By Jim Romeo
The wrong part. The wrong number. The wrong component. If these happen to you, the consequences can be devastating to an engineering business model. Avoiding 100,000 errors means using the right tools in the right place, in conjunction with engineering software.
But using engineering software in today’s global marketplace demands many attributes of the underlying technology. Such software often relies on ancillary products "many of which are Web-based and can add value to engineering software, as well as to the job of the design engineer in general.
Peter Mooney is Thomas Industrial Network’s product director for enterprise solutions, based in New York. His WebCAD Publishing Technology is one such product used by design engineers without a standalone product installed on their own servers. Recently, DE spoke with Mooney to understand his product and how it can benefit today’s engineer.
Q. How does your WebCAD Publishing Technology work?
A. Thomas Industrial Network’s WebCAD Publishing Technology, built on our proprietary Navigator Platform to help industrial suppliers improve their websites, enables design engineers to find and download the exact parts they need from those suppliers who publish 2D and 3D CAD drawings online, insert them into their designs, and immediately assess their fit.
Engineers go to the industrial destination ThomasNet.com, select the top CAD drawings tab to search among millions of available drawings, enter the keywords for the parts they need, and pull up a list of companies that offer them. From there, they can go into specific suppliers’ sites, conduct parametric searches to find or configure products that will meet their detailed specifications, and even compare several parts side by side.
Once they have chosen or “built” a part that they are considering for purchase, they select their CAD system "AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Inventor, etc. "from a drop-down menu, and hit “go” to download and then insert a 3D model of the part directly into their design.
Q. What types of problems does this software help solve for design engineers and drawing developers?
A. It improves design productivity and precision, reduces costs, increases efficiency, minimizes the risk of “100,000 errors,” and speeds time to market.
A design engineer may be working on an assembly that includes thousands of components, such as motors, actuators, gears and rods. In today’s increasingly demanding market for improving productivity and reducing costs, finding specific parts within a few minutes makes engineers’ jobs much easier, lets them work more efficiently and collaboratively with their suppliers, and enables them to complete designs and go to market faster.
In addition, engineers need to work with extreme accuracy "but traditional processes for sharing drawings have the potential for significant errors. As suppliers share drawings with design engineers, and then refine them at engineers’ requests, unclear faxes and multiple iterations of drawings can lead to the wrong part being designed and purchased.
Another source of errors in the past was the potential for specifying the wrong part number. The WebCAD Publishing Technology also delivers the bill of materials for each inserted part, from the manufacturer’s name to detailed specifications. This makes it easier to communicate with those in purchasing, and ensures that everyone involved is able to place the correct order.
Q. What would you point to as the most important features of this product?
A. Among the most important features is its compatibility with all 2D and 3D CAD systems. Much of the bill of material information is passed into the CAD system with the CAD drawing itself, and one-button-click direct enables insert of the drawings.
Q. In your view, what are the key economic and functional benefits that your software provides as a solution to existing problems?
A. The main benefits are tremendous time savings and accuracy. These are especially important as manufacturing and industrial companies continue growing, helping to lead the recovery from the recession. Our semi-annual Industry Market Barometer, tracking the growth of and outlook for this sector, shows that companies are expanding at a fast clip in comparison to other economic sectors. They’re increasing hiring and making investments in areas such as technology and capital equipment. Tools such as the WebCAD Publishing Technology help them respond to growing demand for new products and services "and at the same time, work more productively, efficiently and with greater accuracy.
Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, VA.
For more information:
Thomas Industrial Network