Ford Motor Company is moving rapidly from using the Internet as simply a marketing tool and e-mail system towards integrating concurrent engineering on the net.
With its C3P initiative, the company aims to use the Internet as part of a strategy to integrate key computing technologies for computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing, computer aided engineering and product information management.
C3P allows styling, packaging, design and manufacturing to take place in parallel. Manufacturing links to the CAD model allow product design changes to flow directly to and from manufacturing and component assembly plants around the world. The goal is to achieve a seamless flow of CAD, CAM and CAE environments, using a product information management system to integrate all data in a common form.
More than 8,000 Ford designers, design engineers and manufacturing engineers and CAE analysts are being trained to use C3P. The data will be used by more than 30,000 users at Ford and several thousand suppliers.
At present several hundred tier-1 suppliers are connected via an intranet, with sites in Europe, US, Asia and South America. Ultimately, all tier-1 suppliers will be connected to C3P and by the end of the year, 24 vehicle programmes will be online. The company expects a large rise in productivity in design engineering as a result of linking Ford development teams round the world to pool their collective knowledge.
C3P technology is estimated to cut vehicle development time from 37 months to 24 from programme approval, and the aim is to reduce development time to 18 months. Development of digital prototypes using C3P has reduced the number of physical prototypes by 25%.