With the economy still recovering from the staggering effects of a global, multi-year recession, many organizations are looking for ways to reduce costs, while maintaining or even increasing productivity. One way they have found to cut costs is by consolidating their software systems, thereby decreasing their software expenditures and associated support and training expenses.
According to a report entitled, Consolidating CAD—Benefits of a Unified CAD Strategy, written by Tech-Clarity, manufacturers should give careful consideration to consolidating their CAD software as well. Not only can this result in cost savings, but can deliver significant strategic benefits as well. Though not all companies can standardize on one CAD platform—due to customer and supplier constraints—there are numerous advantages to those that can.
At the workgroup level, manufacturers can take advantage of ease of design collaboration and reuse of CAD models. Other benefits include the ability to share best practices across the enterprise. Common processes and centralized data are also beneficial as part of a full system for product design that includes analysis tools, data management, product compliance, and documentation.
Standardizing CAD tools also offer corporate benefits. A single CAD environment can enable a “design anywhere-build anywhere” strategy, which enables companies to rapidly adjust to market changes and resource shortages. It also enables manufacturers to transfer design or production to new facilities with concern for incompatible design data, tools or processes.
Another area that benefits from a unified CAD strategy is the IT department. There are costs savings realized through reduced software-licensing fees as well as in the ongoing costs of operating multiple solutions that add to the total operating costs of a software solution. Even hardware and software infrastructure costs may be reduced since there is no need to support specific instances and versions to support different packages and architectures.
A common CAD system enables manufacturers to more easily reuse existing intellectual property (IP) embedded in their 3D models. Reuse of existing designs happens at the product level, but also for existing parts and assemblies using common parts libraries. Design reuse saves organizations both time and money by encouraging engineers to adopt existing, proven designs and preventing them from reinventing the wheel.
Cost drivers applied to reuse include not just reduced design time, but time saved validating new parts, ensuring environmental compliance, test, source, and potentially validating redundant suppliers. Other cost drivers impacted by reuse include the cost of carrying excess inventory, which ties up capital that could be working elsewhere in the company.
A unified CAD strategy also helps encourage better product development and design collaboration because all design participants can send and receive the 3D model and can work on it directly without the need to translate the model and possibly lose design intent or intelligence embedded within it. A single CAD tool also enables design teams to work on different aspects of the design in parallel instead of a serial fashion, supporting a more concurrent design process.
A common solution can also support best practices in engineering and product development, which can be stored in templates, communicated and reused. Similarly, design automation can be leveraged across the enterprise, as best practices are automated and turned into wizards.
According to the report, the most important aspect of standardizing on a common CAD solution is that it helps to enable a well-integrated PLM environment. A single CAD tool also simplifies the overall product development system that includes computer-aided engineering (CAE) and other tools for engineers, but also project management, compliance, and documentation tools.