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K2 Engineering, Inc.         Contact us

Specializing in Engineering & Manufacturing Automation since 1996

Engineering Automation

Engineering Automation - just what is it anyway?

Perhaps an example would help illustrate the concept.

Suppose that you are a widget manufacturer and have just custom-designed a new widget per your customer's specifications using your proprietary Widget Designer software.  Now, further suppose that to get things moving through your organization, several other events must happen:  1. design results must be sent to the customer in PDF format; 2. a material advance must be generated; 3. shop drawings must be generated; 4. a scheduling entry must be made in the Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) database; and the list goes on.

Chances are, you'll need to get a print-out of the Widget Designer output and then start up some other programs and type in a good deal of information, hoping not to make any transcription errors.  Suddenly, you've stopped being an engineer and are now a clerk.  Your tools are managing you, rather than the other way around.

K2 Engineering's focus in this area is to provide means and methods to enable engineering personnel to spend much more time doing what they're best at - creative problem solving of design issues.  And, correspondingly, much less time on paperwork and other business process concerns.  Ultimately, this leads to higher productivity and more throughput which flows directly to the bottom line, where these types of improvements are best measured.  It is not Rocket Science, but it is dollars and cents.  In K2 Engineering's experience, the payback period for these sorts of improvements is well under one year, often under six months.

Of course, the need for paperwork and other business processes doesn't go away.  Rather, it is dealt with in two ways: 1. some processes can be eliminated, streamlined, and/or combined with other processes, and 2. many processes can be off-loaded onto a software package that handles many mundane details with minimal or no human intervention.

Here are a couple of examples of how this was implemented with other clients:

1. A client was having difficulty flowing project data through the company.  Manufacturing didn't know what Engineering was doing, and vice versa.  Data was being re-keyed several times, often with transcription errors, and was stored piecemeal in a hodge-podge of Excel spreadsheets and Access databases.  It was often difficult to get a complete picture of the status of any given job.   It was virtually impossible to extract historical data in a fashion that could be used to spot trends.

K2 Engineering created a system to provide a two-way linkage between the company's proprietary engineering, quoting, and manufacturing software suites and a newly installed Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) system which centralized the data on a SQL Server system.  Essentially, K2 Engineering created the "glue" and "plumbing" to achieve a seamless software environment.

2. The Shipping Manager of a high volume manufacturing plant was spending 2-3 hours per day manually filling out Bills of Lading and Routing Slips for large, high-part-count jobs involving multiple tractor-trailers and multiple destinations.

K2 Engineering developed an electronic analogue to the paper forms and devised a spreadsheet-based solution allowing him to "cut and paste" the needed information.  He was then able to easily print out the needed forms and had a convenient way to later upload the final results into an MRP system.

3. A client's design engineer found himself spending an hour or more each day assembling reports to be e-mailed to a customer.  He was required to package: several 3D renderings of a structure, text-based design results from several proprietary design programs; and numerous loading diagrams into a single PDF so that the customer could verify that the design calculations were implemented as specified.

K2 Engineering developed an application which: invoked the various design programs; generated the requested text-based or graphics-based results; saved the results to appropriate files (.TXT, .JPG, .BMP, .PDF, etc.); converted non-PDF files to PDF format; merged the individual PDFs into one PDF in a desired location; and, optionally, automatically e-mailed the file to the specified customer.  All from the click of one button.

In each case listed above, and in many others as well, the benefits of the solution far outweighed the cost of the change and implementation.  Payback periods of well under 6 months were the norm.  Similar custom systems, software, and/or process recommendations from K2 Engineering might resolve one of your engineering, manufacturing, or operational problems.  We´ll be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs.  We're also accustomed to working with your in-house personnel, or other third parties, on projects of this nature and will be glad to discuss that with you as well.

The initial consultation is completely at no cost to you and you are under no further obligation whatsoever.  If we can help you, you'll know immediately.  Just as importantly, if we are not the right people for the job, you'll be told that immediately as well - and we may be able to put you in touch with the right person in our wide circle of professional contacts who can help you.

Screen shot of a browser tool associated with a software process which automated the creation of DXFs.

A screen shot of a browser tool associated with a software process which automated the creation of DXFs based upon the output of a properietary analysis and design program.  The DXFs were later imported into a nesting program that was a pre-processor for a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) program generator.

Screen shot of a VBScript-extensible utility for programatically editing and converting 3D geometry files.

A screen shot of a VBScript-extensible utility for programatically editing and converting 3D geometry files.   It is used for modeling a wide variety of parametrically similar structures by modifying a base drawing, many times over, according to an easily editable script.  A very efficient and labor-saving method which also eliminates many operator input errors.

Screen shot of a test harness used to develop and test an embedded FEA solver.

A screen shot of a test harness used to develop and test a software class which permits an FEA (Finite Element Analysis) solver to be embedded in an analysis program.   Rather than make some sort of kludge to use a stand-alone FEA package, an FEA solver, and optional pre- and post-procesor, can be embedded in and tightly integrated with a design package.   For a non-trivial structure or part, this means that the actual material and physical properties can be directly modeled instead of relying on "cookbook" simplifications and/or approximations.

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