Background image: Leading Practices MBE

Leading Practices to Become a Model-Based Enterprise

PLM and CAD Standards

More and more companies are transforming into model-based enterprises (MBE) to help ensure the completeness, accuracy and accessibility of product data. Companies that successfully consolidate the product definition, improve data quality and build trust will reap significant benefits. These benefits include fewer product design changes and reduced product development time.

We’ve already discussed five fundamental concepts companies should consider when making this transformation. One of the most important is establishing and enforcing product lifecycle management (PLM) and CAD standards. Good standards build trust in the data and drive user adoption.

Here are some leading practices to make this part of the journey a little easier.

0. Standardize the Supported/Allowable Tool Suites

Step 0 might seem like a typo, but before starting out on an MBE journey, decide on tool suites that are going to be allowed and supported. Ironically, many companies allow end users to pick CAD, CAM and CAE tool suites with little oversight other than the initial purchase cost. When picking tool suites, organizations need to consider that they may run into the following:

  • There is significant time and effort needed to incorporate each CAD, CAM and CAE tool suite
  • Consistency is difficult to maintain across multiple CAD tool suites, which can undercut the enterprise's trust in the output of design engineering
  • As each additional tool suite is added, the enterprise can be forced to compromise standards to meet the abilities of the least common denominator. It, therefore, dilutes the enterprise's ability to truly optimize the use of the tool suite.

Organizations must develop and enforce business rules for enabling new tool suites, or they will undermine the benefits of the following standard practices.

1. Use Standardized CAD and Document Templates

Templates save time by ensuring common enterprise information needs are accounted. This includes attribute data, standard views and other information.

2. Create Naming and Numbering Conventions

Establish the naming and numbering conventions for components of project and product structures, documents and CAD data. Automating these conventions establishes consistency, which saves time and limits information omissions. Conventions help everyone in the enterprise to quickly identify product development data.

3. Develop Standards for Constructing Models: Modeling, Annotation and Tolerancing Practices

For a model to be used effectively by downstream users, standard 3D modeling, annotation and tolerancing practices need to establish consistency and build trust in the product-defining data set. Leading practices are only valuable if they support the effective design, model user intent, part fabrication method and quality assurance and inspection approach.

Here are some tips:

  • Organize complex product data sets with logical and predictable structures that minimize dependencies to help project members to find information much more efficiently. Organize model features using the same philosophy.
  • Assign meaningful names to CAD model views and features, such as mating holes, faces or flanges to help downstream users quickly understand models.
  • Standardize how that data is instantiated into the design model and PLM system. Entering product data once during the design process and referring to it throughout the product lifecycle increases accuracy and saves time.
  • Establish company standards for orienting models to make it easier to quickly position parts, understand model features, and leverage common views.
  • Capture appropriate design intent. For example, model symmetry - arranging features around a plane of symmetry so that changes to part dimensions retain their symmetrical character. Put in important features first and add details such as fillets, chamfers, and fastener holes at the end.

4. Check Data Sets Before Release and After Changes

CAD model checking applications -- including PTC’s Creo Model Check, Siemens’ NX Check Mate or Dassault’s SolidWorks Design Checker -- can find errors such as unlinked data sets, improper units, non-standard hole sizes, missing properties or models with rebuild errors. However, these model checking applications are not complete and must be augmented with manual inspection via old-fashioned checklists.

Develop checklists that cover subjects such as:

  • Completeness
  • Functional requirements
  • Modeling structure and geometry

CAD practice automation and checklists will improve efficiency when assuring data set compliance, but they do not replace design reviews. Design reviews should be focused on designing the right product and designing the product right.

5. Use a PLM System Throughout the Product Lifecycle

Use a PLM system for release, change-control and management of relationships to other data that are artifacts of the product development process, such as requirements, documents, tests, simulations and reports. With traceability throughout the product development history, the PLM system practically pays for itself.

6. Establish Libraries

Standardize information about materials, surface finishes, notes, supplier names and part numbers, costs, designers and design dates in libraries, so they can be efficiently leveraged by designers. These libraries of commonly-used information will save time and labor. Manage these libraries in a PLM system to establish solid library management policies around intended reuse and compliance. Don’t forget to empower someone to be the enterprise librarian. They will have the role of gathering requirements and building objects that can meet the standards needed for global use in PLM and beyond

7. Automate Designs

Chances are there are many opportunities to automate the routine design of part families and subassemblies through the application of design options and variants. Be careful to consider the total lifecycle of the automation, including implications of family table use in product management, the maintenance of automation through system upgrades and documentation so that designs can be properly understood for years to come.

8. Recognize the Role and Authority of System Administrators

Good PLM and CAD systems do not administer themselves. Proactive administration can do wonders for system performance and practice conformance. Consider people, as well as hardware and software, for greater productivity and efficiency.

9. Train End Users

Untrained employees are less productive. Focus training around real enterprise needs, new expectations and system capabilities that people will use. Omit features that users do not need. Don’t forget the non-users. Non-users are those that are impacted by the system changes, but may not use the system on a regular basis. These people often don’t get any of the communications and are rarely trained, but their buy-in and support are critical for success. Make sure to capture leading practice techniques and that all users have access to leverage this knowledge.

10. Provide Proactive Care and Maintenance

PLM and CAD systems - and their associated leading practices - evolve over time, just like any other aspect of business. Businesses must plan accordingly. Budget both money and employee time for reactive and proactive efforts, including:

  • System monitoring and maintenance
  • Organization of internal super-users and extended user community
  • Attendance at vendor events
  • Communication to individual contributors and executive sponsors

Going Forward

Organizations need to evaluate the next releases of PLM and CAD systems to identify potential risks and benefits. Through these leading practices, businesses can establish themselves as true model-based enterprises and position themselves to maintain the value of this investment in PLM and CAD systems. As organizations mature, they will identify new opportunities for continuous improvement, take advantage of unexpected system capabilities and develop new leading practices for continuous improvement.

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