May 03, 2004
"Work in Progress" Design Changes Continue To Negatively Impact Product Development Schedules
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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"Work in Progress" Design Changes Continue To Negatively Impact Product Development Schedules

While tremendous advances in CAD software have helped engineers accelerate product development schedules, significant technical obstacles remain during the highly iterative "work in progress" phase. New and emerging 3D design tools are needed to help engineers and product managers more quickly and efficiently understand a design, make design changes, and communicate design changes across a globally distributed product development team.

These opinions were reflected in survey responses from CAD and design engineers attending National Manufacturing Week's NDES Show where thousands of industry professionals gathered to meet with suppliers, view product demonstrations and have access to all of the latest products available. Conducted by ImpactXoft, the survey found that for many CAD engineers even moderate design changes are still taking a longer time than they should and that despite significant technology improvements over the past several years, 3D models remain very difficult to interpret.

Results highlights include (percentages are percent of respondents):
  • 52 percent stated it can still take weeks and months to make extensive changes to a design
  • 72 percent had significant issues interpreting design changes
  • 70 percent had significant issues incorporating suggested changes to their designs
  • 42 percent said that overlapping design changes continue to hamper, and often delay, design efforts
  • "The engineers we surveyed are clear on this point - the tremendous pressure on manufacturers to continue cutting development time and costs is creating a demand for more advanced yet user-friendly and intuitive tools that enable engineers to make design changes with the click of a button and then communicate those changes as simply as sending an email," said Attilio Rimoldi, ImpactXoft's co-founder, president and CEO. "Once these tools are accepted throughout the design industry, the speed at which products are developed will increase dramatically."

    CAD design tools that enable "order independence" - meaning that a user can create designs based on a behavior driven approach as opposed to the order dependant design tree model - exemplify the capabilities design engineers need to take product development to the next level of efficiency. Collaboration and communication problems are being addressed by new capabilities enabling design engineers to work in parallel on the same design and share and merge design changes with the simplicity of an email exchange.

    For more detailed information about the survey, the survey results, and these emerging approaches for solving design problems for engineers, visit

    ImpactXoft is a private, venture-funded software company providing a suite of products that enable Simultaneous Product Development. The IX SPeeD Suite for collaborative 3D design delivers a new way to manage engineering design changes that fosters innovation, accelerates the product development cycle, and reduces design costs. It is based on two key technologies unique to ImpactXoft: ImpactXoft has formed strategic partnerships with and Inc. More information about ImpactXoft is available at

    OK, granted this survey was backed by ImpactXoft and the comments made by its president and CEO are somewhat slanted to promote his product (the IX SPeeD Suite), but the survey does reveal some interesting, but not totally surprising figures. The two figures I found most telling where the relatively high percentages that reported significant issues in interpreting and incorporating design changes. These are higher than I would have thought, but not so much higher that I was bowled over. While the survey is fairly comprehensive, I felt it would have been useful to also ask the participants which CAD product(s) they were using, as well as the industries they represented and the types of products they were designing. Further, it would have been interesting to see how many of the survey participants were using ImactXoft because it's got design approach and methodology that is kind of unique in the CAD space. First, it has IX Instant Participation that helps promote real-time or on-demand parallel product development. Second, IX Functional Modeling provides for a flexible, behavior-driven design approach that helps maintain and sustain original design intent throughout the product development process. Finally, it doesn't hurt that ImpactXoft has partnered with a couple of heavy hitters - Dassault Systemes (ImpactXoft is natively interoperable with CATIA V5 and Dassault
    Systemes' other PLM products) and Toyota Caelum.

    Manufacturing Crisis Continues

    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and other Members of Congress held a roundtable discussion last week with Governors Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Ed Rendell (D-PA), and Jim Doyle (D-WI) on the U.S. manufacturing crisis. Below are her remarks:

    "Our manufacturing sector is vital to our future prosperity and security. Manufacturing is critical for the financial security of millions of families - every manufacturing job creates at least four other jobs. It is critical for our country's economic security - manufacturing accounts for approximately 17 percent of gross domestic product and represents 71 percent of our exports abroad. And manufacturing is critical for our national security. We cannot ensure a strong military and protect the American homeland without a strong industrial and manufacturing base.

    "Our manufacturing sector is critical, but after three years of President Bush, it is in crisis.

    "Our country is hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs. Since taking office, President Bush has lost 2.8 million good-paying manufacturing jobs, and continues to lose more every month. 1 million jobs have been shipped overseas. And manufacturing employment is at a 53-year low.

    "For President Bush and the Republican Congress, however, manufacturing is not a priority. Republicans have no plan to bring back good-paying jobs that have been lost or to create new ones.

    "The Republican leadership in the House refuses to schedule a vote on the bipartisan Crane-Rangel manufacturing bill, which would lower taxes for American manufacturers and keep good paying jobs in the United States. Democrats have launched a discharge petition to force a vote on this bill.

    "Unbelievably, the Administration has actively disadvantaged struggling manufacturers by gutting key programs such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

    "In the House, instead of putting forward a jobs plan, Republicans have renamed their special interest agenda with a name that sounds like a jobs plan - Hire Our Workers or HOW. But their agenda never says how it will create jobs because it won't. It only repackages their warmed over stew of special interest goodies - allowing increased environmental pollution, restricting access to the courts, and increasing health care costs for American workers.

    "Republicans need to get serious about job creation. They need to give our manufacturers the tax relief they deserve, and they need to reward companies that create jobs here in America, rather than sending them overseas."

    I don't want to necessarily use this as a political forum for Democrats, but Representative Pelosi brings up several important and valid points with regard to the current administration and the state of manufacturing in the U.S. Unfortunately, government at any level can only do so much to promote and guide the private sector. In the case of manufacturing, I'm beginning to see some early signs of the private sector working with government to not just point fingers, but to actually change gears and get something done. For example, in southeastern Michigan, there is a strong move afoot to not just give up on manufacturing altogether in light of automotive work moving elsewhere, but to
    change the focus on the types of manufacturing performed. In Michigan, what has been lost in automotive manufacturing is beginning to be replaced by early stages of other types of research, development, and manufacturing, such as biotech and alternative power sources and systems. Little pockets of this sort of change seem to be popping up in many areas of the country that have lost massive amounts of manufacturing jobs, especially in the past four years. It's only a start, but it is a start…

    Study Shows That Manufacturers Still Reluctant On New Hires

    U.S. industrial manufacturers expect to reduce their overall workforce by 1.9 percent over the next 12 months, according to the first quarter 2004 PricewaterhouseCoopers Manufacturing Barometer. At the same time, the survey shows that more manufacturers plan to add to their workforce than reduce it (36 percent versus 23 percent). Despite these mixed signals, the Barometer points out that these executives are increasingly optimistic about the economy and expect top-line growth for the year.

    PricewaterhouseCoopers' Manufacturing Barometer is a quarterly survey of executives in large, U.S.-based industrial manufacturing companies that measures opinions on subjects ranging from the domestic economy, barriers to growth, margins and pricing, new investment strategies, hiring plans and business initiatives under consideration. It is developed and compiled with assistance from the opinion and economic research firm of BSI Global Research Inc.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.

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