Use PLM Software & Product Design Software to Eliminate Engineering Silos

Written by: Dave Martin

Read Time: 4 min.

Silos in engineering can lead to delays and unnecessary expenses. They result when teams are isolated from, instead of integrated with, other teams. Data is stored separately; the teams may even need to translate data to work with one another. These teams can often be physically located near each other, but workflows keep them separated. Let’s look at the traditional problems, and potential solutions, to engineering data silos.

Traditional Development

In the “hardware” or physical product world of engineering, there are usually three primary silos:

  • Design, which develops the CAD models and drawings.
  • Analysis, which calculates results such as the displacements, stresses, vibration modes, cycles to failure, and temperatures that the product or component experiences.
  • Manufacturing, which defines how the part will actually be built.

These silos result in linear, iterative, and time-consuming processes. Let’s look at how we can eliminate them.


In my previous experience as an analyst, I recall numerous conversations in which a designer handed off models to an analyst, who would then laugh. “I don’t even need to mesh the model. I can tell you’re going to have problems.”

How much time could be saved if engineers could easily perform their own basic structural, modal, or thermal analyses in conjunction with the design process?

Tools like Creo Simulation Live empower users to perform their own analyses in real-time while they design. Creo Simulation Live uses ANSYS technology built into Creo Parametric and solves using your computer’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU).

All the design needs to do is define loads and constraints and the results presented immediately. Best of all, the results update as you make changes to the model – so you effectively incorporate analysis into the design process.

A part simulation.

Analysis results generated with Creo.

By integrating analysis into design, a silo gets eliminated and designers are able to iterate more quickly and arrive at an optimal solution faster.


Breaking down the silos between design and manufacturing can significantly reduce cost and time-to-market by identifying expensive or impossible processes early.

Someone performing rudimentary machining toolpath generation could realize that a part could require an excessive number of setups and tool changes. Or they might identify deep pockets or other features that would cause tool chatter and defects – if they could be machined at all.

Tool path design. 

CNC toolpaths defined in Creo Parametric.

For plastic injection molded and cast parts, mold cavity definition could reveal that the part might have too many undercuts, or insufficient draft to allow proper release.

As for additive manufacturing, verification during design can answer questions such as:

  • Will the component fit in the tray?
  • Will you be able to build the requisite number of instances on a single tray?
  • Can the part be printed with the necessary support structure?

You can eliminate these silos by having manufacturing engineers work with designers or providing designers with manufacturing modules within their CAD tool.

Silos Across the Enterprise

These silos within engineering don’t even cover the other areas in the enterprise, such as:

  • Planning
  • Supply Chain
  • Quality
  • Inventory

These domains typically don’t use CAD. To connect these domains to engineering data, we can leverage a product lifecycle management (PLM) software system like Windchill. PLM systems don’t just provide CAD data management, but also allow end users to:

  • Manage the change process via change requests and change notices.
  • Create variations of the bill of materials (BOM) for manufacturing, purchasing, and finance.
  • Track product configurations.
  • Perform manufacturing process planning (MPP).

One of the biggest benefits of PLM is the ability to provide visualization of CAD data across the enterprise, without installing the native CAD authoring application (like Creo Parametric) locally. People can view the data on a computer, tablet, or phone using an ordinary web browser. They can also perform measurements, view cross sections, examine mass properties, detect interference, and explode the components.

Why Getting Rid of Silos Matters Now More Than Ever

CAD and PLM can break down the barriers both within engineering, and between engineering and the rest of the enterprise. And not a minute too soon. Smart connected product design is about to add more groups to the party--think software engineers and design technologists.

What technologies and processes will you need to accommodate them all? We’ll talk about that in a future blog post.

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Tags: CAD Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

About the Author

Dave Martin

Dave Martin is a Creo, Windchill, and PTC Mathcad instructor and consultant. He is the author of the books “Top Down Design in Creo Parametric,” “Design Intent in Creo Parametric,” and “Configuring Creo Parametric,” all available at He can be reached at

Dave currently works as the configuration manager for Elroy Air, which develops autonomous aerial vehicles for middle-mile delivery. Previous employers include Blue Origin, Amazon Prime Air, Amazon Lab126, and PTC. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is a former armor officer in the United States Army Reserves.