Deeper Than Designs

Consumer-products companies use CAD and Project-life-cycle-management tools as part of a broader effort to simplify product design and production

Beth Bacheldor, Contributor

August 6, 2004

4 Min Read

Jostens Inc., known for its custom high-school class rings, is migrating from several computer-aided design packages to UGS Corp.'s PLM tools so it will have more flexibility in product design. "UGS's software is a very general-purpose tool, and we can apply it to a lot of different design functions," says Tim Saarela, director of manufacturing systems at Jostens. "Also, it's very customizable." The company generally signs 5,000 to 10,000 new agreements with schools each year, and each school has a specific mascot and other features that have to be designed into the rings. Once those parts of the rings are designed, the students pick the other aspects of the rings they want, such as an etching of an activity they participate in.

Pacific Cycle Inc., the Dorel Industries Inc. company known for GT, Schwinn, Mongoose, and other bicycles, considers digital-design software a must-have as part of an overall PLM system. The company, with annual sales of about $350 million, has outsourced almost all its manufacturing and assembly, and it uses the tools to more quickly share product-design information with its manufacturers in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Dassault's Catia software lets engineers share digital mock-ups of designs with offshore manufacturers, Yelverton says.Photo by Ray Ng

Using Dassault Systèmes Catia software, Pacific Cycle engineers electronically share digital mock-ups, or animated visuals, of new models so they know exactly how the bicycles and all the related parts work before starting to manufacture them. "We are dealing with communications gaps, and our ability to communicate is much clearer if we can show them exactly what we want electronically with animations using the kinematics tool in Catia," says Forrest Yelverton, director of engineering at Pacific Cycles. The digital-mock-up kinematics tool helps the company define, simulate, and analyze mechanisms electronically and also lets Pacific Cycle send animations of how a bicycle should be assembled.

Once the concept is understood, Pacific Cycle sends the manufacturers 2-D or 3-D files of all the individual parts and pieces, which gives them all the outside surface locations, dimensions, and parameters.

The software, which Pacific Cycle has been using for about six months, is playing a big part in the design and development of a product the company expects to deliver next year: A quick-release mechanism to make it easier for customers to put front wheels on bicycles and take them off. "We're working on a relatively complicated method to make this a safer part," Yelverton says. "There are a lot of bits and pieces in this new mechanism, and you can't just visualize it. But with animation, it's almost as if you are in the shop building it. And the software tells you if there's a clash." For example, when a specific-sized ball bearing is introduced into the design, the software automatically tests that size to see if it will fit with the other components. If the ball bearing is too big, the software will alert the engineer.

Yelverton says he hopes to expand the use of Dassault Systèmes software. For instance, he's considering implementing SmarTeam, a Web-based collaborative and program-management system, so more employees, including those from purchasing and other departments, can easily work together on product development and design. "The time for the communication process gets cut down, and [that means] we'll get better products to market sooner, increase sales, and beat our competitors," he says.

At Karsten, the goal is to expand the use of PLM software outside its own borders. Next year, Karsten plans to extend ProjectLink to its suppliers, who can provide valuable input on club design models early on, before expensive mistakes are made, Shoenhair says. For example, if Ping engineers design a shaft with a certain wall thickness, the manufacturer that supplies those shafts will see that up front. "And the manufacturer might say that they can't produce a cast that thin." At that point, they can make another suggestion.

The ultimate goal: To cut the time it takes to design and deliver the most innovative irons and woods on the fairways today. That could lead to more holes-in-one, particularly for Karsten.

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