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How Design Automation helps Metal Fabricators Reduce Manufacturing Costs

Published on March 19, 2022
How Design Automation helps Metal Fabricators Reduce Manufacturing Costs

Design iterations, customization, and communication gaps add significantly to manufacturing costs. Design automation helps navigate these challenges by eliminating delays and ensuring accuracy in fabrication drawings and sales quotes.

Addressing customization is critical for industries like metal fabrication. Any small tooling error or mistake can have cascading effects and ruin budgets. For manufacturers and fabricators, design automation solves mass customization challenges by accelerating lead times and optimizing cost and quality.

Pain points for metal fabricators when adopting customization

Some customization complaints we hear all the time from our clients:

“Our design teams take forever to create drawings. And without updated drawings on the shop floor, project timelines keep getting pushed ahead. Even after investing several hours, design errors still remain.” – Global Design Head, Retail Store Furniture Manufacturer, Europe

“My sales team is out in the field selling products that my shop floor can’t manufacture. Fixing this takes another week, and the customer is disappointed!” – Project Engineer, Tank Manufacturer, USA

“Every customer wants a different kitchen look. Calculating costs for customized products is crazy. We can’t share accurate quotes at such short notice!” – Project Manager, Hydraulics Equipment Manufacturer, Australia

Elongated Customization Process

All of the above translate to time-taking customization processes that impact speed, quality and cost of manufacturing.

Two ways to automate engineering designs to enhance fabrication efficiencies

Design automation controls manufacturing costs by addressing mass customization

From a manufacturer’s perspective, customization means creating variants of the same product with distinct looks and features. While most of the primary designs and rules of creating the product remain the same, the customer gets the control to define parameters like dimensions, size, color, finish, etc. to increase end-user participation in the design process.

Automates repetitive design tasks to save time and, hence, cost

With sheet metal products such as retail store shelves, you can create a box-shaped structure and other features such as compartments, accessories etc. can be added later. This increases the total design time with increased project cost.

automates repetitive design tasks

But if we analyze these shelves, almost all of them are fundamentally the same – a basic box-shaped structure with accessories. Design automation leverages this intelligence by creating a master model once and setting up rules to customize it later. You don’t have to spend time creating models and getting approvals each time.

Even your customers can directly create different cabinets with different input choices of the number of shelves, doors, closure, handles, veneers, etc. The customer can get a 3D model within a few clicks, finalize the design, and deliver accurate manufacturing drawings to meet predefined timelines.

DriveWorks design automation accelerates engineering lead time for furniture manufacturer

One of our clients, a European furniture manufacturer, had a range of furniture products and their main issue was that every drawing was documented in 2D. These AutoCAD files were difficult to interpret during customization, as they lacked design comprehension. To eliminate these challenges, we implemented DriveWorks to develop customized product design models.

It resulted in:

  • Faster engineering lead times and lower project costs
  • Addressal of DFM needs during sheet metal modeling
  • Customized designs passed nearly all prototype tests

By automating repetitive design tasks, fabricators can eliminate time spent in designing and push the design to the shop floor faster. Faster fabrication directly lowers the overall costs per product. Also, since every design is generated through automated rules and verified parameters, quality assurance is of the highest level and spares you from reworks.

Reduces material waste and brings down total project expenses

Many a time, sales teams end up overselling customizations to satisfy customers. At times these are beyond the metal fabrication capabilities of the shop. To meet delivery orders, design engineers are forced to spend additional metal sheets and correspondingly incur higher costs to meet new customizations.

Reduces material waste

A product configurator developed using design automation rules, on the other hand, syncs the entire workflow and provides a central collaborative platform. It can integrate with your business systems like ERP, CLM, CRM, and CAD platforms for seamless coordination between sales and engineering.

Once the order is confirmed, either by the sales team or the customer, the configurator releases manufacturing drawings and documents immediately. Simultaneously, it also readies the nesting reports for metal sheets to ensure optimum use of raw materials.

You can save 100s of design hours with product configurators

Quick and accurate quotation for sales to set pricing

In sheet metal product fabrication, customer inputs and design changes are very common until fabrication starts. But configurators with integrated CAD platforms have provisions for incorporating last-minute changes. Since all customizations are from pre-approved rules and constraints, they don’t need to pass through approvals and custom prices can be auto-calculated.

Quick and accurate quotation

Logical rules built into the design automation platforms like DriveWorks prevent sales reps from making sub-optimal pricing or costly errors. This reduces product return rates, lower chargebacks, and higher customer satisfaction.

Through configurators, sales reps have updated information about raw materials, machine occupancy and capabilities, pricing, parts availability, etc. The customer gets realistic product expectations with delivery dates and the sales team sells only what their machines can make.

Pressure tank manufacturer cuts quotation cycle time with DriveWorks configurator

A pressure vessel manufacturer was on the verge of losing orders unless it could shorten quotation cycles. TrueCADD’s DriveWorks specialists developed a sheet metal tank configurator for the client to allow their customers to select accessories and specify mounting, features, etc. BOMs for the customized order along with sales quote and 3D model was displayed on the screen to update the customer.

It helped the manufacturer achieve:

  • Elimination of lengthy quotation cycles
  • Automation of pricing calculations to achieve 100% accuracy
  • Reduction in error ratio per customization

Need for design automation in the coming times

As the manufacturing industry embraces data connectivity for machines and robotic processes for manufacturing, the shop floor operations have become quick and accurate. To meet these needs, fabricators need to feed 100% accurate drawings to CNC machines at a rate that is demanded by the shop floor.

At the same time, customers need a touch of personalization for all their products. Traditional design methods fall short in meeting timelines and accuracy to address both these needs.

Design automation through logical rules, macros and product configurators help manufacturers meet the shop floor needs rising from a smart factory. It is, in fact, the first step to gear up for smart factor needs.

Read how to leverage DriveWorks to reduce manufacturing lead times

Automating designs for faster and efficient fabrication is the way forward

Design automation frees up engineers’ time that is usually spent in repetitive modeling and drafting tasks. These tasks not only consume time but also increase overall manufacturing costs by spending metal sheets for testing new customizations.

By implementing design automation, your teams can reprioritize their energy and channelize it for more productive work like new design development. It can visibly accelerate metal fabrication processes on the shop floor and help manage resources better. The effects can be seen across the company with reduced overall manufacturing costs.

Author Ketan Panchal

About Author: is TrueCADD's design manager, overseeing strategy, development and implementation of design automation solutions. Proficient and well-versed in the automation domain, Ketan focusses to help manufacturing companies pivot to innovative technology solutions to simplify complex engineering projects.

Author Usha B. Trivedi

About Author: is a mechanical design engineer at TrueCADD – a company invested in industrial CAD drafting, modeling, and design automation. Ms. Trivedi writes about solution finding approach in CAD and design automation challenges backed by her years of exploration in industrial designing in furniture, millwork, and metal fabrication designs.

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