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Choose wisely and once: Part 4 - CAD outputs.

Continuing the series of posts related to the most efficient way to formulate an RFQ or tool evaluation process for electrical interconnect/systems integration cabling and harness tools, here we’re going to look at the third of four roughly equal “must have” categories of requirement. 

CAD artifacts – schematics, blueprints, drawings, whatever you habitually call them are absolutely central to the way electrical and wiring engineers do business. They encapsulate the design in a digestible way, so that peer reviews, team validation, hand-off can be done on the basis of common understanding, using fixed graphical representation standards. Without these electrical engineers and their colleagues do not have a convention in which they can understand the product.  ECAD works on the basis of diagrams as the promary source of reference and communication.

CHS is a system which has an technology architecture which yields a business benefit (data re-use is facilitated for example) by holding the information in data tables in a relational database.  That goes on “under the hood” and is largely hidden from the end user. The effect of this technology can be startling on your enterprise  in terms of efficiency and open up possibilities for refreshing, renewing or revolutionizing the business processes. Whether you want to aim on this progression for incremental improvements or go for radical overhaul of the way you work is dependent on your organizational needs your plans for modifying your processes, not the , however the visible outputs which people rely on day to day to understand and express the reality of their working life is immersed in these outputs. It follows engineers love their drawings.

And in Requests for Quotation (RFQ) documents that I see, customers, if they are going to emphasize one aspect of their requirements, tend to lay stress on this category by going into a fine detail.  An example requirement I have often seen is that the Graphical User Interface (GUI) should be capable of zooming in and out a) to defined portions of the drawing b) to specific devices c) to the extents of conductors d) to the extent of the drafting template/frame  …. and so on.   In the large sample I studied, this category edged out the others in terms of numbers – netting 29% of the total (all 4 categories being roughly a quarter we recall).  Satisifaction in this area is usually the first priority for end users, and failing to meet requirements for drawing appearance is often the cause for kick-back from end users comfortable with years of working a certain way. 

Mechical/Electrical CAD Topology view entire vehicle schematic in Capital Integrator

Mechical/Electrical CAD Topology view entire vehicle schematic in Capital Integrator

Understandably so.  Product knowledge, the management of change in highly complex systems interconnect can be thrown into chaos if new CAD features are introduced which are inadequate.  This has to be sensitively handled.  Let’s have a look at some other representative examples of requirement which can be stated: 

  • Format of file must be either .pdf .dwg or .svg

  • Off-page references shall be as per fig. 14A

  • Application will automate the placement of title block information on the drawing

  • Standards according to appendix D shall be achieved in the software without customization, i.e. as installed 

Incidentally, these are  ones I have invented as examples. RFQ submissions generally fall under a non-disclosure agreement and are of course kept private.  My illustrations here look innocuous  – but they can split out into clusters of sub-requirements. Take the first one. What type of PDF, what version of the .dwg format?  Take the last one, does “without customization” mean without the user ever having to configure their own client installation of the ECAD software because there are security and configuration control concerns. Or it may mean that you are concerned about the divergences from common processes as a result of having to trawl across drawings with utilities to ”clean” them and have been disappointed in the past with the support overhead  your internal IT group has to devote to making and maintaining custom code to localize drawing appearances.

What I have found is that this aspect of evaluating a new tool needs to be planned carefully. A list of 2-300 molecular level “the drawing tool must do ….” takes time to compile, takes time to ratify amongst the often many stakeholders who are custodians of the drafting standards.  My advice is to isolate some top level requirements, and plan to examine the vendor’s capability in detail through a fast-tracked evaluation stage of your selection. 

Bear in mind also that the transition from one system to another is the a golden opportunity to review your drafting needs. In parallel with the tool selection I recommend you initiate a review of the CAD standards and output requirement and see whether there exists a strong case for retention or a good case for relaxing some of the requirements. What opportunities exist for harmonizing standards across your enterprise, take a critical look at what do your competitors do – possibly for the first time in several years. Can you eliminate paper copies of schematics in part of your design review process? Does it save money and time to adjust the way you do things? That’s a good exploration to undertake.

The nitty gritty of acheiving the desired results to conform to specific drawing formats and styles – keep that legwork to an evaluation phase.

example-of-a-very-detailed-drawing-requirement

Requirements for CAD drawing appearance can be very detailed

Good news, there’s another quarter of the task completed. Only the last outreach task to go. Then your RFQ will be right-sized and you can be confident that it will snag you to the ideal business partner, like … (clears throat) …  ahem – Mentor Graphics.

RFI, RFQ, CHS, Schematics, Capital Harness Systems, ECAD

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About Paul Johnston

Paul JohnstonI help Mentor Graphics customers to be successful, accomplish a more rapid return on investment. My professonal focus is on the Capital product line. I was born just outside of Manchester England, am now resident in the metro Detroit area of Michigan USA. Visit Paul Johnston's Blog

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