An End to Business Babel?

Sept. 1, 2001
Communication on the manufacturing plant floor requires some fancy, and innovative, translation.

An End to Business Babel?

It’s almost a cliché, isn’t it? “The problem is communications.” Or, “Our problems in the plant and the office are really matters of communicating effectively.” Or, more colorfully, “Why don’t they ever tell us anything until it’s production time? Don’t ‘they’ use any common sense over there in design? Don’t they know what material handling means?”

Complaints about the lack of proper communications are abundant in the manufacturing world and as old as different specs for wrenches and bolts. Yet, the very complexity, the ever-increasing complexity of factories and offices seems to suggest that the communications cliché is headed toward becoming the communications curse.

The communications problems in industry have multiplied, ironically, as manufacturing has become more and more electronic in terms of the computer revolution. In the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in America, the language issue was a matter of management’s English and the immigrant’s foreign tongue. Today, the language issue is a matter of the various computerized software systems that run the machine tools and related material handling systems in the plant.

A solution? One company and some pretty fancy software suggest an answer that can be understood by everyone — no matter where in the industrial organization.

A company aptly named Translation Technologies Inc. (TTI) of Spokane, Washington, says it has a way to avoid the Business Babel from growing on your factory and office floor. TTI offers “the only” feature-based native CAD (computer aided design) to and from the four major CAD systems. Those are SDRC I-Ideas, Pro/Engineer, CATIA and Unigraphics.

The TTI product is called Acc-u-Trans Interoperability Engine, and the four system capabilities were announced in late August at the Auto-Tech Conference in Detroit. At the show, TTI’s CEO noted that they have been “successfully translating CAD files back and forth between the four systems for our customers, proving the value of this technology.”

While there are companies offering translation systems for CAD models, TTI claims its feature-based approach is the only such in-depth system on the market that translates all the features designed into the 3D model, allowing the user to modify and redesign the translated model. Sikorsky used the TTI system in its Comanche helicopter design. It needed to share 3D CAD files with its vendor, Williams International, a manufacturer of small gas turbines. The problems solved had to do with the CAD model translation hurdles between Pro/Engineer and CATIA.

Sikorsky reports success, stating that it reduced cost by 50 percent and shortened time-to-market by 75 percent. Other companies, including Goodrich’s Sensor Systems Division, note similar successes. TTI can be contacted by e-mail at or phoned at 877 358-2036.

Now, while I applaud successful innovation in manufacturing loudly and often, this is not my endorsement of one product, system or company. Yet, this development seems to me to be the harbinger of general success throughout the industrial world in terms of a problem that has been a plague in the factory world ever since computers showed up in the shop.

The plant floor has been a multi-lingual mess for decades. The full use of the marvelous technologies from the information handling industry has been stymied from day one by the different languages used by the many electronic products coming out of the most creative burst of human invention in history. Finally, there seems to be a breakthrough that will allow manufacturing to take full advantage of these computer-assisted devices.

Simply put, the factory floor will now start to hum and produce with far greater efficiency and productivity. This will surely lead to even greater success in terms of quality and profitability for the all-important manufacturing sector of the American economy.

George Weimer

contributing editor

[email protected]

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