Transforming Manufacturing for the Digital Age

4 June 2024Fusion, inventor, vault



Transforming Manufacturing for the Digital Age

The Ongoing Challenges in Engineering and Manufacturing Sectors.

For decades, engineering and manufacturing companies, from large-scale manufacturers to small engineering firms, have faced significant challenges. These challenges have been compounded not just by the pandemic, which has accelerated necessary transformations, but also by digitally accelerated obsolescence. In this competitive landscape, companies are becoming faster, more efficient, and more profitable.

This advancement isn’t only driven by existing competitors. Newcomers to the market can also pose substantial threats, often going unnoticed by established businesses until it becomes too late. This situation highlights the urgent need for these companies to embrace digital innovations to maintain competitiveness quickly.

Today, businesses encounter significant hurdles, exacerbated by the pandemic, though the issues extend beyond it. The primary problem is the rapid pace of digital obsolescence, pushing competitors to become more agile, efficient, and ultimately, more profitable.

This progress isn’t confined to existing players; new entrants in the market also introduce considerable risks. Often, engineering and manufacturing firms fail to recognise these threats until irreversible damage occurs. This highlights the critical necessity for businesses to rapidly adapt to digital advancements. Adopting enhanced production processes, leveraging digital tools for product design, and embracing advanced manufacturing technologies are not merely strategic moves—they are essential actions required to sustain a competitive edge and secure long-term resilience.

What Are These Disruptors Doing Differently?

What is their “secret formula”?

Their “secret formula” lies in the seamless integration of digital technology and a cultural shift within their workforce towards utilising these technologies effectively. Successful digital transformation (DgT) goes beyond merely adopting new technologies; it also fosters innovation and digital fluency throughout the organisation.

This approach presents significant risks to companies that are slow to adapt and substantial opportunities for those that embrace it. Strategically leveraging digital transformation allows firms to capture market share from slower-moving competitors within their industry.

Historically, high entry barriers prevented companies from emerging regions from competing with established Western firms. However, digital transformation dismantles these barriers, enabling companies from developing regions to compete more effectively globally by harnessing advanced digital technologies.

This “democratisation of technology access” means that even smaller or newer firms now possess the tools and opportunities to innovate, expand, and compete with established industry leaders. Consequently, this alters the competitive dynamics in engineering and manufacturing, opening new avenues for growth and success.

Impact of the Pandemic & The CAD Triad of Fire.

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a significant catalyst, accelerating the integration of cloud technologies, which now energise a broader spectrum of devices and enterprises. As businesses emerge from the pandemic, a robust resurgence is anticipated.

Companies are gearing up to compete for market dominance, requiring robust systems to handle the anticipated business surge. Economic analysts predict solid growth driven by pent-up demand, depleted inventories, and historically low interest rates. Moreover, there has been a significant increase in business applications among technology partners, reflecting expanded capacity and demands. In this context, Fusion 360 is a pivotal tool for companies looking to enhance product design and production.

The Product Design & Manufacturing Collection (PDMC), including Inventor, Vault, and Fusion360, has significantly expanded the realm of possibilities, offering enhanced capabilities such as Design Flexibility and Speed. These advancements have a noticeable impact on our project timelines and ultimately influence our company’s profitability.

So, how can we improve our internal design workflow?

The right tools for the job.

In nature, diversity is a fundamental aspect, and this principle also applies to companies. Despite their differences, all companies share common goals: service provision, growth, survival, evolution, expansion, and agility. To achieve these goals, it is crucial to establish effective workflows, starting with selecting the right tools for the job at hand.

While 2D computer-aided design (e.g. AutoCAD Lt, AutoCAD, etc.) may offer expediency in certain instances (a matter frequently subject to debate), the comprehensive advantages of 3D parametric modelling become apparent upon the finalisation of the 3D model. This results in a more cohesive and efficient product development cycle. The move toward 3D parametric modelling represents a considerable advancement over traditional 2D and static 3D modelling. These older methods do not incorporate engineering intent directly into the model, often making design changes cumbersome and time-consuming.

In contrast, 3D parametric modelling dramatically cuts down the time needed for these modifications by allowing changes in a single parameter to affect the entire model automatically.

The goal? It is used to gain design agility by easily improving, changing, and updating designs.

It’s crucial to understand that using a specific application, such as 3D parametric software, doesn’t mean our internal workflow will stay the same. Introducing new tools in this field requires us to reassess and adjust our workflow for improved efficiency. In other words, we must take action to impact the workflow.

And the action is, to consider the design of our product from a different perspective, if applicable.

What exactly does “parametrisation” mean?

Parametrisation involves thoroughly examining a design from various angles, blending design expertise with engineering and mathematical skills to guide the design process effectively. This method allows for the adjustment of numerical values rather than directly altering sketch entities or dimensional constraints. These numerical changes prompt calculations at the component level, leading to automatic updates in the assemblies.

Autodesk Inventor and Fusion 360 (with or without extensions) are the tools that can facilitate this approach by creating 3D Intelligent Templates. Furthermore, a software solution like Autodesk Vault Professional is essential for centralising, managing, controlling, and reusing all design efforts in the future, expediting the overall design process for any company.

This method streamlines and enhances the entire design modification process by embedding intent and relationships among geometric features. The model automatically updates its shape when any dimension is adjusted, streamlining design modifications and iterations.

Once these 3D Intelligent Templates are perfected through ongoing evolution and refinement, they will be the initial reference point for any new project. Subsequently, any completed project based on these i3D Templates will serve as the foundation for similar projects, leading to substantial reductions in necessary modifications and enhancing the efficiency of the entire manufacturing process.

Where do we fail?

The first mistake is not seeking professional advice. Our company, Graitec, offers various services and has a proven track record of successful results. Our goal is to provide companies with a solution that can help them broaden their horizons by optimistically looking toward the future.

The second mistake is thinking that it will be easy. It all depends on the product, the company’s internal workflow, staff skills, and financial aspects. This is a time-consuming task that we need to accept and embrace if we want to achieve good results.

The third mistake is a combination of the first and the second. Just because we have professional assistance doesn’t mean everything will be easy, and we can expand and contract the parametrisation exercise to automate everything. Not everything can be parameterised, and trying to do so can negatively impact the time allocated to complete the task. It is considered a best practice to evaluate the pros and cons whenever it is appropriate.

The final mistake is that sometimes, we cannot see or do not want to see the endless possibilities of a parameterisation exercise. Yes, not everything is suitable or convenient to parametrised; not everything will be simple, and it will not always be quick. It’s okay if our internal workflow has been working for several years, and we should respect that decision, but we must look toward the future and see how far we can go by adopting certain technologies and improving the way we do things.

There is nothing wrong with looking at our product design from a different perspective and asking ourselves the same old question: “What if?” If we do not do that, if we do not embrace that question, we fail!


The design process is inherently iterative, rarely yielding a perfect product on the first attempt. Thus, having tools that facilitate easy improvements at any stage is essential. While developing a parametric model requires an initial investment to establish design relationships strategically, this effort pays off significantly when modifications are needed later.

From traditional drafting to advanced CAD systems, engineers continuously enhance methodologies. Today, they have unparalleled tools and opportunities.

Embracing parametric 3D CAD is crucial for optimising product development. Implementing parametrised assemblies and parts with a mathematical approach creates a flexible design workflow for standard and bespoke products.

Written by Pedro Lopez – Software Technical Specialist

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