the scope of product grows.

Like CAD programs and spreadsheets enable tracking of design alterations; changes in purchasing, planning and manufacturing can be tracked with PLM. This ensures that everyone onboard is updated with changes and enables product data management. PLM deals not only with the changes, but also aims at maximizing the profitability at each stage of lifecycle for manufacturers through effective management, documentation and decision.

“Manufacturers are of the opinion that, PLM reduces cycle time by 10-20%, cost of material by 2-4%, reduces rework & waste up to 30-40% and improves productivity by 20-40%.”

The numbers are really encouraging and the proof that bottom line of PLM is to reduce the time to market and strengthen regulatory regimes. Speaking of regulations, most PLM suites include a variety of standards and help the design organization maintain ISO 9001 standards by meeting Restriction of Hazardous Substances [RoHS].

Cutting the long story short, CAD models when extended to PLM takes early design to fabrication easily with a smooth transition at every stage.

To suffice, PLM offers helps in following areas when designs start to grow:

  • Drive innovation in CAD designs on a unified platform
  • Accelerate design cycle for NPDI
  • Shortens time-to-market
  • Single file source for thorough product information
  • Ensure regulatory compliances

PLM thus supports product development all the way to manufacturing however, the first step to enable product management is to develop a 3D CAD model with CAD design tools or simply convert an existing 2D draft [or conceptual sketches or pdf files] to 3D model using CAD conversion features. PLM takes design essentials of manufacturing from CAD and makes the task easier during assembly and installation of components.

About the Author: Gaurang Trivedi is engineering consultant at TrueCADD. Besides, donning multiple hats, as a website manager and marketing in charge, he also oversees the editorial content, coordinating and managing the website, its news sections, blogs and social media promotions as well.