How Much Time do You Spend Searching for Supplier or Standard Parts?

Imagine repairing the Briggs & Stratton engine on your lawn mower and discovering a cracked bolt that appears to be 1/4-20. You then dump out the old nut and bolt jar on your work bench and start sifting through. You find what looks to be a match, but it’s metric M6x1.  It seems to fit, so problem solved. You get through a couple of weeks of mowing the lawn and then the engine starts to rattle.

Engineers are often faced with the same dilemma.  They dig through internal databases, which are virtual nut and bolt jars. Yet they often can’t find the parts they need and out of frustration end up painstakingly conducting an online part search to download or recreate the parts that already exist somewhere in their system. In this simplest of examples, how much time does a design engineer waste looking for a bolt, let alone a more complex part or component.

How Much Time do You Spend Searching for Supplier or Standard Parts?

Lean engineering and procurement in off-highway equipment, aerospace and defense, consumer packaging and every other industry, face the same challenges with regard to designing and sourcing parts. They are confronted with navigating numerous systems, such as multiple CAD, PLM, and ERP. Many of the world’s leading OEMs and tier manufacturers often have these software systems siloed, with little or no integration between them. This leads to a complicated and costly environment in an attempt to unite engineering with procurement, the supply chain, and the factory. Data residing in isolation causes significant challenges in accessing information that should otherwise be intuitive. In today’s IIoT-Industry 4.0 world any manufacturer wishing to remain competitive needs to manage time, costs, and efficiencies.  However, 48% of engineers still spend at least one hour per day searching for supplier or standard parts because the quality of the company’s parts master data is insufficient and unclassified.  In this environment, searching for information becomes more and more difficult and time consuming for engineers and purchasers. Poor internal component search engine tools and a lack of access to high-quality supplier catalogs leads to wasted engineering effort.

Couple this with having multiple company locations that must work together with master data for parts created in different languages makes it daunting for part search, product design and procurement, too often leading to inaccurate information and cost overruns.

NAS Parts Library from AIAWithout the right strategic parts management software engineers waste an average of 68% of their time searching, configuring, and unnecessarily recreating new components. This adds up to thousands of work hours a year wasted on non-constructive activities that have no monetary value. On top of that, each newly created component carries an expense of its own.  A Survey among 128,000 engineers and designers revealed that a single design engineer can be forced to waste over 1,250 hours per year, at a cost to the company in excess of $100,000.

Under these conditions, a newly created single part that is self-designed can be extremely expensive. According to Rolls-Royce, every additional self-designed part by their engineers requires 400 additional data elements, processes, and parts. The expenses for every new component are accordingly high.

The following shows the average development cost per part in different industries reported by leading manufacturers:

  • Company making clamping devices for machine tool equipment: $225
  • Organization manufacturing machinery that produces woven plastic packaging, plastic recycling, and refinement equipment: $800, plus an additional $100 per year
  • Global leader in driveline and chassis: $1,100
  • Global leader in compaction technology and equipment: $1,400
  • Major manufacture of trucks and buses: $3,400 to $4,500

ReUse Engineering Parts Powered by Rich-Data. Save engineering and procurement costs by reusing existing parts rather than introducing new ones.

Finding the CAD Within PDM

Product Data Management (PDM) is intended to help companies improve the way they control, access, and share critical product-related files and information in a central system. Within this information is CAD data which includes manufacturing instructions, models, parts information and requirements, notes, and associated documents. However, some studies have shown that most companies average nearly 3 different CAD systems in their organization.  To further complicate matters, external partners often bring other tools to the table that do not communicate with the company’s platforms, which only serves to frustrate engineers and procurement and impede them from efficiently doing their jobs.

Attempting a specific part number lookup within a conglomeration of CAD files can be like that proverbial “jar of nuts and bolts” or searching for single 1/4-20 bolt in the local junkyard.  Engineers and procurement specialists waste costly time looking for what they need, sometimes only to find out too late it was the wrong component.  A thankless job, but one that can be easily corrected.

Survey on the Design of Products Using CAD Files

An international survey was conducted by Tech-Clarity on the design of software-intensive products, including the use of CAD files. The survey of 2,500 companies included a combination of organizations  including:

  • 39% from companies of less than $50 million in revenue
  • 16% ranged from $50 million and $100 million
  • 12% from $100 million to $250 million
  • 16% between $250 million and $1 billion
  • 17% were greater than $1 billion

Above represents US dollar equivalent

Respondents to the survey were a mix of engineers and designers and were representative of manufacturing and design industries, including:

  • 34% Industrial Equipment/Machinery
  • 22% Automotive and Transportation
  • 17% Building Products/Fabrication
  • 15% High-tech and Electronics
  • Others included Consumer Packaged Goods, Energy/Utilities, Chemicals, Life Sciences/Medical Devices, and more.

According to the Tech-Clarity survey 49% of company’s report sharing information with other departments is a top design efficiency challenge. And 46% report simply trying to find the right information hampers they’re design work, with 35% saying they often work on wrong or outdated data. These are major roadblocks to efficiency, costing companies millions in lost productivity.

Even when an engineer locates the correct version of a file, they can still be faced with having to manipulate the data so it can be used in a partner’s CAD system. It’s been reported that nearly half of all organizations find it very complex when trying to import files from other CAD platforms, and discover they are extremely difficult to modify.

All of these semi-automated or completely manual operations cause unnecessary loss of time and money, not to mention burnout.

how 3d part models changed the manufacturing industryLean Engineering, Procurement, and Industry 4.0

As mentioned above, in today’s IIoT-Industry 4.0 world any manufacture wishing to remain competitive needs to manage time, costs, and efficiencies.  Every facet of communication in lean engineering technology, CAD, CAM, PLM, ERP, and supply chain software must be unified.  They each play a critical role in streamlining processes to improve design efficiency and critical manufacturing procedures.  And in the collective of it all, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), demands an influx of massive amounts of data from these various platforms.  Yet, with these challenges come opportunities to improve operational excellence and workflow automation.

The practice of Industrial IoT helps configure, manage, and monitor devices used in manufacturing operations. And up the food chain are the design, selection and procurement of the parts and components needed to allow IIoT practices to efficiently do their jobs. Smart technology begins at the source of the design and supply chain management software assists in product development, sourcing, production, and logistics by automating operations.  This facilitates factory operators in optimizing resources and improving product quality by automating many tasks and generating valuable data.  All of which relies on the initial design phase to create efficiencies and profitable outcomes.


There are clearly many challenges in conducting part search, designing components, and maintaining efficiencies in procurement when having to work with disparate software. Often out of frustration a design engineer or buyer may succumb to maverick buying.  Maverick buying is when an employee purchases goods, parts, or materials for a project, going outside of the accepted buying channels of their organization, potentially ending up with duplicate parts and cost overruns. In addition, ignoring proper CAD standards and classifications of software will impede engineering efficiency and parts management.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. There are solutions that can alleviate the challenges and difficulties in engineering and procurement.  There are highly innovative 3D shape search and attribute search tools which enable users to find internal CAD data from multiple business systems and navigate trillions of supplier parts from digital libraries which reside in the CAD software.

There are also many mobile tools to help design engineers, product managers and procurement navigate software from anywhere.  These include mobile product catalogs, product configurator mobile apps, plus 3D CAD Models mobile apps which all allow for powerful search and social sharing.

Additional Sources Include:

Get the Engineering Efficiency Report

6 Opportunities to Kick your Engineering into High Gear

The following two tabs change content below.

Adam Beck

Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions | A Marketing graduate from the Miami University, Farmer School of Business in Oxford Ohio, Adam has years of experience in marketing and design for a variety of industries.