Technologies Of The Year -- Proficiency Inc.'s Collaboration Gateway

Latest version attacks the collaboration challenge -- data exchange among CAD systems.

Question: Do you know the expense related to CAD conversion and interoperability? In a recent study, the words "don't know" were uttered by 64% of respondents -- manufacturers, OEMs, suppliers and service providers, says Proficiency Inc.'s Michael Jannery, vice president marketing, Marlborough, Mass. Clearly, his professional challenge to sell a solution has to begin with defining the problem to decision-makers who may not realize the scope of the challenge. The study, a collaboration with TenLinks Inc., the online CAD media firm, also revealed other metrics of industry's CAD interoperability challenge. For example, 33% responded with cost estimates of "less than $50K," to address interoperability even though the same respondents earlier answered that significant effort was spent on geometry exchange and manual remastering of data for delivery to customers and suppliers. The lack of expense visibility could be explained by the response to the question of who funds the expense of data exchange: 45% said the expense is "buried in the overall project expense," 33% responded "don't know," and 16% responded "a central group." Version 3.5 of Proficiency's solution, Collaboration Gateway, extends the solution's capability with support for assembly constraints, surfacing features and methodology and provides enhanced support for top-down associative design techniques. As with prior versions, this latest release is designed for high-throughput exchange of mechanical CAD models among Dassault Systemes' CATIA v4 and v5, PTC's Pro/ENGINEER and Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire and UGS' Unigraphics NX and I-deas NX Series. A special feature is Proficiency's UPR Viewer, an application that brings non-CAD users into the process loop. With this feature, they can query, view and leverage the product design data defined within CAD models and assemblies, independent of the original authoring system. Jannery says the Viewer exposes the engineering-rich content traditionally only available through the full CAD system. Model details like the feature tree, sketch geometry, constraints, dimensions and metadata are graphically displayed.. The strategy is to facilitate access to the design intelligence any time and anywhere without the need to be proficient in a CAD system, says Proficiency's Trenton H. Brown, president and CEO. Analyst John MacKrell at CIMdata Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., sees benefits wherever multiple product definition solutions are in use within a supply chain. Reducing design time by sharing more complete product definition translates into significant time-to-market advantages and serves as an important enabler to product lifecycle management (PLM) success, adds MacKrell. Automobile OEMs and suppliers such as Italy's Magneti Marelli Powertrain S.p.A. are among the early adopters. The supplier is using Collaboration Gateway to streamline design collaboration and reduce costs between its operations in Bologna and Venaria Reale as well as for delivering model data in required formats to its auto OEMs. By Magneti Marelli's calculations, use of Collaboration Gateway is significantly shortening each product delivery cycle to OEMs from an average of six weeks down to two weeks, saving between 700 and 1,200 person-hours per project. In addition, the supplier anticipates reducing library part maintenance time and cost by 67% and library part development by 94%. Sharing design models between divisions had traditionally been accomplished through the exchange of "dumb" solids. For example, the electronic component of an integrated engine control system is developed in Venaria Reale using Pro/ENGINEER. Formerly when delivered to Bologna to be integrated with the Unigraphics-designed mechanical body, the use of conventional STEP data translation software meant that important design intelligence would be lost. Any of the design parameters that governed the model's form, fit or function would be lost. Extra effort was required to join the part designs, incurring cost and adding to program delay. In addition to solving that problem, Magneti Marelli is using Collaboration Gateway to ensure that data received from its part suppliers is acceptable. The company, with Proficiency's guidance, has identified the feature set that provides optimal data exchange results and has mandated that suppliers adhere to those feature sets.

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