Operational efficiency continues to be the strategic imperative for manufacturers. Most companies are seeking out new methods and technologies to save time, reduce costs and enhance customer service -- all while increasing lead generation.
While there may not be a "silver bullet," CAD-native 3D product catalogs are rapidly becoming a critical business component for manufacturers, due to the technology's ability to get their products selected, designed in and purchased.
Manufacturers design their products using numerous 3D CAD technologies, and expect to seamlessly incorporate their suppliers' product designs directly into their designs, but paper and PDF catalogs have become a roadblock. On the contrary, by enabling on-line product configuration and CAD-native downloading, digital 3D part catalogs ensure that a supplier's products will reach more customers regardless of which CAD system they use for design. As a result, manufacturers can more easily and quickly access and incorporate products that will int turn get sourced by more manufacturers. In fact, suppliers who can make it easier for manufacturers to get supplier product information incorporated into their designs are 80% more likely to get sourced.
Breaking the 'Mold'
Take DME Company for example. An essential mold technologies resource to the plastics industry worldwide, DME has been leveraging 3D part catalog technology for more than a decade. The company web enabled its vast product line, which encompasses more than 66,000 items in 69 different 2D and 3D CAD and graphic formats. Today more than 80 percent of the company's standard products are featured in the online catalog and the technology enables DME to easily maintain its library to support frequent CAD revisions.
The company's approach is to provide all possible information to its customers -- 4.5 million CAD files in all -- so they can make informed manufacturing decisions. An average of 6,000 CAD files are downloaded from DME's CAD library each month, enabling mold designers to easily integrate DME parts into their designs. What's more, by enabling delivery in any native CAD format to support the needs of more customers, more qualified sales leads are generated.
Earlier this year DME embedded a configurator directly into its website, making CAD an even more intuitive part of its customers' product selection and design processes. Seamless integration with the company's website, single sign-on (SSO) and corporate identity (CI) has made the process even simpler and faster for DME customers.
DME's continued focus on delivering what its customers need -- access to product CAD data without drawing it themselves -- is a value-added service that makes the company both a leader and an innovator in its space.
The Numbers Don't Lie
DME is just one example of how companies are providing thousands of their customers with tangible data to make their job easier. A gigantic portion of industrial commerce is taking place online and being initiated with 3D product catalogs -- and for good reason. According to CIM Data, the overall opportunities for business value enhancement with 3D part management technology include:
- Avoiding Rework -- Reusing previously validated designs helps avoid design errors that can result in very costly rework, especially when those errors are identified late in the product development process when they have much larger cost impacts. Reuse also avoids the cost of creating new parts when an existing part can be used.
- Improving Quality -- Avoiding redesign and revalidation gives designers time to try more iterations, which can lead to better, higher quality products.
- Improving Product Design -- Using standard and previously designed parts increases the likelihood that design issues will be discovered earlier, improving quality and allowing more time for innovation.
- Supporting Faster Design -- Component reuse speeds up the design process and minimizes unnecessary disruptions for the rest of the team, that result when decisions are made later in the process.
- Faster Time-to-Production -- Speeding up overall design time by improving communication, facilitating decision-making, and reducing errors allows products to be delivered to production earlier.
What You Need to Know
If you decide to explore and implement a 3D part catalog technology and partner, there are a few elements you need to consider. The best solutions meet the following requirements:
- CAD Software Company Independent -- A vendor that has relationships with the computer-aided design software vendors, but is not owned by them or architected on top of one of these applications, has proven to be critical for long term success and viability. This ensures that integration with all other technologies is possible and not impeded by competitive pressures.
- Native Delivery of Design Files -- 85% of users surveyed indicated that they prefer to receive their 3D products in the native CAD format that they utilize in their design process.
- Parametric Configuration of Vast Catalogs -- The ability to interactively configure the desired product in real-time and to view it in all common web browsers is an important consideration.
- Longevity -- Suppliers have dealt with a number of technologies that have come and gone over the past fifteen years for 3D enabled product catalogs. Building a 3D enabled product catalog can be a sizeable commitment, both internally and externally.
- Expert In-House Catalog Development -- Availability of catalog development resources within the vendor's exclusive control is important. Design projects are challenging enough when dealing with two parties. The three party approach has proven challenging.
- Catalog Development Application -- Availability of an option to acquire the catalog development technology will be of interest to some manufacturers who have in house resources who could develop the catalog.
- Web Embedded Configurators -- Provide the best customer experience by allowing users to configure the exact product that want to purchase without leaving the product pages of your website.
A Final Word
In today's fast-paced and ever-changing global business landscape, few activities are as important to the success of a company as being responsive to customers. When you can implement a technology that not only meets their needs while improving your own bottom line, it is truly a win-win situation.
Rob Zesch is President of PARTsolutions which is a provider of PLM solutions for next generation 3D part catalog management and hosting, delivering solutions.
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