Delphi Makes A Huge Statement And A Bold Claim

This week Delphi Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Delphi Corp., made a potentially monumental proclamation - it boldly stated that it was single-handedly going to redefine CAD/CAM design for manufacturers. It announced two new structured CAD/CAM methodologies for manufacturing companies - Horizontal Modeling (HM) and Digital Process Design (DPD).

These methodologies have been developed over the last six years at Delphi's Steering Manufacturing Development Center, and, according to the company, represent an entirely new way of executing manufacturing design. The main benefits of Delphi's methodologies minimize or eliminate design change redundancies throughout design, engineering, and production. The company claims that their methodologies have boosted the productivity of CAD/CAM designers by as much as 70 percent. Even for the automotive industry's largest supplier (formerly a General Motors Corp. parts unit, but now a spin-off), these are some pretty heady claims.

The crux of the methodologies' value is enabling designers to use their existing CAD systems to create higher quality CAD data that is easier to change downstream, theoretically resulting in greater production in less time.

Ideally, Horizontal Modeling lets designers eliminate the need for re-creating CAD data throughout the product and manufacturing design cycle. Designers can work from fewer CAD models, streamlining the product design process, improving productivity, enabling faster updates and changes, and automating the downstream flow of documentation onto the manufacturing floor.

Digital Process Design optimizes design-change cycles as manufacturing process designers develop process models and associated process drawings. Drawings are automatically created, updated and deployed with minimal rework or design redundancy. Design teams can realize significant efficiencies, as the entire design-to-manufacture process becomes faster, more accurate and more reliable, yielding greater productivity and lower cost.

These methodologies can be performed using existing CAD systems, which means they're vendor neutral, which is a good thing. HM and DPD are currently used in production environments using Unigraphics, CATIA and SolidWorks, but could work with virtually all 3D CAD systems, according to Delphi. To facilitate delivery and support of the methodologies, Delphi Technologies has established a new business entity, the Delphi Center of CAD/CAM Excellence (DCCE). The Center will serve as an industry resource, providing training and certification programs in the methodologies.

According to Mike Richardson, Director of Engineering at Delphi Steering, "As Six Sigma and lean manufacturing have illustrated for years, disciplined product delivery methodologies can have a tremendous impact on manufacturing efficiencies. While Six Sigma and lean concentrate on what's occurring 'downstream,' Delphi's structured methodologies go 'upstream' to provide substantial cost savings and increased productivity throughout the design-to-manufacturing cycle." These methodologies are being rapidly adopted across Delphi Corporation as an efficient means of delivering product designs and processes. We have realized significant benefits from using these methodologies."

Just how significant are these benefits? According to Delphi, together, Horizontal Modeling and Digital Process Design can provide a:
  • 20 percent reduction in time to create models
  • 90 percent reduction in time to edit models and process sheets
  • 75 percent reduction in total project time

Although it's not the first to announce it was going to revolutionize the CAD industry, Delphi has a definitely different spin on it. However, as good as this all sounds, I for one will remain on the fence until I see some metrics with qualitative and quantitative results from organizations actually employing the new methodologies. I'm not exactly skeptical, but I'll maintain a "wait and see" attitude and observe how things evolve. Until then, though, it's an exciting prospect if Delphi can, in fact, pull it off. It would be great to see such innovation coming from an industry that desperately needs some good news these days.

Letters To The Editor

This week we received some interesting feedback to last week's Commentary on the similarities and differences of CAD and CAM, entitled "Closing The CAD/CAM Gap.

"In many respects CAD and CAE have the same limiting constraints [as CAD and CAM]. Many small intricate features result in changes of scale for analysis and require unnecessary computing times to handle them. It is the corollary of the need for expensive resources to manufacture them."

-Pedro Marcal, PVM Corp.

I respectfully differ from your opinion regarding the differences and reasons for a gap between CAD and CAM. I believe the gap is not because of workflow, features, and interoperability - these are but symptoms of a condition created earlier in the history of product development and exacerbated during the industrial revolution and the age of "Scientific Management". During Fredrick Taylor's rise in industry, the separations between design and manufacturing increased. What was once a holistic process became specialized, compartmentalized, and intellectualized. Those in the design community, responsible for what was to be produced, became further and further isolated from those responsible for how it was produced. Then, during the golden era of Operations Research (WWII) even the how it was produced became fragmented from who was actually producing it, thus Manufacturing Engineering and Industrial Engineering became the bridge between the what and the how. As with any isolated group, over time, language becomes specialized and dialects developed address to the specific environment and tasks, thus Design and Manufacturing became, to paraphrase the joke, two product disciplines separated by a common language.

The one hope I see in reintegrating the disciplines is the formation of cross-functional teams and the recognition that all engineering is just a series of transformations (Customer>>Requirements>>Product Specification>>Manufacturing Specification>>Facility Capability Specification>> Facility Scheduling>>Process Executions). That is, mapping the dialects to a common engineering core physics, mathematics, etc.

-Brian K Seitz, Intellectual Arbitrage Group

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--Jeffrey Rowe is Editor and Publisher of MCADCafé and MCADWeekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact.

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