Reveal, Reuse, Reduce – Part 2: Reusing Existing Parts

Hi—It’s Karin from EXALEAD again! This post is the second installment of a three-part series about product parts management that we call “Reveal, Reuse, Reduce”. Let’s continue with “Reusing Existing Parts”! (see Part 1: Revealing Existing Parts if you missed it)

The Cost of Creating New Parts

Confronted with the need for a specific part to meet form, fit, and function requirements for a new product design, engineers currently face two undesirable choices: they can waste valuable time manually trying to find a suitable part—frequently a daunting task that just takes too long—or they can give up on the search and create a new part.

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While the decision to design a new part may be the most convenient and fastest course of action for the individual engineer, he or she may not be aware that its impact trickles down throughout the entire product development and manufacturing organization—unnecessarily increasing part counts and slowing time-to-market. In product development alone, new part designs have to be analyzed, validated, and prototyped, steps that can consume valuable R&D resources. Moreover, by making something new instead of utilizing tried-and-tested designs, new part development can increase the risk of problems related to quality and manufacturability.

After a new part leaves product development, it creates additional work and costs for every downstream department, from sourcing, production, inventory, and distribution to sales, marketing, and support. New tool paths will have to be created, materials will need to be procured, and new part numbers will have to be added to user, service, and ordering publications, actions that are best avoided if possible.

The Value of Existing Parts

Instead of creating a new part, designers and engineers can look for a similar one amongst legacy parts. Because of the advantages surrounding the use of existing designs, every aspect of a manufacturing enterprise and extended supply chain—including product design, engineering, documentation, procurement, purchasing, manufacturing, inventory, distribution, service, sales, marketing, and management—will become more efficient, ensuring high levels of quality while accelerating time-to-market.

In fact, a wealth of value is lying dormant in the form of existing parts and assemblies, which designers and engineers can often incorporate into new product innovations. According to The Aberdeen Group, a leading information technology and business intelligence research analyst, the annual carrying costs of introducing a new part number range between $4,500 and $23,000 per item, making duplicate part proliferation a known source of cost exposure. These costs represent the hidden treasure buried beneath an enterprise’s voluminous data infrastructure—costs that directly impact throughput, productivity and, ultimately, profit margins.

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This unwieldy mass of data contains not only 2D and 3D product designs—in the form of CAD models and engineering drawings—but also a cornucopia of associated information, ranging from analysis reports, tool paths, and bills of materials (BOMs) to assembly and user documentation, quotes and orders, inventory and service reports, and other design and production information. However, extracting the potential value hidden within this mountain of data requires an efficient and cost-effective means for finding, accessing, and leveraging existing design assets to facilitate future product development through design reuse.

Reveal Hidden Assets & Reuse Legacy Parts

As we saw in the previous post, before existing parts can be reused, all potential parts that might satisfy a specific set of requirements need to be located, sorted, and evaluated. With an integrated search experience, a variety of search terms and approaches are leveraged to locate not only design models with suitable geometries but also any and all related metadata. Beginning with a search using descriptors of the part, such as part number or color, project name, file type, the original designer’s name, and more, the search is refined according to its features. From there, the user can compare similar parts and find linked content to make the right, informed, documented reuse decision in less than two minutes.

Once a set of existing parts that might fit the need is found, the user further interrogates information about possible candidates in order to identify the most suitable part for the job. For example, a part with a specific load rating, that’s available in inventory, or manufactured in a certain geographic location, may be required. Because an integrated search experience gives one the ability to find and access all metadata related to a part, the user will be in a much better position to determine and select the part that best satisfies the particular situation.

Who Benefits from an Integrated Search Experience

By utilizing the EXALEAD OnePart web-inspired, easy-to-use search system that extends beyond traditional shape search and does not require knowledge of CAD, every interested member of the organization will have access to in-context product design information and can thus contribute to cost reductions and productivity gains related to design reuse. The wide range of users ensures rapid and dramatic ROI in a matter of months, recuperating software, maintenance, services, and hardware investments throughout the enterprise.

Each time a part gets reused, savings of $1,000 to $14,000 per year are realized, depending on the industry. Productivity gains are found throughout the following departments:

Engineering

Designers and engineers will be more productive devoting more time to high-value new projects, delivering them faster. These productivity improvements will extend beyond product development while alleviating the informational demands on designers and engineers.

Quality

As there are few risks associated with using existing, proven parts that have already been tested, quality improvements are inevitable.

Manufacturing

Incorporating an existing part into a new product is a “known quantity” for the manufacturing team. Personnel and manufacturing time are saved, as are time and costs incurred by tooling.

Bidding & Procurement

Reusing parts decreases stocking costs, leading to savings without damaging important relations with suppliers. The purchasing organization will identify and analyze the right parts more efficiently, making more informed decisions about producing or buying parts.

Sales

Streamlining the product catalog lets sales associates better focus their pre-sales and support efforts.

Most importantly, the above productivity gains impact the bottom line:

Management

The time saved by engineers and others leads to cost savings that can be reallocated to other programs, potentially to launching new products. Lowering the number of assets decreases working capital, so more cash is available to devote to other projects.

The value created by an integrated search experience is clear. Ultimately, customer satisfaction and loyalty improve thanks to faster time-to-market and higher quality, so the investment is easily justified.

In Part 3, “Reduce”, we’ll explore how an integrated search experience can reduce duplicate parts.

In the meantime, to see how much your company could save with parts reuse, check out our personalized interactive simulation app!

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