Use the force…of design automation

It’s Star Wars time – hence the cheesy headline. But design automation really can be a powerful force for good… and not just in a galaxy far, far away…

Early adopters of this technology are gaining an advantage by saving costs, banishing design errors, quoting with warp-like speed, innovating faster and more.

The dilemma of up-front design work

Design automation also solves an issue that’s common for many engineer-to-order and configure-to-order companies. Let’s take one of our customers, Caterpillar Propulsion, as an example.

Caterpillar Propulsion makes the propellers that power some of the world’s largest ships. Each propeller is 100% unique, customized for each vessel. In order to make a sale, the rep needs to have the proposed propeller arrangement specified and show the customer a visualization.

This means that for each and every sales case, the engineering department has to put the time and effort into designing a custom product…before any contract has been signed, or order placed.

And therein lies the dilemma…you need to do the design work to have a hope of making the sale, but at the same time you want to keep cost-of-sale contained so you’re not eating into your profit margins.

This is perhaps manageable if you only work on a handful of sales cases a year, or if your hit rate is 70%, but this isn’t the reality for most companies.

As well as this, the engineers who support sales are often the same people who are involved in product development. If this valuable resource spends too much time tied up producing custom drawings and validating product specifications, the evolution of the product line suffers.

The design bottleneck

The long lead times for design customizations are a bottleneck and a pain in the neck for many companies. Engineering gets the blame here, because they can’t process changes fast enough. And this doesn’t just impact the sales process. When product lines change, one small update can affect hundreds of drawings.  Revising these drawings to reflect the update is time-consuming, manual work and it’s not exactly inspiring or value-adding.

Fortunately there’s a solution to all this. By introducing design automation you solve the design department dilemma and reap a whole raft of benefits across the company.

Banish design errors for good

Time savings are one thing, but most companies find that the single biggest cost saver in a design automation project is the elimination of errors. Here, very invalid selection in a specification or incorrect dimension on a drawing can cause disruption, confusion and delays. And the further the error makes it in the supply chain, the more expensive it is to fix.

With design automation, constraints are built into the system and your starting point is always a valid configuration which is then tweaked to suit a customer’s requirements. Any incompatible choices are flagged automatically, removing errors from the equation entirely.

Quote with the accuracy of a jedi knight

Design automation works by capturing the knowledge of your engineers and product experts. This removes the need for detailed product knowledge and means that your sales reps can quote with confidence, in most cases completely unaided, leaving the customer with an accurate proposal, complete with customized CAD drawings.

Free up your engineers so they can fight the important fight…

By automating away routine design tasks, you can really harness the power of your engineering expertise. Engineers can focus on innovating and developing your products – the stuff they’re passionate about…the stuff that sets your company apart.

And this is just the start, faster time to market and time to volume for new products, a shorter sales cycle, happier customers…the list goes on…

Time to go over to the light side

If this sounds too good to be true, then take a look at the Caterpillar Propulsion story. You’ll learn about their project and some of the remarkable results they’re achieving with design automation.


Find out how Caterpillar Propulsion use design automation to improve their results

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