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Visualization in the Enterprise

When most people think of visualization in a manufacturing organization, they almost always think about engineers performing design reviews by going over electronic drawings with highlighting tools.  They think about taking measurements, checking tolerances, or reviewing a 3D digital mockup looking for assembly issues.  Now, while these are important aspects of using graphics in engineering for design sake, they are simple examples of viewing.  Any decisions based on this viewing will require taking action in some other screen or some other system.

Visualization as an interface

What if the visual became part of the workflow or became part of the user interface for taking action?  This is what visualization should be about.  For design engineers, this might mean being able to select a component in a virtual mockup and getting instant feedback on stock levels before they execute a design change.  This would give them a better way of analyzing change impact or for generating any type of usage report for that matter.

Another way engineers could use visualizations is for warrantee analysis.  With quality data stored in backend systems, product design dashboards could marry the virtual model to the business data and utilize visualization as a navigation tool to drill down to the root causes.

Visualization outside of engineering/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/goldmine_691315.jpg

Most design engineers don’t realize the gold mine they are sitting on with their CAD data.  There are numerous ways of leveraging this data outside of engineering.  Visualization provides clarity for any business process or decision.  These design visualizations could and should be leveraged throughout the enterprise.  The key to doing this is to tie the design to the underlying business data and integrate the visual into the user interface for downstream users.  {We will take a look at some examples in detail in future blogs}

How is this done?

It’s actually pretty simple.  You need a consistent underlying data structure (preferably a single source of truth) and a simple way of “tagging” the graphics.  The visual needs to know what master data it represents.  This tagging, or “hot-spotting”, tells the graphic what master data it is associated to and will work for both 2D and 3D graphics.  This can happen automatically as CAD designs mature and are linked to ERP materials. There are also tools available for performing this tagging manually for unmanaged data such as imported designs, raster images or photographs.

Call to action

So, when one thinks of visualization, they should think beyond redlining and marking up a design in engineering.  The idea behind all this is that by tying the engineering design to the business data, companies will realize the benefit of enterprise visualization above and beyond that of simple viewing.

Now the ideas might start flowing.  Damage tracking and reporting.  Mining safety assurance.  Virtual plant maintenance checks.  Spare parts ordering.  Honey-do DIY projects.  What are you visualizing?

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