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Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

(OP)
I'm an engineer working for a small manufacturing company producing several varieties of recreational vehicles. Along with a Mechanical engineering degree, I also have an AS in drafting and was a certified drafter until 2010 (upon exp.).

As some of my posts have reflected, we're experiencing the the uphill battle of expanding a small business. A major issue for us is technical specifications... We stock about 5,000 different parts at any given time. Probably 75% of those are purchased and the remaining 25% are fabricated. Almost 100% of the purchased parts are modified in some way except for fasteners.

Nearly any given part will require 3 or more of the following drawing types:

- inspection/receiving drawings: how to inspect the parts, how many (i.e. 5% or 100%) what to look for, what is/isn't acceptable

- fabrication/modification drawings: specify what is to be done to the part or what is needed. (25% of these drawings are meant for subcontractors)

- manufacturing process drawing: how to obtain the specifications shown on the fab/mod drawings; what tools to use, how to use them, what to be careful of, what to do, what not to do.etc

- assembly/kit drawings: how to assemble/prepare the sub-assemblies as required for inventory

- installation drawings: how to install the part, subassembly or kit onto the vehicle.

- service drawings: how to service/replace various parts. Exploded drawings as used by customers for ordering spare parts.etc

We are not big enough to order the quantities required to get special attention from our vendors. Often we are ordering wholesale in consumer packaging. For a given part, such as a light, we may order from 50 - 150 per year. The vendors often won't consider special orders until about 1000 - 2000/year.

With this being said, since we rely on out vendors for 75% of our parts, 3/4 of our inventory is "subject to change without notice". Documenting the changes is a full-time itself, when doing it in AutoCAD. Especially since many vendors won't give out drawings because they are proprietary.

Anyway... to the Point:

I am going to substitute technical photos in place of drawings when possible.
I'm looking for a software that will basically allow the user to make technical drawings using pictures... This would mean having a way to easily import pictures, add leaders, mock-up dimensions.etc
I've tried this with AutoCAD and it works ok but is not conducive to the process.
MS paint takes too long to create leaders and dims and will end up looking like a kindergarten finger painting if you're not careful.

See the attachment. The "photo" drawing took less than 1/4 the time of the "CAD" drawing.

This may not be the prettiest solution or the most professional but there aren't many other options. Hiring more drafters is out of question at this point. It also has advantages because many of the workers are not trained in blue-print reading and therefore can much more easily relate to pictures. A picture is worth a thousand lines.

I figure that this problem & my proposed solution cannot be unique to us.

I would of course continue to produce proper drawings for anything that is going to a sub-contractor.etc

Any input will be appreciated.

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

(OP)
Thanks Mint, but at this point we're committed to PC.

I was hoping to get more input on this thread.

To simplify the question further; How do other companies handle mass-data collection with relatively few resources?

a) Subcontracting is out.
b) Hiring more drafters is out.

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

For 'off the shelf' parts we generally do it badly. That is we'll put a pdf copy of the relevant catalog page or data sheet... in our records.

We also generally have a lot less formal drawings than you, normally just classical engineering part and assy drawings etc.

For detailed assy instructions or similar we have 'work instructions' which are sometimes based mostly on photo's, sometimes mostly CAD or often a mixture. However, format wise they are not drawings.

As to inspection, this is left up to our QA dept. At a previous employer they would basically come up with a quality plan for all products and then mark up copies of appropriate drawings as needed. Inspection info didn't go on the actual engineering drawings.

So, probably not much help to you.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

If Drawings are not necessary oronly required for basic identification. You can look for a basic MRP of database program, that can link to files in your "REALEASED PICTURES" File location. Then in the MRP/DataBase you can have vendor notes,contact info...... Along with the pictures when you have work directions you can create a pdf or word doc of the instructions and link it in to the system as well as any other pertinent documents .
As for the techinal pictures then you can use the vendors picture or a digital camera and then just rename the pictures as needed.
If you need the picutre in the drawing, you can always create a "Standard" reference picture note to include in your drawing, or name the pics the same as the dwg.

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

Quote:

I'm looking for a software that will basically allow the user to make technical drawings using pictures... This would mean having a way to easily import pictures, add leaders, mock-up dimensions.etc

Have you explored Adobe Acrobat XI?

"Art without engineering is dreaming; Engineering without art is calculating."

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RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

One option is Visio. You can paste in a photo, and if you have what used to be the Technical Edition, you get dimensioning bars that you would simply drag to the appropriate places on the photo, and type in whatever you want. I do this quite bit when we don't have actual drawings of something, and I need an estimation of certain dimensions of an object.

TTFN
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RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

(OP)
KENAT, some good advice there. What do you mean "formal drawings" and "classical engineering part and assy drawings"? As I know it, these are formal drawings.
Thanks everyone.

To clarify, I have no requirements for formal drawings. We're open to any solution capable of solving the problem(s)... In fact, its become evident that we are going to have to move away from formal drawings for much of the data since resources are scarce. I'm sure all of the subcontracted information will need to remain formal drawings since they are essentially a contract. Aside from that, I'm able to explore anything that might work...

In my original post I should have used "document" in place of "drawing". As of now, we primarily use proper drawings. However, its too costly and time consuming. Its interesting to find out what other companies are doing, as I've had a hard time finding people who had much experience in these areas.
Thanks,

VS

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

vonsteimel I assumed that all 6 of your drawings you were doing were treated as "formal drawings" with the relevant formatting, eco control etc.

We mostly only have the part drawings (what I think you call fabrication drawings as we only have the occasional modification) which detail the finished parts per ASME Y14.100 (etc.) and assembly drawings, again to the std. which detail the finished assy. That said, a lot of our assy drawings aren’t great and we rely more on the assembly work instructions which give the ‘how’.

We don't generally have formal released inspection ‘drawings’ (to the best of my knowledge not covered by ASME 14.100). At previous employer this was covered by the product QA plan, here I’m not totally sure – our inspection is I think a bit minimal.

We don’t generally have manufacturing process drawings we don’t do this as a drawing we have a document that we call a work instruction and doesn’t have a lot of the formatting restrictions drawings have – but it’s not necessarily as explicit as a drawing.

Installation drawings – this tends to be done as a procedure or work instructions not a drawing.

Service drawings – again this tends to be done in either in a work instruction for internal use or as part of the user manual.

Qualify all of this by my saying our work flow is different from yours, we get most of our parts and some sub assemblies made by other companies (machine shops etc.) so aren’t doing our own machining etc. for the most part. Also, I don’t claim everything we do here is the best way of doing it – formal drawings can have advantages for some of the things you use them for.

We have several formats, for WI we started of using Word docs, then doing some in a custom CAD template (not a drawing ) and now they wan to use power point. In theory these are a bit like Ikea instructions or similar. We used to use a lot of explosions but when changes were made these could be a bit labor intensive thought some of that was our fault on the formatting of the WI that was demanded. The new power point format is a bit less formal – kind of what I wanted to do when I introduced the CAD version but was forced to make the formatting more formal like our old Word template.

Also we have an older Word format for procedures which is sometimes used for service type documents, not generally for assembly instructions.

Finally our manuals are all fancy done by our Tech Pubs. We sometimes provide them CAD data.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

Have you considered Inkscape? It's a FOSS vector drawing program which can produce line images. I often use it for creating sketches and diagrams, but it seems like you could easily produce your photo sketches. It's similar to programs like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. It's a bit quirky, but once you figure it out, it has quite a few features. Inkscape is available for Windoze, Macintosh, and Linux.
http://inkscape.org/

If you want something a little bit more precise, I think that AutoCAD can import raster images and you can produce drawings similar to what you have above. That might be a good solution as well.
http://usa.autodesk.com/autocad/

If you're trying to keep costs down, you might look into QCAD, which is a FOSS program with a premium upgrade which includes some additional features. I'm not sure about the raster image import functionality, but it might be worth looking into.
http://www.qcad.org/en/
http://www.qcad.org/rsforum/viewtopic.php?f=2&...

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

vonsteimel,

The GIMP, available for Linux and Windows, will insert intelligent text on top of your bitmap graphics. Adobe Photoshop must do this too.

Bitmap graphics with multiple layers can get hairy on old, clunky computers, but it sounds like you are using CAD stations. You should be okay.

I like to create specification controls for standard parts. These give me documents to attach my CAD 3D models to.

--
JHG

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

P.S. I just reread your post which mentioned you'd tried AutoCAD and it wasn't working for you. I wonder if you might elaborate. Does it take too long to produce your sketches in AutoCAD? If more speed and less precision is desired, check out Inkscape.

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

There's a program called Bluebeam, a pdf creator designed for use in CAD environments, and has a lot of CAD tools built into it. I've used it and found it simple enough to create simple drawings or sketches. I believe it has image import capabilities, so this may be an option if you don't need to produce anything too complex.

http://www.bluebeam.com/us/products/revu/

Brian C Potter
http://simplesupports.wordpress.com

RE: Big Challange... Looking for advice and/or helpful software suggestions

It is not quite what I designed it for, but you can do something like you want with ControlDraw, and I have myself.
You can import (by copy and paste special) pictures to diagrams making an object containing the picture, add text, connections etc. One file can contain hundreds of the diagrams (if your photos don't have to be very high res.)
You can organise the diagrams into a nice graphical hierarchy, search it all, use hyperlinks to open files and web urls, make a web site and much more, such as generating parts lists derived from the diagrams.
BUT - It has a lot of functionality that is intended for process plant control systems, that might make it look too complicated at first for what you are looking for. If you want to try it I would be interested in what you thought and willing to help.
Take a look at www.controldrawltd.co.uk and imagine your photos inside the objects on the diagrams to get an idea.
www.controldraw.co.uk

Francis
www.controldraw.co.uk
www.s88control.blogspot.com

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