The History of Engineering Design Tools: Engineering 4.0

There have been four great stages of engineering and design tools leveraged over the past 250 years to account for all mechanisms, inventions and designs that we have used to simplify our lives. This post will take a look at the next phase, Engineering 4.0 which is starting now. Missed parts one and two of the History of Engineering Design Tools series? Click the links for a look back at Engineering 1.0Engineering 2.0 and Engineering 3.0.

Engineering 4.0 (2015- Future)

To stay competitive in the global economy of the future, engineering, design and manufacturing companies must continually find new ways to adopt and leverage their employees, technologies and processes. The three pillars of the past 20 years, CAD, Simulation and Data Management will not be enough to stay ahead of the curve amid increasing competition.

One of the ways that leading companies are looking to increase efficiencies is by helping engineers to focus more time on design and innovation by providing downstream departments with the data and tools they need in a timely manner. Sharing data and providing tools to departments and users that need engineering information in the right format, distributed via a secure and centralized source and leveraging associative updates and feedback are the early keys to enabling Engineering 4.0.

Each stakeholder within the company and the supply chain should have access to the information they need in the specific format they need it 24/7 using a secure centralized vaulting system. Providing information in the most useful format to each stakeholder is the key to success along with the seamless, integrated and purpose-built tools required to leverage Engineering intellectual property (IP).

Example: Engineering 4.0 for Sales and Purchasing

Sales and Purchasing departments need information from engineering in order to facilitate make versus buy decisions, order inventory, develop requests for quote and to provide quotes to potential customers. Companies embracing an Engineering 4.0 framework will leverage innovative new tools to improve both information access and visualization of data. The figure below shows a new way to visualize Bill of Materials (BOM) that can enable early decision making and planning by Purchasing, Planning and Project Management teams.


Up-to-date costing analysis and material and process comparisons can provide both purchasing and sales with the information they need to enable sales and prepare for fulfilling orders.

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Engineering can help provide renderings, animations and exploded views for faster and more accurate documentation, data sheets, web sites, e-books, assembly instructions and repair manuals.

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Engineering 4.0 and Quality Assurance

Downstream departments that rely on engineering information but still perform manual labor are perfect targets for brining on board with the Engineering 4.0 framework. One of these areas includes process engineering and the quality assurance departments for creating inspection drawings and reports for performing first article and ongoing inspection of critical dimensions.

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One of the most significant areas to exploit in improving downstream access information will be enabled by the emerging model based definition movement which will enable engineering to rapidly document 3D models with dimensions, notes and product manufacturing information (PMI) which can be output to the popular eDrawings format or to the Adobe Portable Data Format (PDF) for easy viewing on the shop floor on computers and tablets. This rich information reduces errors with both in-house and outsourced manufacturing by visually linking dimensions and geometry to avoid manufacturing delays and scrap.

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The key to enabling Engineering 4.0 is to review the needs of every department with respect to engineering information and to provide a delivery mechanism for them to get the up-to-date information they need in the format most conducive to their task in addition to providing them with the tools needed to easily manipulate the data to their task and purpose.

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Over the next 20 years there will be continual evolutions and revolutions in the types of tools and technology available for engineering and manufacturing. Increasing use of collaboration and visualization tools, leveraging cloud apps, computing power and storage, moving additive manufacturing to commercial production and an explosion of connected devices are just some of the trends that will help to shape the future. There has never been a more exciting time in the field of Engineering and we are just at the beginning of the next great era of our time.

The next engineering paradigm, Engineering 4.0, extends design data to downstream departments in the right format at the right time; resulting in a more efficient product development process. Read our article and infographic to learn how you can stand out with Engineering 4.0.


Rich Allen

Rich Allen

Senior Director, Product Management at Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corp.
Senior Director, Product Portfolio Management that manages the team that focuses on the SolidWorks integrated desktop product portfolio, including SolidWorks CAD, SolidWorks Simulation, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, eDrawings, SolidWorks Electrical, SolidWorks Plastics, SolidWorks Inspection, SolidWorks MBD and SolidWorks Composer. Rich has been with SolidWorks for the past ten (10) years, working in strategic accounts and then leading the data management products for the SolidWorks brand, including SolidWorks Enterprise PDM and ENOVIA Collaborative Design for SolidWorks. Prior to that Rich spent over 25 years in the PLM industry leading teams at United Technologies, IBM, CoCreate and was the founder and owner of several technology companies.
Rich Allen
Rich Allen