The previous draft of this blog post is in the trash.
Why? Because it was boring and used a lot of jargon that didn’t really get to the heart of anything you actually care to read more about. It described the importance of using design automation to speed up ATO, CTO, and ETO orders, but after all of the standard descriptions and assurances that it would be good for you (like vegetables!), there wasn’t much there there.
As I re-read that previous draft of this posting, I realized the heart of what I was getting at was hidden in the word I kept using to describe an ideal design automation system. That word is flexible. So instead of me wasting your time preaching to you (the choir) about how it is better to design custom products more quickly, let me talk about what the word flexible truly means in this context.
A design automation system is flexible when it can handle the full range of orders from ones with only standard options, to highly complex, fully engineered custom products.
A design automation system is flexible when you can add it into your existing design process without changing other parts of that process that are working. Say you already get an XML output with all the options required for an order, or you use PTC’s options and variants technology, or maybe you already have a database or set of spreadsheets with the rules already in them. A flexible system can take (or make) outputs from any of those existing systems and then use those outputs to fully configure a Creo assembly, parts, drawings, and any other Creo or non-Creo deliverables you need.
A design automation system is flexible when it doesn’t require you to change any parts of your process or methods or tools that you don’t want to change, and integrates easily with the parts of your process you want to keep. A system is flexible when it can leverage automation you are already using in Creo (relations, family tables, parameters, etc.), when it doesn’t ask your designers to think differently about the steps required to configure a custom order, and when it doesn’t apply new limitations to your design process.
A design automation system is flexible when it integrates with PDMlink, other PDM systems, network file systems, web API’s, ERP systems, text files, etc. etc. etc.
A design automation system is flexible when it can be implemented in a narrow use case, then can be expanded as needed.
A design automation system is flexible when it allows your internal resources to learn how to develop automation applications, and does not place an additional maintenance burden on your company and support staff.
In my many years working in product development, and extensively in design automation, I have seen so much carnage of so many failed automation attempts, and every time the failure was due to the inflexibility of the automation tools used. To speed up your product development process and incorporate design automation effectively, the flexibility of the tools you choose is the key to success. The great news is that those kinds of design automation tools exist, and are as flexible as you need them to be. Don’t settle for anything less.