Using the Web as a design tool

Sauer-Sundstrand has embraced the Web to expedite its new designs. Design Engineering looks at how they did it.

Increased outsourcing and global competition are continually reshaping the way products are conceptualised, designed, manufactured and brought to the market. For that reason, the ability for a manufacturer to communicate and collaborate within an organisation and with its suppliers during all phases of a product’s life cycle has become a challenge for today’s leading manufacturers.

Sauer-Sundstrand, a manufacturer of integrated fluid power systems, confronts the same pressures any manufacturing company faces in bringing new products to market or collaborating with its suppliers – too many people, and not enough communication. All this makes it hard to manage design projects. With the help of Engineering Animation’s newly released e-Vis.com software, however, Sauer-Sundstrand has found a way to turn the problem into an opportunity.

DESIGN APPLICATION

When Sauer-Sundstrand looked at its communications infrastructure, not only across its internal operations, but also with its external suppliers, the company realised it needed a tool that would dramatically reduce the communication errors and confusion that lead to delays and lost profits. For the company to remain competitive, collaboration needed to be streamlined.

In the past, the design team struggled to collaborate with members spread throughout the world. Designers found stumbling blocks littering their path – incompatible systems, lost data, unreturned phone calls, and so on.

When they did take place, collaborations were also very paper-intensive. There was a reliance on e-mail and phone calls to get a product through the design system. It was clear that a better way to collaborate was needed to diminish the confusion and expedite the process.

A software product from EIA, e-Vis.com, allows the company to connect members of its design team from around the world, all with the click of a mouse. Designers can share documents, drawings and 3D models from computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools, which may reside in product data management (PDM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems or legacy databases. Once posted to e-Vis.com, all information is accessible to team members both within and outside of a firewall.

To eliminate the design team’s confusion about whether or not changes have been made to a file, e-Vis.com offers e-mailed change notification. When a designer changes a file, whether it is a 3D model or a simple word file, an e-mail is sent out to all team members, noting that a change has been made to a specific file.

To eliminate unproductive conferences where current information has not reached all members, e-Vis.com also provides interactive conferencing. A team, spread throughout the world, can access the same document, drawing or 3D model. When one team member moves a 3D model on his or her system, the model is moved on every team member’s screen as well.

Sauer-Sundstrand has seen a serious reduction in lost time and confusion as a result.

In a collaborative world, where ideas and concepts are still very nebulous, the new software allows the design team to collect and capture the decision process. It allows the data to be stored in a central location and gives designers and production managers independent access to it. This environment facilitates idea sharing, problem resolution and information exchange. Everyone has the information, so there is no confusion or lost information.

Today’s manufacturers are finding that outsourcing offers a competitive advantage and brings products to market faster. In order to reap the benefits, Sauer-Sundstrand knew it needed to find a more efficient way to collaborate effectively with its high-value suppliers, especially in the crucial bidding process.

Sauer-Sundstrand’s old method for receiving bids from suppliers was time consuming and confusing. First its designers would assemble a model in 2D – after creating it in 3D for their own use. The 2D model would then be FedExed to upwards of a 100 potential suppliers, which was expensive and time-consuming. Once the potential supplier received the 2D model, it would have to recreate the design in 3D. This led to lost time, which translated to missed opportunities and lost profit. By the time a bid was received, three or four weeks had passed.

In the past, when the company collaborated with its supply chain, it dealt with different CAD systems and different needs. Files were converted into TIF, but the feature control symbols did not translate well. With e-Vis.com, all files can be accessed and read irrespective of the CAD system used to view it.

Sauer Sundstrand receives not only the benefit of a Web-based collaboration tool, but also has the guarantee of a secure collaboration environment. Through a partnership with Hewlett Packard, e-Vis.com combines EAI’s collaboration, visualisation and analysis solutions with HP’s servers and world-wide security. In fact, e-Vis.com is secured by components of HP’s Praesidium Security Solutions offering.

HP Praesidium comes with backing of HP’s VirtualVault, a secure, run-time environment for Internet applications. The VirtualVault platform for Internet applications reduces the security risk when applications are deployed for electronic commerce.

Sauer-Sundstrand now uses the full suite of EAI’s visual enterprise product management (VisEPM) throughout their enterprise. Using e-Vis.com gives the company not only the full benefit of Web-based collaboration, but also the ability to use the VisEPM suite through the Web between computers already outfitted with the program.

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