What Are The Best Tools For Factory Design & Management?

By Damien Jovica, Redstack
Phone: 1300 667 263 

A Way To Address Factory Layouts, Engineering, Sales, Lean Manufacturing, Made to Order, Scheduling & Production Planning Challenges.

The deFactory Design Suite_2sign and management of a factory involves many tools and stakeholders. Engineers can design the facility layout with architectural structures, conveyors, materials handling,  process equipment, safety equipment, office furniture, storage, building utilities (MEP), robots, spray booths, pits, platforms freezers, forklifts, humans and much more. What if you are a supplier of one of these items and need to work with your client, giving them the best CAD & Analytical data is crucial to winning or maintaining business?

Are there any CAD packages that can do all of that? The answer is no. AutoCAD is a horizontal tool, that can cater for any industry, but lacks the technology that comes with 3D Solid Parametric & Direct Editing Modelers. 3D Solid Modeling tools are industry based. Structural/Architectural 3D CAD packages lack the mechanical aspect and vice/versa. On top of that when you need to ‘layout’ the facility, 3D Solid Modelling isn’t great for that work flow, because we start with a 3D model and detail it in 2D not the other way around and who’s going to create or source a 3D library of all those hundreds if not thousands of items required for factory design?

So it all becomes too hard and the engineer creates the facility model in 2D to symbolise the layout.

Once put together, will it work? What’s the best way to layout the facility? Usually experience and learning from past mistakes are the best tools for answering these questions. When you need to analyse processes, utilisation and consumption, then another application is required, usually something like Microsoft Excel. Excel is generally the tool used for scheduling, planning and analysis. Even then, you don’t always get it right, so even after the layout becomes a reality it needs to be re-analysed and optimised for better production. How about creating a new line that is made to order or applying the latest in Lean Manufacturing principles? What if you need engineering CAD data for analysis, or Excel data for engineering? How do these two systems work with ERP/MRP?

Before you can build or upgrade the factory, you need to market and ‘sell’ the idea to a board, your client, management, etc., to get the project funding. How do you demonstrate it? Pull out the AutoCAD drawing and explain ‘how’ it will operate and what it will look like, show some representational flat images, open Excel and explain the graphs or put it all together in a PowerPoint Presentation. Visuals and technical explanations are open to interpretation depending on a range of factors including who is listening and their level of expertise.

Autodesk Factory Design Suite contains the tools you need to address these challenges and more, taking Factory Design & Management into the 21st century. It’s a Hybrid 2D Layout and 3D Modelling Environment with tools for Process Analysis, Machine Utilisation, Energy Consumption and more. It has the intelligence to work with external applications like Excel and external databases (i.e. ERP). 

factory_design_suite_option_bFDS-P utilises 2 Software programs at the core, AutoCAD (with the Mechanical, Architecture Add-Ons) and Inventor with Autodesk Factory Design Utilities linking them together. 

With these programs you can layout your facility using AutoCAD or Inventor as you normally would using CAD but by using the Factory Design Utilities you can design and analyse your Facility better and faster. The utilities have tools to create a factory layout grid to work in, add overlays and manage AutoCAD layers (Inventor) and you can bring in point cloud data from 3D Scans or Photos using ReCap Photo of an existing facility and place it over the grid.

You can use conventional design tools to create your facility, but by using the Asset Library, you drag and drop factory assets onto your grid (or create new assets), insert 3D models from the most the popular CAD formats (and publish these as assets) or publish assets from 2D AutoCAD blocks. 


Factory assets snap together like Lego, with tools to define relationships such as constraints, landing surface, alignment and replacing one asset with another. The asset library is constantly updated, you can add to the library and create chain assets instead of dragging and dropping assets in one by one. You can also tag your assets, manage the visibility and search for assets based on their annotation within the modeling environment.

FDS_1The Factory Design Utilities has a synchronise function between AutoCAD & Inventor, so any designs or changes made in AutoCAD will update in Inventor and vice/versa. So if you dropped in a conveyor system asset in AutoCAD, you would see the top view of the 3D model. You can now switch to Inventor and work on the Z Axis, see the model in 3D and design the conveyor so it goes up and over a platform.

The analysis tools that come with Factory Design Utilities work in AutoCAD under the Material Flow section where you can import XML or Excel Data or define parameters to analyse processes to reduce or eliminate bottlenecks, analyse machine utilisation or energy consumption.

Additional programs included in FDS-P are for Reverse Engineering, Visualisation, Analysis & Data Management.

ReCap Factory

For Reverse Engineering, AutoCAD Raster Design is for raster to vector conversion to convert scanned images or digital documents like PDF into a useable vector document in CAD so you can re-use the data, dimension and add to the existing design. ReCap is to import, process, clean up and edit point cloud data. AutoCAD & 

Inventor opens point cloud data, ReCap will let you process the data in the cloud and edit it before you bring it in.

Visualisation Tools are Showcase for Photo Realistic Flat Images and Animations (Check out this review for more info), 3ds Max Design for Cinematic Quality visualisation and Navisworks which can also be used for visualisation too.


5d-project-scheduling-large-1152x864If you have a large project and need to communicate with internal & external stake-holders, you can’t go  past Navisworks. Navisworks Simulate does 2 main things; Project/Model Viewing and Simulation & Analysis. It will open almost any CAD file or point cloud data, where you can assemble these CAD files if required or open your existing 3D Factory Layout, collaborate with team members, have real-time navigation of your Factory with tools for 5D Project Scheduling for quantity take-off & estimating.

It’s animation capabilities provide photo-realistic rendering where you can animate the sequence or deconstruction of your model  or animate components like doors, gates, machinery, conveyors, etc. in a walk-through scene. These animation capabilities also tie-in with 5D Project Scheduling so you can visualise the construction of your facility and do budget estimations. Navisworks Manage (in FDS-Ultimate), goes further, identifying and managing clashes and interferences. This overlaps with Inventor, however, if you’re bringing in other CAD files into Navisworks and connecting the dots, it’s a handy tool.

Finally, FDS comes with Vault Basic, which provides Data Management to securely protect data, manage and administer the data properly, view 3D models and reference files, find files based on any metadata, version control and integrate with MS Office documents. Anything more than that will need higher versions of Vault.

Adopting new technology to increase productivity is always a great idea however, licensing costs, learning a new system, legacy data and being able to link into other applications that overlap should also be addressed too, so I’ll continue onto this common area of concern to see how you can transition from an existing system rather than showing you wizz-bang features that will soon fizzle out if the pain outweighs the gain.


For more information contact Damien on 1300 667 263, or email

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