User Story

Indak : AMD

Indak Manufacturing Corporation (Northbrook, IL) is an automotive industry leader in the design and manufacture of medium and high current switches, high current resistors, and vacuum valves. Indak and its sister-company Borg Indak combine technologies to provide custom designed electronics, displays, and signal level switching. The farm equipment, lawn and garden, construction, and marine industries are also served by Indak's high standards of quality, reliability and cost effectiveness.

Founded by Jessie Cobb in 1947, Indak originally manufactured key switches and vacuum valves primarily of stamped metal parts. Borg-Indak in Delavan, WI was acquired to enhance coverage of the electronic segment of their market. The Indak group also includes several assembly plants located in the Sun Belt and Detroit sales office. Indak's customer list reads like a who's who for global manufacturing including Ford, Visteon, Daimler-Chrysler, General Motors, Nissan, Mercury Marine, MTD, Frigidare Home Products, Murray, Deere & Co., Case I.H., OMC, and Toro.

John Clauson, Indak's CAD support manager, supports and trains a combination of more than 40 AutoCAD and Mechanical Desktop software users. He also conducts file translations and engineering data transfers to vendors and customers, as well as supports engineering related activities throughout the company that may include other software such as AutoCAD LT, viewers, and Microsoft Office products. "I evaluate, test, and implement related technologies, such as computer-aided inspection and mold verification, we use to compare our CAD models with actual inspected parts which come from the molds. It brings the technology full circle," says Clauson.

Design challenges
Clauson notes that defining the product itself is Indak's biggest challenge. "We help our customers with designs that fit into their systems. In the automotive industry, part designers have evolved into systems designers. We help these systems designers develop parts so that the systems will perform properly. Using Mechanical Desktop, to address this important issue early in the design cycle using helps us eliminate errors and keep design and manufacturing costs at a minimum."

Under the direction of chief engineer Charlie Black, Clauson and his team adopted solid modeling in attempt to shorten lead times and reduce errors for several areas including design, tooling, manufacturing, and inspection. He adds, "We use Mechanical Desktop software to identify a lot of 'error magnets' in 2D CAD and other processes. The solid design data is used as a master reference for every stage of the process including design, tooling, and inspection, as well as a reference for others who may need that data.

"We've also implemented quality manufacturing, advanced product quality planning, and KAIZEN procedures. We get involved early in the design phase to design in quality. We've found that 80% of the cost of our products to customers is the design. Coincidentally, design is the stage where quality, reliability and cost can be best controlled."

The Mechanical Desktop Advantage
Clauson continues, "Using the Mechanical Desktop solid model throughout the operation gives everyone the same reference tool. That capability is not available in 2D environments. Also, Mechanical Desktop allows us to begin subsequent processes while the design is evolving. So, prototyping, tooling, and fixture design can begin before detail drawings are fully dimensioned. That advantage slashes many weeks out of the cycle. In addition, the 3D data is leveraged in other ways. For example, we use the 2D drawing to communicate data to AutoCAD and viewer users, customers, and others who can't read 3D models. The compatibility with other Autodesk products and Microsoft Office programs is very beneficial. For example, our test lab uses Mechanical Desktop and AutoCAD files in their Office documents.

"Other departments, such as purchasing, need to be able to access and distribute hardcopy drawings for bid requests. Shop floor people need the data, too. We know that if we communicate the same model to all entities, then we can be assured our efforts will achieve our goals," adds Clauson.

Indak implemented Mechanical Desktop in January of 1998. Since then, Clauson and the engineering department have used it for all new projects. The most significant project involved a new design of a brake release switch for a year-2000 model vehicle. The design cycle evolved from the 2D design approval to the manufacture of parts for prototype tooling within four and one-half weeks—a 75% time savings versus the same approach using Indak's original tools and methods.

For two other important projects, Indak engineers designed parts using Mechanical Desktop that would have been nearly impossible to design in 2D. Indak also recognizes definite time saving results by producing fully dimensioned detail drawings while tools are being made.

Competitive marketplace
Prior to implementing Mechanical Desktop, Indak evaluated several other products from companies including SolidWorks and SDRC. Clauson says, "We looked at SolidWorks mostly because of some buzz we heard about them and I-DEAS because of its role at Ford, one of our biggest customers."

Clauson and his evaluation team selected Mechanical Desktop for a number of reasons. He notes, "We have a legacy of user knowledge and drawings. User familiarity and comfort were two issues we could not disregard. We also appreciate the interoperability among 2D, 3D, viewers, Microsoft Office, and other technologies that we use, such as AutoCAD LT and AutoSM. We recognize Autodesk as a stable company with a reputation for customer service and satisfaction. There is a large pool of trained users with Autodesk product knowledge and we are impressed with the software and the credibility of Autodesk's MAI partners."

Getting up to speed
Clauson says that after the initial training, users began designing immediately with most engineers working comfortably within 30-60 days, and with true understanding of constraint management and how to impart design at approximately 120 days.

"Constraint management is the number one key to a successful solid model. We use Mechanical Desktop to design the constraints into our parts so that as the parts evolve, they still behave properly. That's a whole other level of understanding beyond simply building the part."After we conducted a lengthy evaluation program and trial run, I trained our users over a one month period. Within 30-60 days, most everyone could function and build designs. Today, we are very mature in the use of Mechanical Desktop, but still learning."

Clauson says that companies cannot evaluate any solid modeling product based on demonstrations, benchmarks studies, or by building a couple parts. "You have to use it over an extended period of time to see how it behaves on the battlefront—the day-to-day environment where the unexpected happens and problems arise. When it performs well in that environment, you know you've got the right software."

Author: Laura Carrabine

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Page last modified on March 22, 2000
Copyright 2000 by John Stark