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Lotus Engineering chooses software from INCAT to improve efficiency and quality in its CAD/CAM depar

Added: (Thu Nov 30 2000)

Pressbox (Press Release) - November 2000.
Norwich-based automotive engineering consultancy Lotus Engineering is investing £60,000 in INCAT’s proprietary ‘I/CHECK’ software to improve the efficiency and quality of its CATIA Design Department. I/CHECK, developed exclusively by INCAT, will assist in the process of preparing CATIA CAD models for checking, as well as being used within the Checking Department itself. The business expects to see a return on its investment within six months.

Lotus Engineering has seen its workload increase substantially in the last two years. Launched in 1996, its Elise model, including the Sport 190, the 111s, the Motorsport Elise and the Exige, has sold over 13,000 units. This year’s UK Motor Show saw the release of the all-new Elise for the new millennium and a new project, code named M250, is currently under development at the Lotus Coventry office. This, plus additional confidential projects for various customers world-wide, has driven dramatic growth for the business. As a result, Lotus Engineering is now working across more than ten concurrent engineering programmes and employs 140 CATIA designers.

The company’s Vehicle Engineering Checking Department, which ensures CAD data is produced to a consistently high standard before release to the Lotus supply chain, has seen its own workload increase four-fold, demanding extra resource. Until Michael Reeve, Chief Engineer of Design Process and Resource, attended last year’s European CATIA Forum (ECF), an annual user-group event organised by IBM, it seemed his only solution was to employ extra checking engineers. But at ECF, he saw a demonstration of INCAT’s I/CHECK software and realised that it offered the opportunity to reduce costs, increase work-flow, improve efficiency and, more importantly, to increase quality. Michael Reeve takes up the story:

“We already knew that manual checking quality relied heavily on the skill and ability of the CAD checkers. They had to be seasoned engineers with comprehensive CATIA experience to spot errors and maintain consistency. Not only that, some CAD facets are impossible to check without greatly increasing the time taken to check each model. Plus, the more complex the model, the longer it would take to check.

“After ECF, we decided to audit the checking function and to compare the two ways of working: the existing, people-intensive process; and the new process that I/CHECK enabled. We used a sample of CAD models, specially chosen to be a cross-section of a typical day’s workload.”

The first part of the test, using the existing process, identified most of the principal errors but with an expected degree of inconsistency between the checkers. When I/CHECK was used to check the same models, a 30% time saving was recorded as well as an obvious improvement in consistency. Reeve continues:

“Not only did I/CHECK identify all the previous errors, it also highlighted others that would not have been spotted manually. It showed we could save almost four hours of each checking engineer’s time in every twelve-hour day. Extending the use of I/CHECK beyond the Checking Department will allow every designer to review their CAD data and correct errors prior to submitting them for checking. This would have the potential of saving an enormous amount of time in the update phase of the checking process. “

However, despite this impressive outcome, product manager at INCAT Graeme Berry is quick to point out that I/CHECK should not be seen as a panacea for poor quality design.

“It can’t make up for inherently bad design but it will remove some of the more mundane aspects of CAD model generation, leaving designers much more time to concentrate on what they like and do best. It also runs in overnight batch mode which maximises CATIA work-station use, an important commercial issue for an business like Lotus Engineering which sells its time by the hour”, he says.

Further information:

Andy Turner: Tel. +44 (0)20 8946 6239 email: andyturner@zone3.demon.co.uk

Graeme Berry: Tel. +44 (0)1442 281200 email: gberry@uk.incat.com

Background information

CATIA is the powerful computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) software that dominates the world’s automotive and aerospace industries. CATIA is developed by Dassault Systemes of Paris and marketed world-wide by IBM and its business partners.

I/CHECK is a diagnostic ‘expert system’ fully integrated into CATIA and with the same interface. This gives users the familiarity, speed and ease of use they have come to expect from CATIA itself. It allows the creation of company standards that contain over 130 possible checks. Once these standards are created, users can automatically check their CATIA models, designs and drawings against the set standards in a fraction of the time it would take to do manually. I/CHECK produces reports on areas of compliance and failures. In the case of failures, it has the capability in many instances to fix the problem, giving significant time-savings. I/CHECK is one of a family of seamlessly integrated CATIA applications exclusively developed by INCAT to help users achieve their time-to-market and cost reduction goals, whilst under-pinning their corporate quality methodologies.

INCAT is the world’s largest IBM business partner for CATIA solutions, providing software, infrastructure, consulting, professional services and training to the global CATIA user community of some 13,000 companies. By building long-term partnerships with its customers, INCAT’s aim is to facilitate competitive advantage through intelligently applied process improvements and technologies. The business was established in 1984 and now has over 800 employees working from 33 locations in 7 countries. For more information, visit: www.incat.com

Lotus Engineering is a world leading engineering consultancy, working for many of the world’s major automotive manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers, offering a full engineering service from initial concept and project design through development to full production prototype build. It is based on a confidential site at Hethel, near Norwich, in the United Kingdom. It offers engineering and test services in power-train, body and electrical, chassis and styling/design disciplines, backed by world-class project management skills. For more information, visit: www.lotuscars.co.uk

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