So class... What did you do this summer? As you may recall from my Twitter feed, I was out with Bob Williams and the Autodesk SIM Squad filming an OTJ with Federal Equipment Company. It was hot as all get out let me tell you but the work they do there is even hotter.
Federal Equipment Company was awarded the Advanced Weapons Elevator contract for the Department of Defense. Advanced Weapons Elevator? Imagine around 12,000 lbs of munition moving up and down an elevator that has no cables... Yes, I would call that advanced.
What we found out during our visit I thought was quite remarkable. They had a fully approved design of the bones of the product if you will and were ready to go to production. Now to get fully approved for this design you had to pass a litany of test including a blast test. Yes, take your prototype and blow it up. Not cheap. So here they were - fully approved design that they wanted to improve. Did they build another one, delay production so that it could go through the same physical tests as the prototype? No. (Insert sound of record scratching here).
No, they used Autodesk Simulation to show the analysis results and compared the analysis results with the validated behavior of the physical prototype. Step 1 done - analysis results validated by physical test. They then simulated the new design - an aluminum extrusion instead of a weldment and the simulation results yielded improved performance. In showing both cases, they were able to get the improved design approved, saving over $200,000 in testing alone. M. O. N. E. Y. Hells Bells that's so money! Amazing story on the value of technology when used to solve a problem. Check out the episode, some really intersting stuff here:
Now let me get up on this soap box for a minute. There we are, this is comfy... The following rant is rated R. You've been warned...
So much of this industry is wrapped around features, I swear my head is going to explode the next time somebody asks me about a center point rectangle for Inventor. This is why its so hard for companies to get funding for REAL improvements inside of engineering. I've said it a thousand times - its easy for the manufacturing guys to get funding for a new machining center, but for engineering to get funding for design tools its not as easy and here's why: Boss - Why do you want funding for a new engineering tool? Response: "Because this one does a center point, lofted, blended, surface, flat pattern rendering." Did you hear that? That was the sound of my head exploding.
Wrong! The proper response is something like this tool will allow me to analyze dozens of design alternatives to find not just "A" better design solution, but the best one of dozens of solutions ultimately saving thousands of dollars on physical prototypes. I don't care if you buy our stuff or not - that's the right approach to engineering improvement guys. Nobody that writes a check gives a damn about features! They want results, tangible returns on the investment and Federal Equipment Company is an excellent example of what is possible when you utilize the tools for the right reasons. They chose our tools taking into account the whole picture. Design tools that are easy to use, data management tools that are deeply integrated into the product, and analysis tools that solve the problems digitally before they start cutting steel.
Now, let me walk this back a bit because I know some of you that read my blog are twitching. When any of these solutions lack the required feature sets... yes, that creates a problem. How do I measure it? By the end results. I've met plenty of people that both love and loathe their respective CAD tool that's on the market. It's been my experience that when people loathe the product they are using, they are trying to make it work like the one they prefer. I promise you if you try to run Inventor the same way you ran Works, Pro, or any of the others - you aren't going to like the experience and vice versa.
That's some heavy dope there Marine. (points if you can guess the movie that's from, it's one of my favorite of all time) I'm out of breath... [grin] Stepping off the soap box now...
Watch the show, let me know if you'd be interested in either myself or the SIM Squad to come out for a visit, maybe bring a camera crew along and share your experience.