Collaboration Key in Design-to-Manufacturing Cycle

Feb. 1, 2004
Automation World,, Online Survey Results

In today’s competitive environment, while it may take a village to raise a child, it takes an entire manufacturing organization to design a new product. According to a recent survey on the Automation World Web site,, approximately three-fourths of manufacturers involve both design and manufacturing engineers in product design, and more than half also include automation and process engineers in the design cycle. Representatives from quality assurance and information technology are also part of the design process at almost 40 percent of manufacturers, according to survey respondents.

The leading tools for design-to-manufacture collaboration are computer-aided design and manufacturing software (CAD/CAM), used by 81percent of manufacturers, followed by Internet communication tools (31 percent) and manufacturing simulation software (19 percent). Currently, only 13 percent of manufacturers employ automated collaboration tools, such as product lifecycle management (PLM) software, but within the next three years, over one-third plan to deploy software tools to automatically link design to manufacturing.

Companies continue to shrink design-to-manufacturing cycle time, with 89 percent of manufacturers moving from product design to manufacture in less than one year. Over the past five years, the design-to-manufacturing cycle time has been reduced at more than two-thirds of manufacturers, and almost 60 percent say this trend will continue over the next three years.

Better quality, less cost

The use of robots is on the rise in manufacturing. While 61 percent of respondents do not use robots, 23 percent are considering using, or have recently begun using, robots in their organizations. Another 16 percent are long-term users or have recently increased their use of robotics. Top benefits cited for robot use are improved quality, reduced labor costs and improved flexibility.

Commercial off-the-shelf technologies (COTS) continue to impact manufacturing. 85 percent of respondents cite the use of Microsoft operating systems in their automation solutions, while 79 percent employ Ethernet and 75 percent use personal computers in automation. The two most important reasons given for the use of COTS are to lower costs (26 percent) and reduce development time (18 percent).

The 62 respondents to the Automation World online survey represent a cross-section of manufacturing industries, including food/beverage (11 percent), computers and electronics (11 percent), utilities and plastics (each at 8 percent), pharmaceuticals, automotive and petroleum (each at 6 percent), and chemicals (5 percent), among others.

For more information on design-to-manufacturing, robotics and application of COTS, see articles throughout this issue, or search

Jane Gerold

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