Design Automation: It’s Not About Mouse Clicks
Design Automation is becoming an issue that more and more people are paying attention to. Part of this is because new tools like DriveWorks and TactonWorks are emerging that are tightly integrated with a designer’s CAD platform of choice. The unfortunate part is that within the marketing messages the true power (and purpose) of design automation is being obscured. These tools are meant to do much more than save a few mouse clicks.
What do people want to see in a design automation demo? 3D solid models being generated all by themselves. It’s sexy. It’s cool. It demos well. And designers, engineers, and drafters view it as a huge time savings because it tackles their immediate tasks.
But the problem is that CEOs do not generally report engineering time savings to the Board of Directors. The shareholders care about money, dollars, moolah, cash-ola. Yes, I know that we can do the calculations…time savings multiplied by my burdened labor rate…but let’s be honest and not bother.
No person ever saved themselves into being a millionaire. If you want to make money, you have to bring more money into the front end of the process. How can we engineers do that? By reducing our up-front engineering time (certainly), but more importantly by allowing the sales team to execute faster and more efficiently. This quite often takes the form of helping collect complete and accurate information up front.
File, Save As is certainly a waste of engineering time, but not nearly as bad as phone calls and email barrages both internally and to prospects trying to fill in the gaps for the request for quotation. A design automation system pushes the design and design validation upstream so that the salespeople and pre-sales engineers can almost instantly determine if a design is valid, manufacturable and affordable.
Design automation is all about collecting the intelligence behind a design. 2D and 3D output is just that, an output – a deliverable documenting the design once it has been developed. I’m all for automating SolidWorks (it’s what I do for a living after all), but take a step back and look at your company’s bottom line (and top line – revenues) and how you can best affect that. Design automation? You bet. The more intelligently you apply it the more effect you will have.
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