Driving design automation

Aug 1, 2012 | Electrical & electronics

Design automation provides rapid engineering as well as fast and accurate document production, resulting in a number of business benefits. Ken Christie, EPLAN UK director, comments

Across most industries today, competition and global outsourcing make cost reduction mandatory. Design automation – a system that captures and automatically applies an engineering activity to product variants to result in ?nished designs in minimum time – stands out as an effective means of cutting costs, especially where business needs demand increased productivity, improved accuracy and rapid project turnaround times.

A key driver in design automation is Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) software, which allows you to deliver better, faster design and build solutions. The latest generation of innovative CAE tools have been shown to deliver cost savings of up to 80%, while offering significant improvements in productivity, design integrity and project turnaround times.

One element that sets modern CAE software apart from traditional, two-dimensional CAD systems is the integration of a powerful central database. This can internalise and simplify all of the design and reporting required by multiple disciplines like electrical, fluid power, and process control engineering. It can also standardise information and enable data sharing among not only different people but departments and processes, making it possible for all disciplines to work together to deliver an integrated solution.

In addition, CAE software can effortlessly convert project documentation in minutes to the language and design standards that customers, vendors and subcontractors require, and export it in one of many common file formats. This high level of integration is one of the main reasons that advanced CAE products are proving to be a catalyst in the relationship between electrical engineering and other project stakeholders.

The benefits

With the unrivalled storage capabilities of a database – the scope of device data and components that can be accessed is extensive and includes macros of sub-circuits, assembly drawings, function templates for an intelligent device selection, international designations, preview images and entire manuals – vast amounts of recurrent content can also be re-used, which maximises productivity, ensures error-free projects and shortens turnaround times.

The ability to automate recurring design documentation further negates the need for the time-consuming creation of master data. This provides integrated data for intelligent design, such as precisely fitting back panels and cabinets, virtual wiring and sustainably shortened product development and production cycles. The software also has automatic error-checking features, which make it virtually impossible for errors to slip into project build packages. In addition, the time consuming error checks necessary with legacy systems is largely eliminated.

By using modern CAE software which incorporates a comprehensive database, manufacturers can share project documentation with customers, vendors, and subcontractors by simply exporting it in several common file formats. For companies trading globally, the ability of a CAE system to automatically convert the project documentation into different languages or accepted standards of a region or industry can also prove to be very valuable.


CAE software can also be connected to multiple departments within the company such as sales, purchasing, accounting, manufacturing, and service. Since the same data is used across departments and disciplines, changes become transparent, providing everyone involved with a clear understanding of the project status.

Design automation generally begins in the engineering department. However, every company function that interfaces with engineering can eventually bene?t from design automation – the biggest benefits are realised by those that leverage CAE software to change how design workflows are structured and to standardise product content to fully exploit the capabilities.

Why not draw inspiration from the many companies who have successfully implemented design automation? The results, ultimately, will be improved design quality and turnaround times in product development and order fulfilment, with significant cost savings.


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