Integration and automation key to quality engineering

16 July 2013

Engineering encompasses an ever-increasing range of data and documentation. Completed and on-going projects normally have a trail of hundreds of documents in varying formats – including hard copies. The process of collecting and incorporating this information can be time-consuming. However, new CAE software can simplify many tasks.

The introduction of advanced computer aided engineering (CAE) programs allowed for a great deal of documentation and data to be automatically collated right from the start of an engineering project – incorporating everything from CAD drawings and schematics, to email threads, PDFs and table-based documents for creating parts lists.

However, although the inclusion of these documents into a central database was automated, they were incompatible with each other, which meant that the data and information contained within them could often not be shared and used by other systems. This meant that a significant amount of manual data entry, cross-referencing, and error-checking still needed to be done by engineers at every stage of a project. Not only was this method time-consuming, it could also lead to errors.

Process-oriented, integrated and automated
To be effective as a modern design software package, CAE programs need to be able to bring together a wide range of information into one accessible database, to integrate this data and make it usable as well as having the potential to accommodate new data formats. This is something that CAE software company EPLAN says can be achieved with the Electric P8 package.

The EPLAN platform is modular, feeding all systems from a central database that can hold a large archive of recurrent content and data which can be incorporated into a project with a single keystroke; creating a simple, standardised operating procedure for users. The platform also provides users with all the necessary functions of an electrical CAE solution – from fluid and pneumatic engineering to enclosure design.

The system can help to increase productivity and information security as well as offering efficiency and quality assurance which can help businesses to meet the demand for accelerated product creation and to shorten time-to-market for new products.

Maximising productivity
When information is stored in different formats and multiple places, engineers need to spend valuable time searching for this data and switching between programs to view it. However, with every user pulling automatically processed information from one multi-accessible database, users are able to save time as well as ensure all information is relevant and components are compatible.

A database-driven CAE can deliver a systematic reduction of errors, and near elimination of data redundancy. That means that fewer errors remain in the manufacturing stage or beyond – improving accuracy and quality. If modification is required at a late stage within the creation process these can be changed within seconds with a single point of entry.

With all of their labour and time-saving features, automated database-centric CAE programs, such as P8, empower users to be more productive. In fact, in previous deployments P8 has been proven to increase employee productivity by up to 80%.

Automated data collection is now a standard feature of modern CAE systems. Yet, automation in other aspects of the electrical design process can deliver further improvements in productivity, design integrity, and project turnaround times, as well as significant cost-savings.

For example, Electric P8 offers a ‘Project Manager’ that automatically monitors progress of a project at all times. This feature automatically offers possibilities and decision paths for the project flow, with each option being explained before the user makes their decision.

A CAE with integration at its core can be a valuable asset, not only to the engineering teams working with it, but also to the manufacturing company – by making the business more accessible to international clients.

The P8 database can be integrated into a company’s existing IT architecture and rolled out to allow other departments to monitor documentation progress, maintenance, and project co-ordination. This allows for accurate customer quotations and timely reports to keep projects running smoothly. It can also foster collaboration between manufacturer and customers, suppliers, service technicians and among designers at multiple locations.
P8 allows engineers and designers to convert project documentation into 17 different languages or regional, national, and international standards. From the Chinese schematic diagram to the Russian bill of materials, everything is translated online or after the project is finished. This makes it easier to share real-time data, and encourages further international collaboration.

Finally, P8 provides integration of enterprise tools and software packages such as Microsoft Office, PLM/PDM and ERP systems. Users are able to edit Excel spreadsheet data in the program too.

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