Through no fault of their own, most engineering design teams are on a hamster wheel of creating and recreating standard parts. Unable to find the part they need in their internal libraries, the same part is often created multiple times by different engineers, causing redundancies and stifling productivity. Remarkable as it may seem, 72% of companies work with part libraries that contain duplicate or obsolete parts.
Alleviating this problem is about having a strategic parts management system that will organize your engineering library so that all relevant information from different systems will merge into one platform, ensuring consistent quality and maintaining standardization. Strategic parts management ensures that all engineers are following specific, credible specifications and using the same standard parts, making it easy to integrate, find and reuse CAD models and data.
Having a standard parts library that enhances your design process to meet your company’s requirements not only allows you to be more efficient, but also provides ancillary benefits like increasing employee satisfaction and encouraging collaboration.
Imagine you owned a bicycle repair shop where the back room has shelves upon shelves of different handlebars, grips, pedals, seats, sprockets, and chains, and many of these parts are still in good shape or even new. You have an employee named Bob that does all your ordering and inventory control. When you’re repairing a bike, you write down the parts and part numbers you need, and Bob places the orders.
When you finish the repair, sometimes you’ll have old or leftover parts, and Bob puts them in that elusive back room. You know where this is headed. You likely have parts back there that are new and you could still use, but Bob keeps ordering whatever you tell him to.
It sounds like we’re laying the blame at Bob’s feet, but it isn’t his fault. You own the shop, and you didn’t provide the tools or training Bob needs to ensure you don’t keep building upon an overstock of duplicate parts.
Engineering Libraries – it’s no longer the Dewey Decimal System
Incorrect part selection leads to undetected design mistakes, which will cascade into production errors that put a project over budget, behind schedule, or both. It’s garbage in/garbage out. Having clean master data is crucial in design, procurement, and ultimately production efficiency.
Engineering libraries should be a repository with approved and current components for engineers to find and deploy into their designs. But it’s too often like the old Dewey Decimal System at your local library.
With the Dewey Decimal System, libraries used index cards to classify book numbers and keep inventory. This left them with drawers upon drawers of index cards indicating if a book was on the shelf and where to find it. Cards often went missing, or books were marked as checked out when they had actually been returned. Books also ended up on the wrong shelves, not showing up for months.
So when an index card indicated that the library has three copies of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” yet only two were on the shelf, the librarian would order another copy. When all the while the lost third copy was shelved under Samuel Clemens instead of Mark Twain. The problem with the Dewey Decimal System is that it uses a relative location and relative index. Frankly, I’d rather know exactly where a book is, not its relative location. Similarly, an engineer needs to know the exact standard parts they have in the system and the exact location of where to find them.
Like a library’s old Dewey Decimal System, and even like many of the digital catalogs in today’s libraries, a manufacturer’s internal parts library can serve as a catch-all archive of outdated and obsolete information. As in the bike repair example, you might have a Raleigh bike pedal in the back of your shop, but you would never know because you didn’t give Bob the necessary tools to catalog the good parts and throw out the bad ones.
Efficient design engineering requires accurate, up-to-date, and redundancy-free data. This means having a parts management system that transfers accurate part information in the correct CAD format from your PLM and ERP systems while accessing hundreds of manufacturer-verified catalogs.
However, without a strategic parts management system, engineers will often attempt to source parts from their CAD library that they can’t locate and wind up adding different formats, which causes errors, disorganization, and redundancies that waste time and money.
Like the bike shop, your company may not be providing the tools your team needs to effectively do their job, leaving them with minimal master data and nominal on-standard naming conventions. This keeps them from accessing essential information in the system. Unfortunately, many companies don’t have clean master data to begin with.
Having a cluttered parts library, operating without current data, and operating in a multi-CAD environment increases the chances of inaccuracies in design and even causes a dramatic increase in part counts. And matters only become worse as new engineers join the team and unknowingly add redundant components. All of this creates a snowball effect where obsolete parts are rarely reviewed or removed from the system.
The importance of clean master data cannot be understated
Having a clean parts library that doesn’t allow data duplication makes finding the correct parts fast and easy, reduces your engineers’ administrative duties, and:
- Eliminates duplicates from the system, while purging clutter, increasing engineering efficiency and expediting speed to market
- Allows engineers to develop new products with current part data, removing the concern of part obsolescence
- Encourages procurement to bundle orders to get lower price breaks
- Reduces costs across the entire product life cycle
- Widens the path for innovation by getting your engineers off the hamster wheel
- Reduces redundant parts and inventory carrying costs
Data cleaning involves fixing or removing duplicate, incorrect, corrupted, incomplete, or incorrectly formatted data within a dataset. When combining multiple data sources, such as a multi-CAD environment, there are many opportunities for data to be duplicated or mislabeled. Inaccurate data outcomes are unreliable, even though they may seem correct. The best way to ensure you’re operating with clean data is utilizing a parts management system that incorporates a current parts library which can accurately evolve as your business evolves. It is crucial to establish a stable system for your data cleaning process, so you know your engineers have the necessary and up-to-date tools to perform their job the right way every time.
If your internal parts library contains duplicate or obsolete parts, or redundant data, a strategic parts management system will organize your engineering library to allow your team to operate efficiently and collaboratively. After all, once the bike shop began organizing the back room with new parts and tossed out the old ones, they reduced inventory carrying costs and stopped ordering duplicate parts. This improved efficiency in bike repairs and increased profitability. And to top it off, Bob got a raise.