Subtitle: The story of the missing link - Connecting CAD to the Business system.
The challenge of making an electronic connection between the CAD and the Business system (ERP), started back some 30 years ago, when among other, IBM introduced solutions for the CIM factory – Computer Integrated Manufacturing. In this concept the CAD/Business system integration was a part of this.
It was never a success and still it is a minor success for a number of reasons.
This is very strange because a lot of potential cost savings are hidden in this arena because of the opportunity to reduce double-data entry, errors and reduced time-to-manufacturing. Obeying a few rules makes this an obvious low-hanging fruit to be picked up.
Why does it fail?
One reason is that people in R&D and (in this case) production engineering people normally have a different view on how a product looks like putting the "paper" product down to manageable master product data, side-by-side with the drawings for subsequent forward use.
Another reason is the lack of standards for exchange of data - many different CAD-systems, many different business systems.
If you take a look at a product seen from a production engineering perspective, it is imperative with functions to transform the construction bill of materials into appropriate item master definitions, production bill of materials opposed to the construction bill of materials, perhaps create assembly bill of materials, add proces definitions in the appearance of routings, resource definitions and other.
So what is needed is a standard transformation and creation tool or “glue”, so that R&D-construction data can be added as business system manufacturing data by the production engineer in a flexible and efficient way.
A few important points can be set up when considering a solution:
Importing CAD files.
A kind of functionality for delivering the CAD product files into a temporary workspace must exist. Most CAD systems can deliver excel-format product data as part of the release process. This import or transfer ideally should be used in a temporary work space which makes up the production engineers playground for doing his job providing the data for the business system - master data setup, bill of material levelling, adding routing information, calculate product costs, commenting, attach various documentation etc.
It should be build for a specific business solution.
Ideally the system should have its roots in specific CAD/business systems and not as a general solution covering more (many) ERP solutions. No one in this world can have the necessary deep knowledge about producing a general solution which suits many individual CAD/business solutions features and functions.
CAD systems can deliver item/article/property information together with construction bill of materials. The challenge is that the production engineer definitely wants to change these construction bills of materials into master data suitable for production. It is the production engineer function who see the product from a manufacturing perspective.
If the solution you are looking at does not have the data maintenance & modelling capability, then beware.
More so-called standard solutions (-or home-grown) provide taking a CAD bill of material data on-board in the business system as is. Most often this just creates the double-manual work in the business system afterwards – deleting, changing, adding, re-creating and other time-consuming work to get the right data structure for manufacturing purposes.
Not many CAD systems provides proper data for route and process information for making a product.
To complete the whole set of master data it is very important that the production engineer can add route/process/text information based on master data in the ERP system when he has finished the bill of material modelling.
Finally creating the business system data
The business system create and update proces should be a performed automatically in a business system controlled and validated way to ensure data consistency, and not just created "from the outside".
Watch out for the kind people who offer you to write some programmes to help you in this area.
Probably you will never finish the bespoke solution, you have spend a lot of money, your standard business system is probably not standard anymore, and you did not obtain the original objective.
Much more can be said.... But the keywords are proper CAD/business system data mapping, a workspace for transforming, modelling and completing a manufactured product, and a solid foundation for creating the business system data.
Least not last you need to consider the acquisition costs alternatives for different solution options.
If you run a Dynamics NAV, the NAVEKSA CADCONNECT solution , certified by Microsoft, complies with the above points, and is a clean cut interface towards you CAD-system, whatever the brand is.