Computer aided design (CAD) tools are integral to the way manufacturing engineers create new products — the software
helps streamline processes, eliminate errors, and digitalize operations. Since its inception in the 1960s, CAD has been considered a behind-the-scenes solution, but can it also help improve the sales process?
Configure, price, quote (CPQ) software has led the way in sales automation, helping manufacturers configure and quote custom products with greater speed and fewer errors. When CAD integrates with CPQ, it opens a new dimension to customer experience. Let’s take a look at what CAD automation looks like in a manufacturing setting, why it has become so important, and how the future of CAD automation will impact sales.
To say that CAD models were a game-changer for the manufacturing industry would be an understatement. Today, it would be almost impossible to imagine a manufacturing company not using CAD for its design needs.
The biggest benefit of CAD is how it improves design accuracy. Manufacturers can draw CAD models to scale, and then easily enlarge or reduce them without changing the dimensions. Also, past forms of hand-drawing models required extensive work to fix mistakes and design errors. CAD makes this about as difficult as pushing a button.
Now, what might have once taken a team of engineers months to complete can be done with less human resources and more computing power to create a better resolution model that is more accurate and can show all of the inner workings of the product in real-time.
CAD has traditionally been used in manufacturing to help design products. Now, with faster processors and better graphics, a computer can create a fully realized 3D model of a product that is totally photorealistic.
But it goes beyond just creating a model on the computer that shows what the product will look like. It can also show exactly how the product will function by simulating everything from dynamics and fluid flow to stress and vibration. You’ll know exactly how the product will work and if there are any problems that need to be addressed before you start making the product.
The newest generations of CAD have even automated many of these features, making it even easier for non-technical people to use the software. After the actual designs are created by engineers, users can manipulate the model and still create a working item that meets all the standards of the original design.
Some CAD software can also integrate with new technology such as 3D printers to create miniature “mock-ups” of a product. While the 3D printed model won’t perform in the same way as a prototype, it will still be useful as a sales tool to show the customer what their finished product will look like. This will cut down on “buyer’s remorse” for customers who don’t understand what a finished product will look like when they order it.
One of the best integrations for CAD in the manufacturing industry is with a CPQ solution. With this setup, an engineer can create a CAD model of a product that can be configured to meet a customer’s needed specifications.
Then, sales can manipulate this model in real-time to match the customer’s requests. When paired with a visual configurator, the customer can even go to the company website and do this customization themselves.
Once the CAD model is customized, a bill of materials (BOM) is generated, which details all of the items and materials needed, so the product can move quickly into production.
CAD doesn’t just help engineers on the design end, it can help sales create more engaging presentations for prospective customers. First, CAD enables the customer to do most of the customization themselves. In the past, they would have to take the customer’s specifications to the engineering department, generate a drawing, a BOM, and then finally a quote — a process that could take several days or even weeks.
Now, a design can be created almost instantly using CAD integration without the engineering department being brought in for a consultation. The entire process is moved ahead, and the engineers can continue working on developing new projects instead of working to configure already established products. The process is also more accurate, since the customer is able to see a fully rendered 3D model of their product for final approval.