Data share and share alike

From the designer to the marketing staff, internet collaboration keeps everyone in the ‘loop’ without taking up too much time writes Nick Marsden of OneSpace.

From the designer to the marketing staff, internet collaboration keeps everyone in the ‘loop’ without taking up too much time writes Nick Marsden of OneSpace

For any given product design, there may be hundreds of peripheral players who rely on the core product design to do their job. Taking valuable time away from the design process to communicate up-to-date, detailed design information is a headache for the design engineers. Yet if that information isn’t shared as the design progresses, the marketing staff, quality assurance team, manufacturing capacity planners or assembly procedures writers, to name just a few members of this extended team, cannot move forward and the product release date may be put in jeopardy.

The core design data — the 3D geometry and the meta data — is stored in the CAD system used by the design engineers. While it’s certainly possible to put a CAD station on the desk of every member of this globally distributed team to give them instant access to the design information they need, the cost and lead time to train team members on this very sophisticated software is prohibitive.

And with design handled in one location, manufacturing in another and quality suppliers obviously in a third location, a huge investment of time and money is required if each member of the team must physically visit with the design engineers to obtain the information they need. Printouts of design views can be faxed or air expressed to the various team members for feedback and approval, but the design process must stop while the feedback is collected and phone discussions about extremely detailed design issues can be mired with misunderstandings.

What madness is this? How much time and resource wasted? Internet based collaboration negates this totally, bringing a clear competitive edge to those people who have invested. Not to mention opportunities for concurrent engineering. Clearly, this provides an efficient means of sharing this critical data.

A Shared View

Viewer technology has emerged as a first step toward solving this problem. Viewers query the CAD data and package it in a user-friendly format so technical and non-technical team members alike can easily access the information they need. The viewer is typically less resource-intensive than CAD systems, allowing each remote team member to use the viewer software from the convenience of their own desktop.

Yet what happens when one of these many extended team members detects a problem with the design from a production or assembly or specialised analysis perspective? The viewer enables them to identify the problem, but how is that problem communicated back to the design engineer? And what if both a production issue and a design issue are detected? How would these two issues be communicated and resolved? Wouldn’t it be far better if the viewer could also host a collaborative work session where each participant could see and use a common pointer, rotate the design or make note of a salient point? CoCreate believes it would.

Closing the Loop

CoCreate’s technology goes beyond today’s viewer capabilities to allow a truly collaborative design session among design engineers and non-technical team members alike. With this technology, members of the extended team can individually view and analyse the design right from their desktop or participate in a group session where issues can be discussed and resolved right then and there.

Utilising the Internet for distributed and collaborative development, this technology reduces travel time and costs, eliminates time-to-market losses due to working on or with out of date information, and speeds the resolution of subtle design issues by bringing the appropriate parties together online for a productive design session.

While viewing capabilities are adequate in a variety of situations, CoCreate technology solves the pressing need to bring globally dispersed team members together ‘around the drawing board’ in a time and cost efficient manner. With a suite of collaboration products to choose from, CoCreate software can bring real time design to life.

CO-CREATETel: +44 (0) 1344 365 587

Re-using the wheel

At the Wellhead Equipment Division of FMC Corporation’s Energy and Transportation Equipment Group, the use of the web for transferring engineering and design information between the division’s four sites (using integrated 3D CAD/CAM and product data management (PDM) software) has helped cut the time it takes from receipt of order to delivery and installation from 18 – 24 to 3 – 4 months.

The Division’s four sites are at Dunfermline, Houston and Singapore, each handling local subsea equipment, and Sens in France, which handles land-based equipment. Each site undertakes design, manufacturing, testing, installation and servicing of wellhead equipment. Each wellhead is subtly different, so each system calls for a one-off design, but there are many common components, so the designs are modular.

As with most companies operating in a global economy, FMC’s Wellhead Equipment Division realised that to remain competitive it had to achieve three objectives: reduce its time-to-market; implement standards to enable the sharing and control of data; and re-use (not re-invent) design information.

The challenge facing the division was how to operate as a cohesive unit from separate sites (with each site retaining local autonomy) when each site supplies similar products using the same conceptual designs.

The answer was found in a systems approach called integrated product development (IPD). This combines concurrent and systems engineering and is supported by a Unigraphics high-end, integrated 3D CAD/CAM system and a Web-based iMAN PDM system.At its Dunfermline site FMC has 45 ‘seats’ of Unigraphics CAD/CAM software, supported by 130 seats of the iMAN PDM system. The company has developed a library of over 20,000 common engineering features and components, all parametrically defined and stored in the design system’s database where they can be accessed through iMAN.

These items carry design and manufacturing information and can be assembled, within the Unigraphics 3D modelling environment, into models of the complex wellhead structures. These standardised components became the tried and tested building blocks with which the company can quickly design, assemble, test, document and manufacture new structures. Now it can re-use the best examples of previous products to meet new needs, regardless of which site originally designed them.

The iMAN software embraces all phases of the product life-cycle. As well as supporting an integrated design-to-manufacture environment, at FMC it has been interfaced to the company’s enterprise resources planning (ERP) system to enable transfer of bill of materials and other engineering information directly from the design database into the ERP system for manufacturing planning purposes.

The Web interface to iMAN enables any authorised user at any FMC site to use the Internet to quickly set up a query of parts or designs held at any of the design and manufacturing sites. This helps FMC’s engineers to be fully aware of and to re-use similar parts and designs that have been created elsewhere in the Wellhead Equipment Division. Drawings, 3D CAD solid models and other graphical data can be transmitted to the enquirer in a variety of formats. It is even possible for them to receive data as MPEGs, so that they can see videos of how parts should be assembled.

The benefits of this approach in terms of streamlining operations are far reaching, with the Internet able to support a collaborative development environment with virtual mock-up, prototyping and product simulation across a globally dispersed group.

A compelling example of the benefits this has brought is a recent project undertaken by Houston in which it was able to re-use at least 90% of the data from a previous Dunfermline project. This saved an estimated 10,000 man hours, valued at $750,000.

Tel: 01276 702033 e-mail: