Lets make every part fit for purpose

9th November 2017
Anna Flockett

Are you looking for ways to speed up manufacturing or cut out costs? Let’s take a leaf out of Henry Ford’s ideology, here is good place to start. When the automobile pioneer built the first ever mass moving assembly line for his Ford Model T car, he set in motion a new benchmark for automation and design.

Guest piece by Terry O’Reilly, Manager, NT CADCAM.

At a time when car ownership was for the privileged few, Ford had a dream to put the world on wheels. So, in 1908, he introduced an assembly line built on the principles of standardisation, with interchangeable parts that could fit onto any model. 

Unlike other cars of the time, the Model T’s interchangeable parts meant that every Model T produced on that line used the exact same valves, gas tanks, tyres and so on, ensuring that they could be assembled in a speedy and organised manner.

By making sure every part would fit together, components could therefore be built in bulk and Ford started to see costs tumble. By 1912, the price of a Ford Model T had fallen from $825 to less than $575. By the end of the car’s production run in 1927, production had been streamlined to a point where a Model T now rolled off the assembly line every 24 seconds, for less than $300 a pop. 

The success of the Ford Model T design and build process is engineer folklore, but the principles for standardisation and inter-changeability of parts are just as relevant right now in helping companies compete on a global scale.

Today’s products have hundreds of parts, many of which may be sub-contracted overseas or to several companies. Being able to ensure that all these parts and components are manufactured according to their specifications has never been more important.

It’s only by creating inspection documents that you can confirm the part you’ve designed meets the drawing standards you have set to it. It is the only way to ensure that when it comes to assembly, everything will be fit for purpose and come together right first time.

Unfortunately for Ford back in 1920’s America, making sure each component was fit for purpose was a laborious job. Quality inspectors and technicians could spend anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days manually creating inspection documents by hand. It was (and can still be) a repetitive, time-intensive and resource-intensive job, prone to human error and misconceptions.

However, new CAD technology can now automate these inspection processes, speeding up the creation of inspection documents by up to 90% using solutions such as SOLIDWORKS Inspection. And you can free up skilled staff to tackle more creative tasks.

A product like SOLIDWORKS Inspection can save you days of work. I remember going through and manually creating First Article inspection reports for all these different products. Even with a little sub-assembly of a landing gear, there could be hundreds of parts that require a First Article report – dowels, pins, screws, nuts, bolts – they all need an inspection report to show that they meet the product requirements and are compliant with the design.

SOLIDWORKS Inspection is available as a standalone programme, which uses a character recognition tool to interpret nominal dimensions and tolerances from the CAD drawing in order to generate the inspection document. Or, it can be used as a SOLIDWORKS add-in that lets users leverage their legacy data - regardless of whether they have SOLIDWORKS files, PDFs or TIFFs. Whichever version you use, the great thing is you are removing any room for human error from the inspection process because all these tolerances are being taken directly from the CAD drawing.

As more and more companies realise the benefits of automating the creation of inspection reports, SOLIDWORKS Inspection has become the company’s fastest growing product worldwide, with sales growth in 2015 of 225%. Mathieu Fourcade, product portfolio manager for SOLIDWORKS Inspection says the reason for its success it is that up until now there haven’t been any tools integrated with SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD that could streamline inspection processes.

SOLIDWORKS Inspection is designed for companies working in industries with strict safety regulations and requirements – such as aeronautic, defence, oil and gas, automotive and medical – where inspection reports are often mandatory.

We’ve had customers who would spend up to eight working days on an inspection report, who can now do it a few hours leaving them to free to take on new business. It’s why more and more companies are moving to the software to solve the bulk of their assembly problems. Generally, any company that does high precision manufacturing, high quality, high volume or if they manufacture overseas has the most to gain from software that can streamline its quality control processes.

For the Ford Motor Company, which now deals with thousands of suppliers providing more than 100,000 manufactured parts worldwide, the need for the highest product quality remains a critical objective. As Henry Ford once said, “efficient industry is the sole key to prosperity."

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