New Aberdeen Report Emphasizes CAD-Based Assembly Instructions

21 Oct, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Market researcher examines computer-integrated manufacturing.

If your organization is lagging behind your peers and industry leaders, you might catch up by documenting your assembly instructions in 3D CAD, suggests market researcher Aberdeen Group in “The Computer Integrated Manufacturing View” report (released September 2008).

Authored by Michelle Boucher and David Houlihan, and underwritten in part by Autodesk and, the report is described as “a road map for manufacturers seeking to improve their manufacturing operations planning process through the application of a Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) approach.”

In a recent study, Aberdeen Group examines the strategic actions taken by different businesses (source: Aberdeen Group, September 2008).

Pressures and Challenges
The report is derived from Aberdeen’s study of more than 240 enterprises over a period of two months (August to September 2008). The sample pool is predominantly engineering staff (33%) from small and midsize businesses (annual revenues $1 billion or less) located in North America; 41% of the study participants are from small businesses that employ 1-99 employees, and 39% from midsize businesses that employ 100-999 employees.

According to the participants, pressure for improving manufacturing planning comes from the following:

  • shortened development schedule
  • increasing cost of raw materials
  • market demand for increased product quality/reliability
  • decreasing manufacturing budget
  • increasing cost of energy/operating costs

Asked to describe the leading challenges in preparing for manufacturing, the respondents listed the following:

  • Employee skills and knowledge are varied.
  • Engineering design data changes until release.
  • Engineering designs parts without regard for manufacturability or assembly.
  • Product complexity is increasing.
  • Facilities resources are fixed.

In its studies, Aberdeen usually divides businesses into three segments: best in class, industry average, and laggards. According to Aberdeen, best in class performers are “more likely than their competitors to employ specialized manufacturing planning tools. The use of these tools alone can have a significant impact on the cycle times of the manufacturing process, including an average 37% improvement for machined piece parts and 67% improvement for injection molded parts.”

Michelle Boucher, Aberdeen’s research analyst for global product innovation and engineering and a coauthor of the study, explained, “The specialized manufacturing planning tools can be divided into three different tiers of planning: manufacturing resource and facilities planning, macro process planning, and micro process planning. These tools help companies improve efficiency with optimized facility and work cell layouts, improved part manufacturability, and early validation of assembly and work instructions.”

Aberdeen observed that best-in-class businesses “meet production kickoff dates 3.5 times as often as laggard organizations … They facilitate [the concurrent creation of work instructions] by leveraging existing 3D CAD models to avoid recreating work … Often, they aren’t just using these models to guide assembly instruction authoring; they are leveraging 3D animations as instructions.” 

Related Studies
In a previous study titled “Product Innovation Agenda 2010” (released December 2007), Aberdeen examined the challenges to profitability faced by manufacturers. Boucher noted, “Companies that invested in innovation saw product revenues increase by 10%. The top strategies of best-in-class companies (those who are the most profitable) to improve product innovation was to improve the efficiency of engineers so that they could focus more on innovation … Not only are best-in-class companies today twice as likely to deploy PLM (product lifecycle management) as the industry average, but we have seen significant growth in PLM adoption over the last two years and, based on survey responses, that will continue over the next two years.”

At the time of this study, Lehman Brothers still stood as a pillar of the financial industry. But since the study's release, the towering institution has become another casualty of the U.S. mortgage market collapse. In the current economic uncertainty, will manufacturers continue to invest in PLM as they reported to Aberdeen? Aberdeen continues to conduct additional studies that will indicate the U.S. economy’s impact on engineering budgets, so the answer will have to wait.

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CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing), MCAD.