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06.12.2018

Expert advice on the basics of digitalization (No. 1)

How you can finally make up-to-date CAD designs available to all SAP users

Do you also regularly and more and more urgently call for the end of departmental silos in your manufacturing company? Then the introduction of a process-controlled, digital-based conversion and visualization of CAD designs is a milestone that supports your business viewpoint. When employees can easily learn about the current design and manufacturing data of a part, they can more quickly achieve the best result for their particular task in the product development process (PDP). At the same time, more digitalization in the PDP also means further improved change management. 

Does that remind you of your own company? The product manager wants to present the functionalities of the product innovation in marketing with only PowerPoint sketches. Procurement asks daily in the development department for details of the new assembly in order to supply the special alloy on time and cost-efficiently. And the tool shop should adapt a component fixture as quickly as possible, but is not sure whether the 2D drawing already contains the last change.

Proven technology

Not everyone needs to be able to use CAD software, but everyone needs the correct and up-to-date data at their own workplace. You can support this with a concept for process-controlled, digital-based conversion and visualization of CAD designs.

The only system requirement is a connection between the CAD authoring system and SAP PLM. The required technology is tried and tested: The requested CAD models are converted into neutral formats, saved in SAP and linked to relevant SAP objects. The data is now compressed and can be displayed in a viewer as a 3D object. And all of this with fast loading time.

How much information the 3D model provides for purchasing, manufacturing or service depends on how close your company is to the 3D master. The better the data quality, the higher the benefit.

Needless to say, 2D drawings can also be generated from the current data status with a process-controlled conversion. In combinatio with the "Stamp per view" technology, the user gets a clear indication of the release status of the respective drawing.

A potential scenario: The employee has a drive unit displayed in the 3D viewer of the SAP ECTR user interface and sees at a glance which release status individual components have due to the colored marking.

Multiple benefits

With the introduction of this concept, you are not only better positioned for digitalization, you are also gaining immediate efficiency:

  • Date Efficiency: No more media discontinuity for CAD data, the "Single Source of Truth" principle is maintained.
  • Process Efficiency: On the basis of consistent data, workflows can be automated. Instead of sequential workflows, the company can converge to the concept of frontloading (IT-supported relocation of critical sub-processes to early phases of the PDP) because, for example, changes directly reach all parties involved in the PDP.
  • Efficiency from the employee's point of view: Easy access to the correct data and up-to-date knowledge eliminates unnecessary correction loops. The 3D viewer also enables employees who are not accustomed to working with 2D views or have no view of the product at all to intuitively understand the geometry and functionality. Basically, employees value the fact that their workplace is equipped with the tools they need to perform their tasks in the best possible way. And this is also something worth thinking about: Young colleagues who have grown up in the digital world find it difficult to understand why this should not work.

The user can simply click to display a sectional view.

Silo mentality and related pitfalls

The introduction of a process-controlled, digital-based conversion and visualization thus offers many advantages. In addition, the technology itself is not new. So why has it not yet established itself as the standard in the manufacturing industry?

"Never change a running system ", "why should we spend money on it", "so what we do is worth nothing, or why should we change that ". These sentences come in many variations and tones.

If enough stakeholders express concerns, the initiative to innovate the processes is quickly slowed down. After all, PDP in the manufacturing industry is indeed highly complex and in the end it is easiest to continue as before.

One of the biggest challenges for conversion and visualization so far has been the fact that multiple departments have to pull together. This is where management is needed to overcome divisional thinking. And management actually has a new interest in the topic.

Digitalization changes everything

Because a sustainable digital strategy is based on data consistency and automation, among other things. Against this background a project such as the concept for the conversion and visualization of CAD data has a completely new significance. It is recognized as important for business and is therefore authorized and budgeted appropriately.

The management floor is also in demand in the accompanying change processes. The more routines are automated, the more clearly those involved must commit themselves to standards. And that sometimes means saying goodbye to beloved workarounds.

After all, visualization is just a tool - to use it effectively, you have to embed it in processes. These changes can not only be demanded, they also need to be moderated.

SAP ECTR Viewer – the user can have dimensions displayed.

Clear view ahead!

However, the courage to set out will be rewarded in any case, and this also holds true for this element of digitalization. Immediately through more efficiency and in terms of structure, because further changes are easier.

At CENIT, we recommend "Think Big, Start Small, Start now" to decision-makers. This is also my recommendation for you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!


CENIT SAP PLM Foundation

The introduction of modern technology is only possible in connection with the optimization of processes. Therefore we offer with our SAP PLM Foundation a package of innovative PLM solutions and proven methods.

You benefit from our decades of experience in designing PLM solutions for manufacturing companies:

  • Our packages Visulization & Conversion, Migration, Integration, Process Management, Monitoring & Reporting and Collaboration supports typical engineering processes with templates.
  • Through configuration, we guarantee rapid availability of a usable system.
  • Our experienced teams of experts can offer reliable results for agile project methods.

You can determine the result of the entire project as well as its duration and budget exactly.