[Part 1] New Product Introduction and CAD Integration

This is the first in a two-part blog series exploring how enterprise resource planning can streamline engineering and manufacturing communications and processes.

The current effort required for a manufacturer to introduce new products is widely unsustainable in today’s changing market.  To shed some light on the process, let’s examine some of the common engineering inefficiencies within companies that have not integrated computer-aided design (CAD) with enterprise resource planning (ERP).

A typical day in the life for an engineer creating a new product design begins with the revision of an existing product. The revision starts on a local desktop and ends up on a shared drive, or goes to a product data management (PDM) solution.  Regardless of where the engineer actually stores the revision, people in other departments still often wind up scurrying around to find it. As a result, the purchasing department has access only to the outdated product design, without a clue that it has been revised three times since they sent it to the vendor. Thus, the vendor quotes the wrong product, and business is stalled.

In manufacturing, the same problems occur. By the time the engineering team’s changes finally make it to production, manufacturing doesn’t have time to do a proper pre-production run. Line set up, test systems, creation of new materials and BOMs, and the purchase/manufacture tools and jigs are all rushed.

Further delaying the process, manufacturing must then manually link up disparate engineering change numbers created by the design engineers in the CAD system and the manufacturing engineers in the ERP system. This often leads to the ERP system listing different product revision numbers and BOM structures than those in engineering’s systems. This discontinuation and lack of communication destroys any chance for efficient new product introduction, while adding tedious administrative work for staff on both sides.

Even when companies are utilizing PDM packages purchased from the CAD provider, the challenges persist.  While CAD PDMs enhance the data that defines a product, this data is retained in the “Engineering” PDM and is not shared throughout the organization.  This forces the company to duplicate the data in two systems (PDM and ERP), defeating the idea of the PDM as the “single source” of product information. Without access to up to date information, the manufacturing, purchasing, quality, and cost accounting departments are left to fend for themselves and are usually a step behind.

Part two of this blog will explore how enterprise resource planning tools can fix this disconnect and drive clarity and efficiency.

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