The Solution – Product Lifecycle Management Software


Visual Engineer is the first true client/server "EEMS" platform that completely manages the entire avionics electrical engineering process.  This data-driven architecture results in extreme cost savings through dramatic increases in efficiencies, reductions in errors and virtual elimination of redundant supporting processes and manual labor.  (See Our White Paper Excerpts Below or PDF For Details)

BENEFIT SUMMARY

The Visual Engineer solution is a true collaborative client/server database driven environment which is optimized for working with a team of electrical engineers and technicians on a project. At the heart of the Visual Engineer solution is their proprietary Electrical Engineering Management SystemTM that enables not only the engineers to work more efficiently but results in a ripple effect of increased efficiency across all departments.

Organizations that have adopted Visual Engineer immediately realize a 50% decrease in labor hours to complete a project while enjoying a 99% reduction in design and production errors in all phases of their projects.

Architecturally Visual Engineer is completely different than AutoCAD (TM) and other CAD Solutions currently used in the industry. Visual Engineer starts with a server based application that uses the Microsoft SQL (TM) database engine. The EEMS (TM) is the centralized repository from which all drawings, reports and business logic originate.  Microsoft Visio is the graphics platform that provides drag & drop design capability.  

Each Visio drawing functionally acts as a customized view of the database so any part or attribute change in the Visio Workspace results in database updates that are shared by the entire team.  In this way, Visual Engineer provides a true collaborative client/server environment which allows all departments across the organization to immediately realize enormous gains in productivity, efficiency and cost savings over legacy systems now in place.

DETAILS

The Visual Engineer team set out to design a new system or set of tools from the ground up that would enable the avionics engineers to work more efficient and facilitate the electrical design process to operate in a team environment. It was recognized early on that any solution that would support these design goals must be database driven in a client server environment. The database must be the foundation of the solution if real benefits were to be realized beyond what the avionics industry was already doing. Database technology has been around for nearly 30 years now and yet the aviation industry has not yet adopted database technology for automated drafting and design work. Now with Visual Engineer avionics engineers and in fact the entire organization can instantly reap the benefits of database technology.

Borrowing from the lessons learned in the automotive industry the team at Visual Engineer designed the first PLM software specifically targeted for the aviation modification and completion industry. What emerged from putting the database technology as the foundation of the product instead of the drawing package is absolutely revolutionary in the avionics industry. This was accomplished by enabling the drafting and design process to be data driven while creating the first true client/server PLM platform that completely manages the entire electrical engineering process. At the heart of the Visual Engineer PLM system is the Electrical Engineering Management System (TM) (EEMS).

The EEMSTM incorporates the business logic that manages everything from the first component that is placed onto a drawing to the point of supplying the installation team with the necessary document packets. EEMSTM is core to not only increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the design work, but of the entire process. It really is a simple solution to a complex problem, sometimes simpler is truly better.

Architectural diagram of the EEMS (TM)




Automated Design - A New Paradigm for Electrical Engineering


Visual Engineer comes preloaded with over one thousand standard aircraft components ready to be used.  All components, equipment, wires, connectors and terminal blocks and their associated attributes are stored in a centralized master database system with immediate drag & drop designer availability.

Looking at the PLM solution that Visual Engineer has pioneered we can easily see the dramatic increase in efficiencies and decrease in errors when compared to the legacy platform in use today by the aviation industry. With Visual Engineer all components, equipment, wires, connectors and terminal blocks and their associated attributes are stored in a centralized database system called the master EEMSTM database.

When an engineer opens up a Visual Engineer drawing they are able to immediately start leveraging the power of the EEMSTM. Visual Engineer comes preloaded with over one thousand standard aircraft components ready to be used. To place a component on a diagram the engineer simply selects the appropriate component from the master database and drags and drops it onto the drawing pallet.

From there the EEMSTM makes a derivative copy of the component behind the scenes, assigns the component a unique identifier and assigns it to the project database. The component on the drawing automatically has all the necessary attributes displayed so the engineer does not need to spend any time manually typing this information in on the drawing or making entries into a log book or a pop-up

As new components are added to the project for the first time they are entered into the master database. The Engineer simply selects “new component” from the EEMSTM and then fills in all the necessary information once. From there a derivative component is automatically assigned to the project while simultaneously being placed on the drawing. This ensures that the component is now available for all other engineers to use in their designs and that the attributes are consistent across all drawings for all projects.

Once the component has been entered into the database, it is forever there completely eliminating duplicate effort that commonly exists in the legacy approach.  When an engineer drops a wire onto the drawing pallet the EEMSTM automatically assigns a unique wire number and automatically connects it to the required termination points. If a wire is deleted or modified the EEMSTM system also updates the project database in the background.

This allows the engineer to focus on the engineering aspects of the project and leaves the once tedious and error prone task of item tracking to the EEMSTM. Since any changes to the drawing update the project database and the project database automatically updates the drawings the two are guaranteed to always be consistent and synchronized.

With multiple engineers working across many drawings and components simultaneously, the EEMSTM ensures that everything stays in sync and is up to date, something that AutoCAD (TM) or other generic CAD software simply cannot do. The end result is that the EEMSTM ensures accurate and consistent reports and drawings across the entire project.



Automated Error Prevention and Checking

 

With Visual Engineer all errors that are programmed as checks are always caught 100% of the time which results in and elimination of virtually 99% of all errors commonly experienced on a completions project.

 
 
A typical 4,000-7,000 hour project can contain hundreds of drawings and over one hundred thousand components, wires and termination points. The likelihood for error during the manual production of wiring diagrams, multiple reports and change management is enormous, quickly eroding already thin profits. Visual engineer eliminates virtually 99% of all errors commonly experienced on a project by leveraging its unique PLM EEMSTM approach to avionics integration.
 
Aside from the obvious benefit of 100% accurate data management, EEMSTM also prevents a number of other costly mistakes that are not so obvious to the team. For instance if a pin on a connector is used by one engineer and two minutes later a different engineer working on another drawing needs to use a pin on the same connector, the EEMSTM automatically identifies which pins are available. In fact the business rules in the EEMSTM ensure there are no duplicated pins so engineers no longer need to be concerned with which pins are available for use. The EEMSTM performs that function for them.
 
The EEMSTM also prevents a component from being deleted from the project database in error which would normally result in inaccurate design documents released to production as well as over or under purchasing materials. If an engineer decides that they no longer need a connector or pin for instance, then they simply remove it from their drawing, EEMSTM will take care of the rest, updating the availability of that connector or pin for the next engineer.
 
The prevention of errors does not stop however with simply the automated data management component by the EEMSTM. Visual Engineer comes pre-loaded with over fifty different error checks that can be run across the entire project at any point in time. These error checks are specifically targeted at common mistakes that are experienced by aviation completion centers costing the industry millions of dollars annually.
 
Visual Engineer also provides the client with the option of adding their own custom validation rules into the EEMSTM which can then be used across all projects. Even if there are no mistakes made on the project which is exceedingly rare, the automated error checking still saves the entire project a significant amount of money. Using the previously discussed legacy systems engineers normally have to manually check for these errors prior to releasing drawings to manufacturing. This manual checking eats up hundreds of project hours and is itself prone to human error as not all errors are guaranteed to be caught.
 
With Visual Engineer all errors that are programmed as checks are always caught 100% of the time. No matter how good an engineer is they will eventually have an off day and miss an error sooner or later. Visual Engineer never has an off day.

 


 

Change Management


Visual Engineer can identify every single difference between multiple drawings from multiple projects in seconds.  When a project is completed all relevant drawings released or active including the various versions are added to a read-only database.  The Microsoft Visio (TM) drawing files are 100% compatible with document storage systems such as SmarTeam or Vault. 

Automated change management has long been a necessity in the software industry with widely accepted tools like Visual Source Safe (TM) from Microsoft, BMC software and others. With millions of lines of code required for most applications the software industry recognized early on the need to manage change between the different versions of software in their releases. The aviation industry has a similar need to manage change between different versions of designs and all the ramifications associated with changes either in preliminary or released drawings. Once the drawing is released to production, changes on the drawing must be quickly identified and accounted for.

Visual Engineer handles change management by keeping track of the complete history of changes for released drawings. This allows the engineers to quickly pinpoint what has changed between two revisions of a drawing without having to visually inspect each drawing. In fact, Visual Engineer can identify every single difference between multiple drawings from multiple projects in seconds. This is particularly useful for installation and certification teams as they can quickly and accurately identify changes to the design saving hours of research.

When a project is completed all relevant drawings released or active including the various versions are added to a read-only database. Additionally all components, wires, terminal blocks, connectors and equipment used on the project are also added to a read-only database. This provides an audit trail of the entire project much like what the financial and accounting industry adopted many years ago. This way as new copies of the design work need to be reviewed or reprinted it is readily available. Additionally if future changes need to take place the finalized drawings and project database can simply be imported into a new project without having to start from scratch. This saves considerable time on new projects, resulting in lower cost which provides the organization with the ability to make a very competitive bid to retain that clients business.



Reporting and Data Mining

 

Visual Engineer addresses this challenge by providing real-time reporting and data mining that provides targeted information to individuals in the organization at all levels and job functions.

 

As those in the industry know, the legacy approach taken by completion centers is not only burdensome and inefficient for the electrical engineers but for the entire organization. Departments such as purchasing, mechanical engineering, manufacturing, installation, accounting and even the sales department all depend on information contained within the electrical engineers design drawings. In fact, this bottleneck is the primary reason why organizations have resorted to custom in-house software development. Even with the use of custom software added on top of mechanical engineering software, accurate and real-time information still eludes the industry.

 

Visual Engineer addresses this challenge by providing real-time reporting and data mining that provides targeted information to individuals in the organization at all levels and job functions eliminating the costly process of manually collecting and interpreting information from the design drawings.

 

 

 

Manufacturing

 

Visual Engineer automatically generates Equipment List, Wire Stamp List, Wire list, Hookup List and other installation reports; this step of the installation process is completely eliminated.

 
After the electrical drawings are released to production, the installation teams extract information from each drawing to determine which equipment and wires need to be installed and terminated. Most organizations have individuals who are dedicated to this task. Since the EEMSTM automatically generates Equipment List, Wire Stamp List, Wire list, Hookup List and other installation reports; this step of the installation process is completely eliminated.
 
It is desirable for cabinet assemblies and other monuments to be pre-wired before installation of these assemblies in the aircraft. This requires the engineers to create cabinet assembly drawings that are basically sub-sets of the system drawings. Under the legacy approach this requires manually going through all drawings, extracting this information and re-drawing that part of the system for each cabinet or monument in the aircraft. For a typical project this can take upwards of 1,000 man hours provided no mistakes are made. This process is repeated when there are changes made to the systems drawings. Visual Engineer automatically generates cabinet assembly data packages that completely eliminate the need to spend costly labor generating this information.
 
 

Technical Publications

 

Visual Engineer generates Technical Publications on the fly permitting a weekly or even daily run for production.

 

Another area where thousands of hours are lost on a project is in producing what is called technical publications; documents necessary for the aircraft wiring diagram manual supplement. Technical publications typically contain equipment list, wire list and hookup list and other technical reports for the entire project. This is traditionally generated by manually going through every drawing and re-keying the information into Excel spreadsheets. Visual Engineer allows this to be generated on the fly permitting a weekly or even daily run for production. This saves thousands of man hours and prevents countless mistakes. Technical publications are critical for the organization because it is required for continued airworthiness as part of the FAA certification effort prior to delivery of the aircraft.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Companies that use Visual Engineer frequently cite a 50% decrease in project completion time with a 99% reduction in errors which directly improves the profitability of the overall project.

 

Building on lessons learned from other industries the Visual Engineer team has accomplished the design goals they initially set out to achieve. The team at Visual Engineer evaluated the success of their product by applying it to multiple aircraft completion projects to measure the effectiveness of their design goals and to determine if their PLM implementation hit the target. The feedback received was immediate and conclusive. 

Organizations that have adopted and implemented Visual Engineer immediately experienced a significant increase in efficiency by eliminating manual processes, redundant tasks and common design mistakes. This increased the productivity of the electrical engineers allowing them to focus on design tasks instead of data management and research tasks.

Early adopters of Visual Engineer without exception have enjoyed significant improvements in the speed and accuracy of the avionics design process. In fact, companies that use Visual Engineer frequently cite a 50% decrease in project completion time with a 99% reduction in errors which directly improves the profitability of the overall project. Adopters of Visual Engineer have also commented on the ripple effect of increased productivity throughout all areas of the organization involved with the aircraft completion projects. These high rates of return on investment are consistent with organizations in other industries that have successfully implement PLM solutions.