Edited by Barb Schmitz
Business has a few simple truths. Production costs drive prices is one of them. Materials must be found, parts must be created, and products must be assembled. At every point of the process is a cost, and behind every production is a manufacturer working to keep them as low as possible.
When looking for a cost culprit, inefficiency as a result of poor communication is often to blame at most manufacturing firms. Supplier contracting and direct materials sourcing both take time; the trick is making sure that they don’t take too much time.
Sourcing and supplier management system combats inefficiencies
One way manufacturers can tackle all issues at once is through the DirectWorks solution for sourcing and supplier management. Used across the discrete manufacturing industry by companies such as Whirlpool and B/E Aerospace, this system helps companies share and collaborate on product designs, send and receive quotes, and analyze total cost to reduce the inefficiencies that have historically plagued this process.
Previously, sourcing played out a little like an Old West card game: “show me yours first.” This hesitancy stemmed from stories of suppliers using the completed CAD files they were supposed to be using for assessment purposes to launch products themselves. Incomplete files became the bid standard, which led to inflated prices from suppliers looking to protect themselves by padding their quotes, just in case the design turned out to be more expensive once the full product description was revealed.
Directworks saw this exchange for what it was: a waste of time. Designs could remain secure, costs could come down, and the process could be accelerated with the right system. The one it devised fulfilled these needs for customers, but left the company with a few headaches of its own. For instance, the 3D visualization element of the software was time-consuming to manage and would require Directworks to invest a lot of precious development resources. Instead, they found their pre-made workaround in Tech Soft 3D.
Partnership with Tech Soft facilitated visualization needed for collaboration with suppliers
Over 20 years in the 3D CAD industry has made Tech Soft 3D the go-to company for B2B engineering software development. Directworks knew of Tech Soft 3D’s HOOPS technology and how it had helped other companies add advanced visualization capabilities into their solutions. With the next version looming, Directworks did its due diligence and decided to partner with Tech Soft 3D for their 3D CAD visualization and translation needs. The transition was flawless.
“It was pretty remarkable how easy it was to plug HOOPS Communicator into our software,” said Derek Jeremias, vice president of R&D at Directworks. “Within days 3D CAD files could be viewed and interacted with in a very accurate, valuable, and data-rich way—all within a web browser. Suddenly we had our one-stop shop for the web-based viewing of 3D files.”
HOOPS Communicator enhanced the Directworks model viewing and collaboration environment, where sourcing professionals, engineers, and suppliers can discuss detailed part requirements. Collaborating on these details helps manufacturers quickly provide the type of information that allows suppliers to give more accurate quotes, and accuracy is often synonymous with cost savings.
Sharing also allows suppliers to share suggestions that would make the part easier to build, which could result in a lower cost and a shorter manufacturing cycle.
“Enabling easy access to more information always helps in the sourcing process,” says Jeremias. “For instance, if something should cost a dollar, but the supplier quotes $1.10 because of scant details, that’s not necessarily a big deal when you’re talking about one or two items, but multiply that by an inventory of a thousand or a million, and you’re looking at huge preventable losses for your company. HOOPS Communicator helps us prevent those situations.”
Reducing compatibility and security hurdles
Directworks also wanted to prevent compatibility issues. Since there are numerous CAD programs in the market, and one manufacturer might design in a CAD system that a supplier might not have access to, file format-related issues are common during the exchange process.
With HOOPS Communicator, Directworks was able to replace many translators in one fell swoop as the software is able to read and translate over 20 of the most popular CAD formats into the intelligent model data – e.g. assemblies, parts, model structure, PMI and meta-data – that suppliers need to make their decisions.
“We are in the business of building software to make manufacturers successful in their sourcing and supplier management initiatives. We don’t want to be in the business of developing translators,” says Jeremias. “HOOPS is a plug-and-play solution that we can update as changes emerge in all of the dominant formats.”
Confining sensitive information to the cloud also helped Directworks solve the intellectual property security problem that all manufacturers worry about. With Tech Soft’s HOOPS technology and proprietary features within Directworks, users can restrict the ability to download, print, and view files. This is especially valuable when companies are reducing supplier options, as they can cut off design access to anyone they decide against. As a result, suppliers are left with no copy of the manufacturer’s original file, making it is difficult to steal the design and proceed to market.
“Taking something to market is hard enough without the added strain of security threats and data-poor visualizations,” says Jeremias. “Our customers just want to connect, communicate and discover the fastest path to their best cost. With HOOPS Communicator, we could give them that and remove years of development time from our own plates. Who wouldn’t go for that?”
Filed Under: Design World articles