Auto manufacturers assemble thousands of cars every week, with most vehicles using identical standard components. For instance, virtually any OEM automaker uses many of the same door hardware and body clips across brands, as well as the same brake pads, engine components or even the exact same engines.
The Old Nightmare of Parts Procurement in the Automotive Aftermarket
What was standard operating procedure in the aftermarket decades ago? The only source to identify car parts where the OEM auto parts catalogs. Full sets from the Big 3 would take up floor-to-ceiling bookshelves 20 feet long. Primarily used by auto dealer repair shops or broadline automotive parts distributors, these manuals were the holy grail of auto parts.
The standard practice for distributors was to have their product managers identify likely crash panels on new cars (front and rear corner panels, bumpers, etc.). Then they would spend hours manually searching the OEM catalogs to find part numbers for the body clips and hardware on those panels and have their purchasing department buy them in bulk from the hardware manufacturer. Their salespeople went out to auto dealers, service departments and independent body shops to sell 3-cent clips for 15 cents each in boxes of 100.
One would think the auto dealer could get them from the OEM cheaper than a distributor. However, the distributor had the buying power to purchase the body clips in bulk directly from the clip manufacturer.
When the dealer or body shop did order directly from the OEM, it could take weeks to receive the order because OEM inventory went into making cars before they would think of shipping a handful of body clips to Joe’s Garage in Boise. All the while Joe’s Garage has a Cadillac with a smashed front end waiting for a couple of body clips just to finish the job.
Standard Components at the OEM in Today’s World
The design phase of standardizing components allows manufacturers in a wide variety of industries and their tier suppliers to keep the cost of individual products as low as possible, and strategic parts management also ensures consistent quality. This all seems basic. However, 40% of engineers from various industries spend at least one hour per day recreating standard or supplier parts.
All too often the amount of data an engineer needs to navigate and locate a standard part in their system is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Most supplier part models are readily available but lack the data that engineers require to find them. Choosing to create a new CAD model instead of searching for an existing one often feels like an easy shortcut. However, it actually increases an engineer’s work downstream and adds significant costs throughout the product lifecycle.
By painstakingly wasting valuable time recreating a 3D representation of a purchased component for their design, an engineer is adding layers of inefficiency into their process. Engineers too often spend valuable time entering part master data instead of using their skills to concentrate on the development of innovative new products.
Consequences of Unnecessary Re-designs
The financial drain due to an unnecessary product redesign, even just a small modification, could be far greater than the OEM realizes.
In fact, an unplanned or even forced product redesign has the potential to waste resources by:
- Having to create new 2D production drawings
- Creating CAM programing for later production
- Incurring the extra expense and time to create master data files and work plans in ERP and PLM parts search systems
- Creating unnecessary or unwanted changes to the bill of materials, which can cause errors
- Imposing additional inventory carrying costs
From Manufacturer Parts Design to Production Processes for Consumer Products
The challenges of readily-available product information are not just issues for engineers at aerospace, fluid power, automotive, appliance or other durable goods manufacturers. These issues also affect soft good consumer product companies, and not just with product design, but also production operations.
At Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s leading consumer products companies with some of the strongest portfolios of trusted, high-quality brands, the production design engineers and designers require a large variety of digital product data of standard and purchased parts. This data comes from various component manufacturers for parts used to operate their production lines.
Up until 2015, when engineers and developers at P&G needed a purchased part not found in the internal library they searched the internet manually for the relevant product information of the respective manufacturer.
“The time-consuming search for components led our company to a large number of newly-created components, as well as to duplicates,” Sascha Hartung, Commercial Parts Lead Designer at Procter & Gamble, said. “Moreover, we were manually transferring component information into our systems.”
Enter the PARTsolutions Strategic Parts Management software from CADENAS PARTsolutions. P&G set a goal to make all product data in all CAD model formats digitally available at every company location worldwide. This would increase the reuse of standard parts and reduce the redundant creation of components already in their system while lowering engineering costs.
The PARTsolutions strategic parts management software accesses millions of standard and purchased parts from more than 700 manufacturer product catalogs. It also offers intelligent search methods, as well as end-of-life information of components. PARTsolutions supports engineers and developers in their daily work at P&G by connecting to the PLM system Teamcenter™ of Siemens PLM, and the CAD systems Solid Edge®, SOLIDWORKS® and NX® used by P&G’s production engineers.
The Power of Integrated Digital Product Information
Globalization and digital transformation can present significant challenges to industrial and consumer products companies. To address these challenges, a large number of component manufacturers are providing their product information digitally, with all the required component information in a digital product catalog.
In part design and engineering production lines, engineers and designers need a variety of digital product information about standard and purchased parts from often dissimilar component manufacturers. CADENAS PARTsolutions offers access to nearly 1,000 manufacturer certified product catalogs. Using smart catalog technology, manufacturers of standard and purchased parts can extend their digital product information to include important metadata (such as kinematics, end-of-life, customs tariff numbers and more).
This makes production line development and product design remarkably easier for engineers at consumer products manufacturers like P&G and industrial products companies like Parker Hannifin. They can include components into their production lines and product designs in a simple and quick manner.
Yet Why Do so Many Engineers Skip the Search?
How much time does a typical engineer spend recreating standard, or supplier parts? Nearly 60 percent of engineers say they waste at least 30 minutes per day, while almost 24 percent waste up to an hour.
Because the available search tools and capabilities are often insufficient, it makes the process of finding the right part very time consuming, and often causes inadvertent duplication. This frequently leaves engineers left to fit a square peg in a round hole.
However, extensive automatic search functions integrated into and across existing CAD, PLM and ERP systems help engineers easily find supplier parts, standard parts, and company parts in their internal and external part classification system. This narrows their search down from hours to minutes, or even seconds.
PARTsolutions’ technologies help engineers and purchasers solve their unique challenges and find needed components in an intelligent way, enabling value-added engineering and reducing costs throughout the product lifecycle.
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