I am passionate about design efficiency and have been studying and working with design automation systems since 1990 when I created my first sales configurator.
My career started in 1977 when I joined the merchant navy as an engineering apprentice. On board ship we learnt to be resourceful and independent and I learnt a great deal about a wide range of engineering disciplines. I travelled the world for 9 years. Looking back it seemed an exciting life.
I left the sea when my son was born, and this was when I set up my first business. We made mobile laboratories for the cloning of seed potatoes. The business was successful until public opinion of cloning and GM crops turned sour. I closed the business and joined Vac-U-Max in Stockport who were looking for design engineers.
When Vac-U-Max was moved from Stockport to Doncaster, we lost virtually every member of staff and were faced with re-starting the business without manufacturing capabilities and experience. As one of three people who were willing to relocate, I was given the responsibility for the product, engineering and sales systems. I recruited a few good engineers and together we designed a product that was modular and could be outsourced. We designed a product selection system which we later learn was a product configurator. The product and configurator worked so well that the company grew rapidly from virtually nothing.
From that point, at every opportunity I started to look for opportunities to employ product configurators. Many years later we learnt to interface with 2D CAD systems, where process drawings and assemblies could be automatically generated. When 3D CAD systems were introduced this opened up further opportunities. Nowadays a design automation system can provide real time feedback of weights and costs, a visual realisation of the design selections. Virtually every engineering process can be automated, reducing thousands of hours of labour.
Before the 1950’s when CNC lathes were first introduced, there was little choice but to machine components manually. These days it would be regarded ridiculous to machine a batch of 100 turned parts on a manual centre lathe, however it seems that most companies regard it completely acceptable to get skilled engineers to design similar products using manual methods. I am a firm believer that we will see a similar change in attitude towards engineering design as we did in the manufacturing sector.