TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Re-using parts, such as seat frames, can save engineers time and money.
But at Johnson Controls Inc., design engineers had trouble finding one another's computer-aided design (CAD) drawings to re-use them.
"If an engineer can't find a drawing, they're going to throw their hands up and start over," said Susan Kampe, Johnson Controls' vice president and general manager of information technology.
So the supplier, of Plymouth, Mich., launched an initiative called Product Data Management.
The initiative, Kampe says, allows Johnson Controls engineers, wherever they are, to quickly access stored CAD drawings.
"In the past we gave them CAD tools to build what they had to build, but it was their own file that they named and nobody had access to it," Kampe said last week at the Management Briefing Seminars.
"But they couldn't find what they did two years ago, or even last
Kampe says that Johnson Controls has been developing the system for about two years, using software
that was developed by MatrixOne Inc. of Westford, Mass.
Johnson Controls is using MatrixOne's Engineering Central application.
"We're heavy into the rollout now," Kampe says. "And we're looking at having everything rolled out by the end of this year."
By placing CAD drawings in a central, electronic vault, engineers can get to them quickly and the company saves money by re-using parts where appropriate.
Kampe says that Johnson Controls has saved money by storing CAD drawings, but would not divulge the dollar amount.
"The real savings comes from re-using an existing part instead of redesigning," she says.
"And there's savings not just in design time, but in tooling and manufacturing quality downstream."
Sharing CAD drawings worldwide has been a bit of a cultural change for engineers, Kampe says, but they have been adapting.