Product Configurator: How did we save 100s of design hours?

Published on February 4, 2021
How did we save 100s of design hours with a product configurator?

With product personalization, heavy investment of time in design customization is inevitable. It results in delays and missed deadlines. Product configurators help eliminate repetitive tasks, save time and accelerate design cycles.

Customers today want to add their imagination to their products. They seek uniqueness in everything they buy. From furniture to industrial equipment, every product user desires to get customized design features for ease and ergonomics.

However, product manufacturers and designers find product personalization challenging. They struggle with iterative design processes taking up hundreds of design hours.

Some challenges that customers face:

  • Lengthy design cycles that emerge as a result of diversified customer base and specific industry needs
  • Organizational silos and broken communication channels increase response time to customer enquires
  • Long hours in developing detailed drawings as per strict industry regulations.

The key to overcome lengthy and time-consuming design phases is cutting modeling, drafting and approval times using a product configurator.

There are a numerous companies invested in design automation research and many other manufacturing companies adopting it at various levels of the custom product engineering value chain. At TrueCADD, we have implemented design automation using various automated tools like DriveWorks, Inventor iLogic and configuration360, and other MS Excel based configurators.

Our automation engineers can save 70% cycle times by cutting down design cycle time to few minutes which otherwise would take several days with standalone CAD. By deploying a configurator the collective work executed by a few CAD engineers is accomplished by a non-tech sales representative or the customer himself. The interactive interface of 3D configurator helps design engineer to finish modeling job of hours within a few minutes.

Cases where 3D product configurators addressed personalization challenges

1. DriveWorks automated tools reduced 70% design cycle time for a door manufacturer

Challenges faced by the door manufacturer:

A USA based hollow metal door manufacturer was operating with vaguely defined flow of internal requests. The orders and the customer specifications were spread across the teams resulting in long time lapses between receipts of enquiries and responding to them. A simple hollow metal door took about 4-5 days to pass through the iterative design phase let alone the approval and initiation of manufacturing and had high chances of design errors.

Solution: Using DriveWorks configurator alongside SolidWorks

To streamline the sales order process and eliminate repetitive drawing tasks, TrueCADD engineers developed an SQL database for collecting customer design specification at one place. Simultaneously, master models of the door, locks, accessories, hinges, frames etc., were developed in SolidWorks. Coders worked on developing logical rules to capture design intelligence and reuse it for customization.

DriveWorks design automation was used in collaboration with SolidWorks to create and deploy a configurator interface and allow customization. The interface was populated with design options using SQL database for the doors and accessories which led 70,000+ complete different doors.

3D Door Configuration
3D Door Configuration
Door Component Configuration
Door Component Configuration

The entire design process and approvals were eliminated and it took about only 15 minutes to finalize the door design and provided shop floor with error-free BoMs and manufacturing drawings. The latter were auto generated based on the logical rules which eliminated possibility of any drawing mistakes and production could be started the same day.

Following impacts other than time reduction were achieved with SolidWorks and DriveWorks automated tools:

  • Reduced expenditure with configurator
  • Door designs were 99% error free
  • Quick response to customers
Take care of your
customers with faster response

2. Deployed Autodesk Inventor iLogic to achieve same day manufacturing for a process tank manufacturer

Challenges faced by the tank manufacturer:

An industrial equipment manufacturer based out of Netherlands was using Excel spreadsheets based tools to assimilate customer specifications data and generate SolidWorks models. It needed their designers to invest 10-12 hours per tank for design configuration of tank body, accessories, mounting etc. and generating manufacturing drawings. The cycle from order receipt to delivery to the end client was of 2-3 days as the design process involved iterative changes and long approvals.

Solution: Configuring tank design with iLogic and Configurator 360

As the client was looking to move from SolidWorks to Inventor our engineers suggested adopting Built-To-Order with design automation practices using iLogic rules and Configurator 360. This was aimed at reducing long man-hours invested by client’s CAD engineers in modeling and enable faster time to market.

TrueCADD’s automation team collected broad inputs from customers based on which master model was developed along with logical rules. It was populated with design options within permissible limits to avoid any ECOs from shop floor due to short of tooling capabilities.

Tank for Design Configuration
Tank for Design Configuration
Tank Product Configuration
Tank Product Configuration

These logical rules generated using scripts and codes in iLogic automated manufacturing drawings generation with part lists, BoMs, with custom pricing using scripts and codes in iLogic. Relevant sales documents, part list and assembly and installation guides were also immediately shared with the end customer for transparency in timelines. This logical rules based 3D product configurator completely eliminated the iterative design process and made it possible to kick start tank production the same day.

Following impacts, other than time reduction were achieved with iLogic rules and Configurator 360:

  • Eliminated reworks in drafting and modeling
  • Primary modeling become more convenient using Inventor
  • Offered flexibility in future tank designs
Get your iLogic configurator & offer design flexibility

3. Created Excel-based SolidWorks automated solution to reduce design time to few minutes for a door and frame manufacturer

Challenges faced by the door and frame manufacturer:

The small scale door manufacturer had a range of 30-35 products for doors and frames which could be customized as per customer’s request. With this high range of product options and a small team of design engineers, the modeling task and approval took a long time. Also, managing database for every customer’s input was difficult with no automation tool. The drawing generation was error prone due to mismanagement of data and long took long times for corrections.

Solution: Cost effective configurator using MS Excel Spreadsheet

The automation team led the project with primary investigation to analyze the scope of automation across the sales order and requests for customization. Since the client was already using MS Excel spreadsheets, the team suggested developing macros using VBA scripts in MS Excel which connects with the primary CAD platform.

Master CAD models were developed in SolidWorks and logical rules, based on the types of customization, for door designs received in the past were created. It ensured that most of the popular design specifications were covered in the logical rules for developing the 3D product configurator.

Excel based Solidworks automated
Excel based Solidworks automated
SolidWorks Automated Solution
SolidWorks Automated Solution

Any design revision in dimensions, end client data, project name, option for generate DXFs could be fetched from the Excel and saved in CAD library. This saved time in generating manufacturing drawing or resining them. All technical documents were also generated automatically and saved time by reducing design cycle time from 15 days to a few hours.

Following impacts, other than time reduction were achieved with MS Excel based configurator:

  • VBA offered cost effective configurator for a small scale manufacturer
  • Fewer errors transmitted to the shop floor
  • Output/input data was saved in database in a structured format
Reduce engineering time
with a cost effective configurator

It’s time to automate design now!

Just as CAD reformed the drawing practices of paper drawing by the virtue of parametricity and easy design corrections, product configurators, today, are revising the practices of iterative design modeling with standalone CAD. Many manufacturers are constantly searching for an automated tool suitable to their business and technical needs to get to the markets faster.

It’s time you leverage automation using product configurators – the platform that suits your business needs and your primary CAD tool!

Reach out to us and let our automation engineers study your CAD systems as well as your product mix along with your budgets to deploy the optimum configurator for design automation.

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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