3-D CAD Data Grows More Accessible

Dec. 10, 2008
For manufacturers, that means less wasted time.

3-D CAD is widely used in organizations' product design function. In fact 60% of respondents to a recent survey say they use it 81% to 100% of the time. Not surprisingly, its use is not nearly so prevalent as you move further downstream in manufacturing operations. Yet the potential usefulness of 3-D CAD data is enormous in downstream functions, explains David Prawel, founder and president of Longview Advisors, which conducted the annual survey. And organizations are beginning to realize that fact, he says.

The survey shows that just 16% of respondents say 3-D CAD is used in production or shop-floor operations 81% to 100% of the time. "The shop floor is very slow to uptake even the simplest capability to look at a part in 3-D that you're supposed to be making," observes Prawel. Not only would it help the machine operator to have a view of the part in 3-D, but the operators could add more value to the process, he says. "We could get more value from our production people by putting 3-D in front of them. They could see the part in front of them and make their own course corrections and feed that information back to the designer."

Use of 3-D design data, like this electric shaver produced with Dassault Systemes' Catia V6, can improve shop-floor operations.Use of 3-D data on the shop-floor will grow, Prawel believes -- not 3-D CAD itself, but the use of 3-D representations. The same holds true for functions further downstream, such as sales and marketing, spare parts, training and other non-production functions. People working in those functional areas perform too much non-value-added work having to recreate images because they don't have access to the CAD data. "Until they integrate these downstream processes, they're never going to be lean," Prawel says.

The "democratization" of 3-D CAD data is beginning to occur, Prawel says. It's moving out of the CAD department and into greater use throughout the organization. The important thing is to get it to the people who need it in a language they understand. Such data is a corporate asset, he notes. "You built the asset, you spent the money, so leverage it as much as possible."

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About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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