From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 17 No 08 - AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2004
David Chadwick explains why NX3, the latest version of UGS’ Product Development suite, focuses on Managed Product Development,
David Chadwick explains why NX3, the latest version of UGS’ Product
Development suite, focuses on Managed Product Development, underpinned by Lean
Design, Six Sigma, and practical improvements to the development processes.
If it wasn’t for the many thousands of users of their products, I would say that
the biggest problem Unigraphics, or UGS, has had over the last couple of years,
has been the frequent changing of the company’s and its products name – what
with the company going through a number of acquisitions and buy outs, and the
relaunch of its product design and development product.
Now they are, thankfully, free of their relationship with EDS – a tarnished
ship, if ever there was one, for anyone who follows the fortunes of Government
IT expenditure in the pages of Private Eye – the next step they could profitably
take, would be to change the name of its principal software – NX. Merging I-DEAS
and Unigraphics has absorbed two well-known and respected names and replaced
them with something that sounds like some non-descript Japanese Sports Coupe.
Hardly descriptive of the software’s capabilities, and not quite guaranteed to
free the creative juices of its users.
Its users, though, are aware of its capabilities and its value – and, so I am
told, are proud of the name – and now they are due to receive the next version
of the software which will incorporate some substantial upgrades. With due
sensitivity to UGS nomenclature, I can tell you about the latest upgrades in
NX3, but can’t yet, divulge the name of the principal features.
The focus of NX3 is all about Managing the Development Environment, improving
the way in which products are developed, from conception to manufacture, and
providing a framework that brings all of the many steps together in a simple
Underpinning this is an emphasis on Lean Design – the elimination of waste in
design (similar in concept to Lean manufacturing) and Design for Six Sigma – the
application of standards of quality in the design process. It also includes the
drive towards knowledge driven automation – the re-use of a company’s
intellectual property – residing in the products it has already developed – in
the development of new designs. And, in order to force compliance with the new
standards – or, to make it easier for designers to work in a manner not inimical
to the goal of increasing a company’s productivity, it includes the Process
Studio tool that maps out the design process in a simple, practical and
Before we look at these in greater detail, I cannot ignore the enhanced design
and styling tools that will be available in NX3, building on NX Sahpe Studio and
providing industrial designers and automotive stylists with advanced curve and
surface creation, analysis and modification tools. NX Styling allows users to
work with whatever modelling approach is suitable for each job using NX’s
flexible architecture, extending the designers capabilities throughout the
complete design workflow.
Managed Development Environment
NX Managed Development Environment encompasses all of the product and process
management tools available within NX. Using Teamcenter, UGS’ open PLM
Foundation, every NX application is provided with core data management services,
enabling crucial product definition information to be captured and made
available to all within the development chain. MDE is a scaleable tool, and can
be used as a simple data vaulting tool, right up to complete engineering process
management, continuous data validation, multi-site integration, requirements
management and manufacturing planning.
MDE has been geared towards the needs of the engineer, automating much of the
workflow, such as file check in/out, release and sign off, making the system
transparent and far less intrusive than other systems on the market. Because it
stores product and process information, it can also be used to recycle that
information, allowing engineers to re-use it in their designs. This ability to
capture, classify, locate and re-apply information extends to product
specifications, sketches and geometric models, as well as reviews, mark-ups,
decision history and process details. It helps companies capitalise on their
past experiences – and their mistakes! It is also a critical element of Lean
Enabling users to re-use embedded knowledge speeds up the product development
process, allows users to implement design changes more quickly and enables
companies to respond to market conditions. It can also be used for the rapid
production of model variations.
The Managed Development Environment is used to integrate and synchronise all of
the software tools used to take a product through design, analysis and
manufacturing, and through other development disciplines throughout the supply
chain, enabling companies to effect a coherent standards policy, the backbone of
Design for Six Sigma.
Lean Manufacturing has already proved that significant savings can be made in
cost and time by focussing on process performance. The aim of Lean Design is to
eradicate wasteful processes in the design of a product before it even reaches
the factory, and complements lean manufacturing.
The problem lies, however, in identifying those areas that contribute to the
waste in product development – far more elusive than those in manufacturing. A
recent survey undertaken by UGS of Tier 1 automotive suppliers provided some
areas where waste has been identified, besides those designs that are thrown
into the bin before they are completed (a frighteningly large number, I would
suspect). Documentation accounted for up to half the waste – the production of
unnecessary documents and downtime while finding information and waiting for
test results – amounting to a whopping 33-50%! Under-utilisation of design
knowledge contributed 18% and designing in features customers didn’t need a
further 8%. Validating manufacturing errors early on in the design process, and
poor designs came to 17% and 15% respectively. All of these have corresponding
areas of waste in manufacturing.
Whilst, obviously, stressing that the utilisation of a Managed Development
Environment to capture and store data centrally, to implement more efficient
working processes, and to re-utilise engineering knowledge, goes a long way
towards providing a Lean Design solution, UGS suggest a short period of
self-assessment of shortcomings in the areas listed above wouldn’t come amiss,
prior to implementing a possible solution!
Design for Six Sigma
Six Sigma is all about quality. By understanding what customers value in a
product, and by designing to those standards, a company can be relatively
assured of success. Design for Six Sigma provides a systematic way of
incorporating important customer requirements that can be measured, verified and
optimised into the product development process, which can be tested against
The ideal product is one that manages to balance possibly conflicting
attributes, such as cost, quality, performance and aesthetics, and the aim of
DFSS is to manage the variability of each of these and to improve the
predictability and capability of the design process to achieve that aim.
Recognising that all product development processes are inherently unpredictable,
producing products that fall within a band of performance, Six Sigma has devised
a method (DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) to improve a
product or process that is not performing adequately.
Six Sigma is more of a methodology than an exact science, and starts out by
using some hazy assumptions, which are gradually refined until a defineable set
of customer requirements take shape. IT then focuses on these requirements,
converting them into positive steps that can be undertaken to improve the
All of the foregoing sounds wholly admirable, and critically important for any
company bent on improving its productivity, but it invokes quite understandable
fears about the effort and the costs needed to implement such a solution.
Instead of hiring expensive consultants to programme and set up a system that
will integrate all of the programs and processes, it would be preferable to have
a simpler facility in-house that could accomplish the task.
This can be found in NX Process Studio, a set of Wizards that enables users with
little or no specialist training, to automate standard processes. It combines
UGS’software and best practice knowledge into a managed methodology, that
captures and facilitates the use of repeatable tasks.
Process Studio uses NX Knowledge Fusion, a rules engine, to delve into UGS’
flexible product modelling tools, together with its CAE and CAM capabilities,
leveraging the software to streamline the workflow, and reducing the effort and
risks associated with repeatable processes.
Process Studio is supplemented by Simulation Process Studio, which performs a
similar function for digital simulation, a process used to evaluate product
performance during the design stage, enabling corrective design decisions to be
made on a more informed basis, earlier on in the design process.
Both NX Process Studio and NX Simulation Process Studio are self-documenting,
providing an effective means of implementing process standards and supporting
best practice implementations – the key elements of Lean Design and Design for
After all – this is what Managed Product Development is all about!
Click here for a Print Friendly Version