Jul 31, 2017 -- Balustrade manufacturers often come across the challenges of custom design demands from their customers so as to complement their architectural aspects. It becomes a headache when each component of a balustrade say handrail, spindles, newel base, newel post, base rail etc. are to be customized for dimensions, materials used, etc. The challenge here is not only with altering the designs and fabrication drawings but also increased manufacturing time in changing tool setting, adjusting the skill sets, the time taken, material cutting method adopted for fabrication, etc.
Well, it is obvious that there are too many variants for taking a custom order for balustrade manufacturers and thus; there are too many design options that fabricators may come across. On top of all these, fabricators also are keen on practicing Built-to-Order [BTO] methods to stay profitable. One may think BTO isn’t a very wise option, because of the threat of losing customer. But how researched thinking it is in the era of 3D CAD and design automation!
The difficulty in practicing BTO is that the fabricators will never have ‘ready-to-sell products’ which makes their customers to wait until the product is fabricated. The fabricator shall never know if the customer will wait for him to complete the order or if he will approach another fabricator. This uncertainty causes a pressure to meet the project timeline and subconsciously bothers the fabricator and output quality.
Rise of a new era in fabrication
If one is vigilant, and follows the trends in balustrade fabrication industry, then they must have noticed that these fabricators have now shifted from mass production to mass customization. Mass customization is replacing the earlier and has become its ‘antithesis.’
From the introduction of Just-in-Time or BTO practice by Toyota motors to today, every fabricator has become keen on practicing BTO. The increased inclination of balustrade fabricators towards BTO is because of advantages like every order is tailored to customers’ need, and not having any burden of inventory that is not sold.
However, most of the times, any new fabricator entering the BTO market fails, miserable owing to several challenges. Even if they somehow manage to deliver every customized requirement in designs, they are bound to miss the deadlines.
The most important, and the missing element – design automation
The reason to missed deadlines and meeting project delivery time is that with receipt of every customized order, the fabricator has to get back to their design engineer for design modification. Each time the design requirements change fabricator falls back on design engineer to redesign the fabrication drawings, assembly drawings and installation drawings. Other downstream processes that include generating BOMs, order quantity, developing documents for marketing, coordinating with retail sellers, etc. consume immense time until the product is commercialized.
It isn’t that these aforementioned factors causing delay are unknown to balustrade fabricators, but the fact is they are missing out on appropriate technology tools and expertise. The secret key of automating designs that can speed up the design delivery process is missing or blur. By creating a master model and populating variants in product configurator, can essentially eliminate the repetitive design work from scratch and bring products to market faster.
In case of balustrade manufacturers, design engineers can create a master model in SOLIDWORKS and fit varying requirements such as number of spindles, handrails, dimensions into product configurator using design automation plugin alike DriveWorks. The advantage of using a product configurator is that each time a custom order is received; design requirements of the order can be fed into product configurator which will generate fabrication drawings, quotes, BOMs within no time.
The biggest advantage that design automation brings in is that it eliminates rounds of going to design engineer for changes and back to the shop floor. The only need then remains is the full-scale rendering of the balustrade model to depict and enhance carvings and texturing details of balustrade for marketing and sales catalogue. This essentially will eliminate consuming unnecessary hours and speed up the process for BTOs from design to market the final finished product.
Design automation thus serves as a secret door to success for balustrade fabricators, keen at practicing BTOs and yet wants to serve their customers without the fear of losing them because of delayed delivery.
About Author: Gaurang Trivedi is Engineering consultant at TrueCADD. He has applied his engineering expertise across several highly complex and big scale projects, consequently managing to flawlessly deliver as per the client requirements.