the business of computer-aided design
Issue #821 | June 3, 2014
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In This Issue
1. Switching from History to ST Modeling
Case study from Solid Edge Universtiy 2014
2. Letters to the Editor
Cloud vendor refunds for service outages
Switching from History to ST Modeling
I was interested in this Solid Edge University session on switching to a new form of modeling, because I had heard that it can be hard for designers familiar with history-based design to switch. In this case, the direct modeling in Solid Edge is called Synchronous Technology (ST). Siemens PLM calls history-based modeling "ordered" modeling, to emphasize that the model is (must be) designed in order, from start to end. By contrast, ST and other direct modeling systems, like in Creo or Fusion, allow designers to draw and edit 3D models at any point in their development.
Melissa Schultz is engineering CAD administrator at Curt G Joa, 13 years a Solid Edge user, and in charge of 75 engineers. The company makes non-woven converting machinery -- a euphemism for diaper-making machines. The challenge to the firm's designers is that all their machines are custom-made, and so the library of parts changes constantly.
Figure 1: Engineering CAD administrator Melissa Schultz speaking at Solid Edge University
Ms Schultz knew she had to move the company's designers to ST after attending sessions at earlier SE Us and saw for herself how ST worked. She realized it no longer was acceptable to remodel parts that were already designed by others, just because the model was failing to update. She decided to make the switch when both ordered and ST elements could be in the same Solid Edge file.
There were external pressures. As Siemens PLM added new features to the software, they tended to be focused on ST instead of ordered mode. Switching fit her company's strategic plan to reduce engineering time, such as the problem of waiting for complex models to regenerate. Their machinery has thousands of elliptical shaped holes, with fillets. The models could take ten minutes to open, and as much as 8-9 hours to regenerate. One pre-ST shortcut that reduced regeneration times was to use patterns. ST itself results in smaller file sizes and so has faster load times.
But before introducing ST to the designers, she first had to overcome facts and myths that they held.
Selling ST to Users
With the assistance of the local Solid Edge reseller, Ms Schultz created a master plan to transition designers from ordered to ST modeling.
Step 1: From the 75 engineers, she selected a power user team of eight. These eight would later assist in training the others. Initially, they were not impressed by the ST demo presented by the dealer, and so Ms Schultz had the dealer put them through a week of basic training, as if they knew nothing about ST.
To believe in it, they needed to do it. Users were asked to bring their most difficult files, ones that they thought ST could not handle. "We wanted to find where ST wouldn't work," she said, "so that we would know where it would work."
Step 2: Following the week of training, a presentation was made to management, telling them the areas that users found ST useful. She told the managers, "If you want us to be faster, let us take advantage of this new tool we're not using yet."
She had to justify training 75 engineers for a week, which represented a loss of productivity. But, she argued, this would not be not a problem, because training was the #1 request from users, who wanted to be better at their jobs. Management agreed that the ST training was not just about a new modeling technique, but could also include best practices. Approval was given, because the firm was facing customers who wanted machines delivered even more quickly.
Step 3: Trainers from the reseller arrived, and began their work by speaking with every user. All were asked about the problems they faced, and what changes they would like to see in Solid Edge. The result was 30 enhancement requests.
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Next, Ms Schultz had the reseller rewrite their training program to be specific to her company. Every designer was scheduled to learn ST through five, sequential, week-long training sessions of 12 users each. Trainers from the reseller were supported by two employees who had been trained earlier in Step 1. Here is the schedule developed for the training program:
Days 1-3 The same ST training for all:
Trainees were told that the frustration they would feel was expected. At the end of each day, they were surveyed on the speed of the training (too fast, too slow) and on problems with the content. Groups with advanced users were allowed to move faster through the training.
Day 1 Users were confused and frustrated
Day 2 Users could see that ST might be useful for other people
Day 3 Users saw they could use ST themselves
Day 4 Users received training in best practices and advanced techniques
Day 5 Users learned about internal standards
Day 5 ended with The Race. Here the class was split in two, half to use ST and the other half ordered modeling. They were given the same model, where they had to make a part longer, and change the spacing of holes. The ordered half laughed as they knew they would be done first, but then got mad as they saw the complexity of the history tree. Instead, the ST half finished first, and had fun calling out as they got done earlier. Then the two groups were switched.
The only job that week was to learn ST. To force users to learn, all internal internet and messaging was turned off during training. They could use email only during lunch time. Agreements were set up with co-workers to take over work of the trainees.
Figure 2: One of the machines built by Curt G Joa
Post Training Implementation
Users were told that once the training week was over, ST would be mandatory on all new files -- except for areas that ST could not handle, such as linked part copying, complex blends, and known bugs. "Any time you cannot use ST, we want to know about it," Ms Schultz told graduates.
Support was intense due to the many questions raised by trainees. Any question asked by two or more users was shared with all. The most common questions surrounded Live Rules, such as how to make rigid sets and locked dimensions (to prevent Live Rules from moving mounting holes and other parts). The company now has three years worth of "Tuesday Tips" that show how to use ST efficiently.
After starting in ST, it typically took users three weeks to become as efficient as with ordered modeling. After four months, however, the ST mandate was lifted, with one exception: sheet metal is still mandated for ST. By then, ST had become for most users a habit in all areas of design; lifting the mandate allowed a willing transition to ST. Some users, however, reverted to ordered mode: "Change isn't easy." Ms Schultz found that these users tended to not use ST when creating new files, but then tended to use it for editing. "It is easier to learn ST when starting new in Solid Edge," she said.
Long Term Transitioning
Some users were very vocal in their opposition. "Don't give up because some users are against it," advised Ms Schultz. But working at a custom machinery manufacturer, designers were making edits all the time. With ST, a different designer didn't need to know how the original designer made the part.
There were two surprises from this transition: she could not tell ahead of time which users would adapt to ST more easily. This is because people's brains work differently, and so some adapt to ST quicker. The other surprise was finding that the more ST functions were applied to models, the smaller the assemblies got. Overall, ST reduced the number of parts by 30%.
Although the time savings are hard to quantify, Ms Schultz estimates her company saved 20% of the time on the 75% of the work. Overall, the transition was a nine-month process, including things as easy as adding a second monitor and as hard as automating work processes. "No machine shipped out late because of this," Ms Schultz summarized.
And One More Thing...
Nemetschek Scia lets Scia Engineer 14's FEA model link to custom engineering calculators, to eliminate "the black box aspect of current engineering design software." Scia now supports Revit 2015 and tracks changes to models moved between the two programs; 64-bit version of Tekla Structures, and Allplan 2014-1. http://14.scia-engineer.com
For More News
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Download a free trial version of Power Surfacing to become an industrial design superstar. And then visit our tutorials page to learn how to model difficult shapes easily.
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Letters to the Editor
News item: "Outage of Adobe Creative Cloud, more than a day old, locked out app users." http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/05/outage-of-adobe-creative-cloud-more-than-a-day-old-locks-out-app-users/. Will Adobe compensate users for the $200 to $500 or more in lost earnings due to this service outage? I'll bet that Adobe's terms of service take away user's right to sue for losses caused by Adobe's negligence.
- Don Beaton
The editor repleis: "The marketing departments of these firms promise the world, but their legal departments give nothing."
You have been steadily feeding the industry for a long time. This is very much appreciated by all of us on the day to day front lines. Issue #820 -- wow!
- Leroy Moore, supervisor
Skanska USA Building
Re: What I Learned at Solid Edge University 2014
I got a big chuckle from the Chadwick comment. A day late and a dollar short, and here is what I mean. [Siemens PLM] have known about Solid Edge University 2014 for some time, and felt that their ecosystem of some 500 aps was worthy of mention. What they don't do, though, is prepare the Web page for perusal. They have know for how long? And another year slips by, and nothing gets done.
- Dave Ault
The editor replies: The Huntsville people did admit (from the SE U stage) their frustration in getting stuff done in a timely manner, due to the Solid Edge division needing approvals from further up the chain. This is the drawback to being part of a huge corporation, especially one whose head office is in another country and so operates by other cultural norms.
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