Custom products typically require a lot of time to develop because engineers have to locate previous drawings, generate new drawings, pull orders together, and develop quotes--all of which is a manual and repetitive process. This was the case for Brayton, a Steelcase Inc. subsidiary that supplies lounge seating and tables for the corporate and health-care markets, says Jim Austin, engineering manager at Brayton.
Think3's thinkteam software has helped Brayton automate its repetitive design configurations, such as modifying the height and width of tables, and speed up the custom-order process, says Austin. By using thinkteam's configurator tool on two product lines, Brayton has been able to reduce the engineering time required to produce all of the necessary documentation from more than four hours to about 15 minutes. "This makes it possible for us to reduce our internal lead time simply because it's easier to find a 15-minute gap in an engineer's schedule as opposed to finding half a day free," Austin says.
The configurator consolidates and captures Brayton's specific design rules into preconfigured templates, which lets Brayton pre-engineer customer configurations and reduce the time it takes to respond to "specials" or custom projects. In conjunction with think3's thinkteam integrated data-management system, the configurator tool helps track Brayton's designs and reuse them directly to build engineering models. "We provide a way for our customers to modularize their product structure around the way their customers want customizations," says Marc Cannon, VP of worldwide professional services at think3. "As the general market is moving more toward mass customization, end buyers want customized products quickly and cheaply."
Additionally, Brayton has integrated thinkteam with its ERP system, enabling access so that it can more accurately create bills of material, and better control its design documents.
This month, Brayton implemented think3's thinkdesign software for product design to create a more efficient design process that includes the use of 3-D modeling and automated engineering to reduce the need for physical prototyping. Brayton also is planning to integrate its Computer Numerical Control, or CNC, equipment with thinkdesign. Says Austin, "This will allow us to go from the solid model assembly of a furniture frame to physical parts without the intervention of a CNC programmer."