When the “Father of CAD,” DR. Patricky Hanratty, invented Automated Drafting and Machining (ADAM), he couldn’t have imagined how brands like SolidWorks would take his blueprint for computer-aided design and run with it.
Forty years later, CAD has supercharged engineering productivity, transformed design quality, and made collaboration and sharing seamless. Now – just as virtual and augmented reality are coming online – design automation is revolutionizing CAD once more.
With design automation, manufacturers of complex, configurable products can generate CAD drawings automatically, accurately, and instantly. Engineers can skip menial, manual tasks and focus on innovation. Sales can provide quotes in seconds. And customers can enjoy a rapid, streamlined customer experience.
Design automation lies at the heart of what we do at KBMax. Here’s why.
What is Design Automation?
Capturing your engineering knowledge and intent, applying it in real-time during the product configuration process, and auto-generating CAD drawings with zero engineering input – that’s design automation.
Like all forms of automation, design automation leads to higher product quality, speed, and output while reducing costs, lead times, and mistakes. With design automation, you can remove the human element from an array of slow, tedious modeling tasks, clearing engineering bottlenecks once and for all.
How Does CAD Design Automation Factor Into the CPQ Process?
For manufacturers of complex products, the design and engineering phase is often the most painful. Not only because it’s slow and repetitive, but because it’s fraught with errors and inconsistencies.
Today, sales reps have to deal with ever-expanding catalogs of products with hundreds of options and dependencies. And it’s hard. With somewhat limited technical know-how, they’re expected to configure products that cater to customers’ unique needs. And sometimes, they make mistakes.
Some configuration mistakes are straightforward – missing a comma or a period, checking the wrong box, or writing something illegible. Others are more nuanced – a configuration doesn’t comply with safety standards, or it will be a complete pain-in-the-ass to manufacture.
Visual CPQ with design automation eliminates all product configuration mistakes and removes sales-engineering-production complexity. Product rules ensure that every configuration is optimized for engineering efficiency, customer satisfaction, and profitability.
In short, visual CPQ with design automation streamlines the entire engineer-to-order process, from shopping cart to shop-floor. Here’s how:
- Instead of picking part numbers out of a catalog, users configure products using a visual product configurator. Sales reps – or end-customers if you embed your configurator into your website – simply drag and drop within a 3D interface to assemble products from scratch.
- CPQ calculates prices for configurable products in real-time, letting users optimize outcomes without overstepping budgetary constraints.
- CPQ auto-generates quotes, proposals, estimates, terms and conditions, and more – whatever’s needed to get a deal done. If CPQ is integrated into your B2B eCommerce platform, customers can make a purchase immediately.
- Thanks to design automation, CPQ generates CAD drawings as well as BOMs, assembly instructions, and CNC data, handing it off automatically to engineering and the shop floor, kickstarting production.
12 Reasons Why Design Automation Lies at Heart of KBMax
Design automation reduces costs, improves product quality, and facilitates industry-beating buying experiences that put your competitors to shame.
If you want to respond to quote requests in seconds and get products into customers’ hands faster than ever before, then design automation is for you.
Not every business that uses KBMax uses design automation – some companies use KBMax purely as a rules-driven sales tool. Nevertheless, most engineer-to-order manufacturers stand to make huge gains with design automation. Here are eight reasons why:
Reason #1: You can 10X your product customization options without increasing costs and complexity.
Today’s customer is prepared to pay significantly more for a personalized product than a one-size-fits-most alternative. But, traditionally, providing more product options has meant greater complexity on both the sales and production sides. Not so with design automation.
Product rules built into the back-end of a visual CPQ solution make configuring products with thousands of options easy. Meanwhile, design automation strips the complexity out of engineering. There’s no excuse for inflexibility over how customers’ products look and operate.
Reason #2: You can lighten the load on your sales team with sales automation software. They’re not engineers (and they’re not artists either!)
Sales is stressful. Reps are frequently juggling multiple prospects, managing the expectations of demanding customers, and selling complex products that they only superficially understand.
Stop forcing reps to sketch complicated product configurations by hand. Let design automation handle the sketches – leave sales reps to do what they do best: go out and sell.
Reason #3: You can rapidly onboard new hires in sales, design, engineering, and production teams.
Minimize the training needed to create, decipher, and utilize CAD drawings. Get new hires up to speed in days rather than months by simplifying all sides of the engineer-to-order process.
Reason #4: You can eradicate errors to reduce rework, returns, and refunds.
Sales reps and junior designers can configure designs safe in the knowledge that whatever they produce will be error-free – every configuration is validated up-front from an engineering perspective.
Product rules mean no mistakes, which means no rework, no costly refunds, less wastage, fewer crappy products going to landfills, and a smaller environmental impact overall.
Reason #5: You can respond to RFQs (requests for quotes) faster than your competitors.
In fiercely competitive industries, where differentiating on product and price is hard, it can be something as mundane as which company responds fastest to a quote request that determines who wins the deal.
If you work in an organization where:
- a) configurations have to be signed off by engineering before you can provide a quote, or
- b) customers need technical drawings before they can make a purchase
Then imagine what a difference it would make if you could complete projects and send quotes in seconds.
Reason #6: You can spend more time on R&D and Innovation.
Automating tedious engineering tasks and eradicating configuration errors gives engineers more time to focus on work that requires real creativity, expertise, and flair.
Your engineers went to school to learn how to innovate, not to carry out mindless tasks. If you want to secure your company’s long-term competitiveness and retain your best engineers, maximize the time they spend on R&D.
Reason #7: You can make a “back-up” of your at-risk engineering knowledge and experience.
If your product rules and design intent are stored inside the mind of one (or more) of your engineering team, then you have a severe key person risk. If this critical employee gets sick for an extended period or, worse still, leaves your organization, then you could be in serious trouble.
Design automation provides the opportunity to capture this person’s in-depth technical knowledge by storing it in code. Take ownership of their product expertise and re-use it throughout your organization.
Reason #8: You can check and review designs automatically, guaranteeing standards compliance every time.
If it takes your company longer to check a design than it does to create it, then you’re not doing it right. With design automation, you can review and validate designs automatically to ensure everyone follows best practices.
Say a design can’t be manufactured from standard-sized raw materials or has features your CNC machine can’t handle, then design automation will flag that up. Users will receive an error message and guidance on rectifying the issue before proceeding with the product configuration process.