In order to enable customers to sustain the rapid pace of product development, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software providers must link to the 3D CAD data—the model’s product master—seamlessly, and in real time.
Most ERP companies use “connector” software that runs as a plug-in to CAD systems, extracting product information from a CAD database and providing it to the ERP system via message-based (ERP API) or file-based (XML) mechanisms. This requires the process to be initiated from the CAD side rather than from the ERP end, thus running the risk of the ERP system being out of sync with the CAD data as the “connector” process is manual and static in nature.
ERP companies are also at the mercy of the CAD software companies who provide access to CAD APIs for development of the connector software. And as CAD companies evolve into product lifecycle management (PLM) technology providers, they will become increasingly averse to licensing their APIs to the ERP providers. The considerable overlap between PLM and ERP functions in the engineering environment makes competitors of the two.
Finally, the proliferation of CAD technology providers, each with a unique database and corresponding API, means that ERP companies are forced to develop multiple CAD connectors, using expensive royalty-based APIs, to remain competitive.
For these reasons, ERP companies must develop solutions that are independent of CAD APIs to enable access to CAD data from multiple systems. Such a solution would consist of a single API (C++) or dynamic web-services that can be quickly integrated into any ERP system to provide access to data from multiple CAD systems without requiring any licenses. And it would be essential that popular formats like CATIA, NX, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Pro/ENGINEER, and Inventor are supported.
CCE’s Oceans SDK does this. The CAD-independent technology allows easy integration of 3D CAD data assets in enterprise applications, providing a single, non-royalty based solution to provide dynamic access to product data from all major CAD systems. This ability permitting dynamic access to CAD data on a “when needed, where needed” basis throughout the company gives enterprise application vendors a significant competitive advantage.
Based on market needs, ERP vendors would need to decide the depth of integration they want to achieve with CAD. Simpler integrations might mean the ERP system manages only critical data such as part name, number, and description while the CAD data access tool provides a real-time connection to other CAD data.
In deeper integrations, ERP systems could leverage the complete functionality of the CAD data access tool to actively manage the CAD data, leading to reliable synchronization between engineering and manufacturing data management (reminiscent of PLM systems).
A globally competitive marketplace that demands manufacturing companies deal with complex products, shrinking development times, and lean resources also points up the need for a synchronized workflow from design and engineering through manufacturing and delivery. Real-time visibility is critical to making time-sensitive decisions on procurement from the extended supply chain. Seamless connectivity between the design tool (CAD) and the resource-management tool (ERP) is thus crucial for an enterprise’s long-term success, especially with regard to small to mid-size businesses in the supply chain. Tools that help reduce complexity and cost when interfacing with multiple CAD formats from customers help win new business and grow profitably.
Vinay Wagle is VP of sales and marketing at CCE. He founded Compunix in 1989, which was merged with Cimsoftek to create CCE in 2000. Send feedback about this commentary to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.