Adaptive product development

March 17, 2005
The need for speed, flexibility, and adaptability rank only behind sustained, top-line growth, finds a recent Conference Board study of CEOs' biggest business concerns.

William M. Gascoigne
CEO CoCreate Software Inc.
Fort Collins, Colo.

CoCreate is a developer of CAD and PLM software,

Along these same lines, less than a quarter of consumer-product companies find their product-development capabilities and performance adequate, according to the Aberdeen Group.

Manufacturers these days operate under intense timeto-market pressure that can frustrate a design team's best efforts. Something has to give under the pressure, and it usually does. Slipping a release date, scrapping key features of some future product, and putting off investments in new technology that could lead to future innovations, all are unwelcome, real-world choices facing many companies.

So what are you doing wrong? Before you dig too deep for answers, consider that the problem may lie in your modeling software. For starters, conventional historybased CAD tools for 3D modeling use history trees to represent the creation of a model by a single contributor. If you've ever had to modify another designer's historybased model, you know firsthand how difficult it can be. History-based modeling tools make sense for companies using a linear productdevelopment process. In this case, a single "owner" of a part or design follows it from start to finish. But history-based tools fall short when an adaptive approach to product development is needed.

It turns out history-based models are the least flexible right when you most need to modify them. Typically, only the model creator can make changes. Designers, who cannot wait around for the changes, may decide to scrap the original model and recreate it themselves. These scenarios violate the principles of adaptive design and may hurt your company's bottom line.

In contrast, a dynamic modeling tool generates history-free models that are pure geometry and therefore not bound to the sequence of steps used to create them. Dynamic modeling lets anyone at anytime pick up a design and run with it. This lets a design team pull in the expertise of multiple contributors and leverage concurrent-design techniques to help meet deadlines. Dynamic modeling also pushes out the point at which you must freeze models for production. This means that late-cycle customer change orders and other design changes need not be showstoppers.

A recent McKinsey report asserts product development must change "in ways resembling the lean-manufacturing techniques that transformed mass production." Industries that need responsive design processes and rapid time to market can no longer afford the misunderstandings, rework, and "dead-end" design scenarios that come along with linear-development processes. Companies that incorporate dynamic modeling tools and a collaborative team process can be more agile. In fact, our customers report 40% better productivity when they switch to a dynamic modeling approach instead of history-based modeling of designs.

is about solving problems quickly and working collectively as a design team. Dynamic-modeling tools provide a logical and simple means of reaching this goal. And that's something that pleases designers and CEOs alike.

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