sealPurdue News

April 2001

Cantilever software bridges gap
between design, production

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A high-tech, start-up company located in the Purdue Research Park is developing software to help large manufacturers of customized, high-value products reduce time to market and lower costs.

"What if your manufacturing organization could communicate efficiently and painlessly with engineering – in the early stages of product development – to significantly reduce the total time and cost required to design and deliver new products?," asks Julie Goonewardene, president of Cantilever Technologies.

This type of real-time communication will be made possible next year with the advent of the Readiness Engine™, Goonewardene says. The Readiness Engine™, a software system designed by Cantilever Technologies, organizes data from independent design and supply chain systems into a shared information base to improve the flow of a product through the design, engineering and manufacturing operations. Following a product testing phase involving selected clients, the Readiness Engine™ will be commercially available by mid-2001.

Manufacturers won’t have to replace existing systems because the Readiness Engine's™ Web-centric information base sits atop these systems, coordinating and synchronizing the engineering and supply chain tools and supporting design, planning and production.

Companies currently benefit from existing systems such as Product Data Management, which have allowed engineers to use technology to design, build and modify products more efficiently. Large and disparate manufacturing organizations also are tied together electronically by Enterprise Resource Planning systems that focus on capturing basic business transactions. And engineering and manufacturing operations are aided in data analysis by a wide variety of Decision Support Systems.

"But engineering decisions are often made in a vacuum because the existing information systems generally do not provide a shared database for decision-making, particularly in the design process. This is where many decisions are made that impact product functionality, quality and costs," says James Wallin, Cantilever's senior vice president and chief technology officer.

Traditionally, once a product was designed, little or no additional input from design engineers was required because manufacturers relied on an ongoing market for a stable product. Under this make-to-stock manufacturing style, production followed a "release"-based model that "started" when engineering was "finished," or when drawings were released.

"In today's business world, product cycles are too short and market demands too variable to justify the risks of this kind of finished-goods stock investment," says Wallin, a former partner in the $7 billion consulting and system integration firm Computer Science Corp. "The 'release'-based model can't compete when manufacturers are being stretched to meet the separate goals of affordability and responsiveness."

The Readiness Engine™, on the other hand, improves the transition from design engineering to production, reducing time to market and costs, Goonewardene says. The software is designed to reduce engineering change orders; synchronize engineering and production tools; and link an extended enterprise to efficiently contend in an e-business environment.

While engineers are well-versed in analyzing trade-offs or alternatives among various designs, Cantilever Technologies' system provides powerful systems support for the application of trade-off analysis to the entire production process, Goonewardene says. For example, a manufacturer is deciding whether to buy metal to make its product or whether to take advantage of a drop in the market, and instead make its product out of plastic. The Readiness Engine™ allows the company's engineering department to rapidly reconfigure the product in response to material changes.

With its ability to analyze the impact of both mass customization and changes to existing "standard" products, the Readiness Engine™ determines in advance whether the supply timeline would become longer, whether costs would go up dramatically or what effect material substitution will have on product design or the production process.

"The Readiness Engine™ creates a competitive advantage for its users because it allows changes to the product at the engineering level to have as great an affect on the supply chain as customer orders," Goonewardene says.

Founded in November 1999, Cantilever Technologies is funded by the same investors who provided start-up venture capital to Parson Group LLC, a Chicago-based business that supplies high-level financial consulting to major companies. With sales growing from $200,000 to $56 million in five years, Parson Group headed this year's "Inc" 500 – Inc. magazine's list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country.

Cantilever Technologies' staff of 14 is expected to swell to more than 40 employees by the end of 2001, Goonewardene says.

Since 1993, Purdue Research Park's small-business incubation complex has launched more than 36 high-tech companies. Purdue's version of a business incubator provides start-up businesses with a shared office concept, flexible leases, attractive rental rates, shared office services and access to professional business assistance – including market analysis, networking and financial resources.

Sources: Julie Goonewardene, (765) 775-4552;

Writer: Jeanine Smith, (765) 496-3133;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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