The Internet becomes a tool for managing a molding organization's design and processing information with the help of new software from C-Mold, Louisville, Ky. The "Knowledge Management System" (KMS) provides a backbone for linking CAE analysis results and molding know-how, and it ensures that everyone throughout the company shares the same up-to-date information, explains C-Mold v.p. Peter Medina.
KMS consists of several Java software components that employ World Wide Web "pages" as the user interface:
Design guides. KMS includes an on-line version of C-Mold's design guide with new navigation, searching, and indexing tools. The software also provides for users to document their in-house design and processing information--such as machine set-up procedures. Medina likens these two features to an "on-line plastics encyclopedia" with both generic and customized information.
"Cost Cruncher." For job quoting, KMS has new software to calculate molding costs. Cost Cruncher starts with material data, part volume or weight, machine data, and labor cost. Some of those data can be generated automatically by a mold-filling analysis. Cost Cruncher then returns a summary of the total cost per part and a breakdown of individual cost components like material usage, secondary operations, and expenses related to the molding machine. Changes made to the initial cost assumptions will propagate down to the cost summary, allowing users to run "what-if" scenarios.
Resin database. KMS includes C-Mold's materials database, which now stands at nearly 5000 resins. Useful not only for analysis but also for material selection, the database information can be displayed as plots of flow length versus temperature within KMS's "Web pages."
Report generator. Users can publish Web or printed reports that automatically combine information from the other Java applications. For instance, single buttons or quick menu picks can generate reports with mold-filling results (animated or not), cost data, and explanatory text, according to Tom Turng, one of KMS's developers.
KMS makes use of the World Wide Web for two main reasons. First, Medina says it's a "great equalizer" that gives everyone in an organization access to the information--even across multiple sites. "The Internet dovetails nicely into an enterprise system for design and manufacturing information," says Medina. Second, the Web provides a low-cost, standardized way to update information that is constantly changing as new jobs come in, new CAE analyses are performed, molding procedures change, and software evolves.
While some design information may change little, KMS is structured so that its other content can grow over time. "The Internet is an ideal way to manage this kind of scalable content," says Medina. Thus, KMS users will be able to grab software and design-guide updates from C-Mold's Web site. "If something changes, we can put a patch on our Web site," says Turng. "That way users always have current information." Besides going to C-Mold's site, users will be able to update KMS's contents via their own "intranet" pages or links to other Web sites with useful molding information. KMS is slated for availability later this month. Pricing was not set at press time.