Web-enabling Design Collaboration

Parametric Technology Corp. next week will release a new solution to let manufacturers collaborate with customers and suppliers online using a GUI.

NEEDHAM, Mass. – Parametric Technology Corp. next week will release a new solution for manufacturers to provide design-to-order tools to customers and partners.

PTCs Dynamic Design Link, powered by the companys Windchill collaboration technology, enables manufacturers that produce products with a lot of design changes to collaborate with customers and suppliers online, using a GUI.

DDL bundles a number of PTCs previous technologies, including Pro Engineer for mechanical CAD development, with a Web-based platform and two portal interfaces.

Information can be configured and viewed in the two separate portals. The first is Design Portal, which allows manufactures to define rules for specific products. A Product Portal allows customers or dealers to then go in and customize a manufacturers design.

The process works with both simple and complex, highly engineered products because the manufacturer puts in its own engineering specifications. In addition to using CAD documents to provide a 3-D rendering of the product – including models, product structure and supporting documentation – the DDL software also generates logic around each design modification that helps the end user decide on a final product.

For example, when a customer designing truck beds changes the load balance requirements using the DDL interface, applicable tire recommendations based on weight are generated.

In future iterations, PTC plans to add additional optimization capabilities, according to officials at PTC headquarters here.

The DDL software renders product views on the fly by dynamically automating design reviews and other functions within the application engineering process. The software allows users to store, update and compare product alternatives.

Furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. is testing DDL and plans to roll out the customer-facing portal to a handful of its dealers over the next five weeks.

The Zeeland, Mich., company has a multitude of unique, configurable office furniture parts that dealers can customize. While the IT staff has developed a homegrown configuration system, it is text-based only.

With PTCs Web-based system, dealers will have the ability to use a browser to go through the selection criteria and decide, for example, what type of work surface and what shape desk they would like, generate a preview of the product and then confirm what they are looking for, according to Jeff Faber, Manager of Project Development Information Technology.

"We currently get a number of incomplete orders with the text tool," said Faber. "With PTC well force [the dealers] to select and configure the product. It also shows them what it is theyre specifying and makes them more confident. It shows them whats possible, graphically. So once their confidence is up and its clear what they want, well get more orders – and more complete orders."