As pressures mount on the automotive industry and other manufacturers to reduce costs and shorten time-to-market, a variety of companies are working on ways to smooth the path between process design and production.
At Ranal Inc., an Auburn Hills, Mich., engineering services firm, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rakesh Mahajan points to gaps that he says still exist that prevent a true, seamless, end-to-end “digital manufacturing” capability. One such gap is in the handoff between factory process planning and controls design, he says. Ranal, which focuses on process planning and tooling design, is teaming up with Esys Corp., another Auburn Hills engineering firm that specializes in controls design, to help fill that gap.
Ranal relies on simulation software from Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM Software and others, along with its own non-simulation-based software, in developing process plans and tooling designs for its customers. And by later this year, Ranal and Esys plan to develop software to automate the data transfer between Ranal’s process planning tools and Esys’ controls design software, a process that today requires time-consuming manual data entry.
The new software link could produce significant time savings in a body shop program that might typically require 16 to 20 weeks for the design/build cycle, the companies say. “If we can take a week out of that, we’ve just met a more aggressive schedule, and we’ve saved millions of dollars for our customers,” says Esys CEO Chris Marcus. He notes that his company, like others serving the auto industry, is under heavy customer pressure to reduce time-to-market.
Ranal and Esys plan initially to use the new software internally for their own competitive advantage, says Mahajan, but may also later market the software for use by others.