PLYMOUTH, MI – Ford Motor Co. agrees to participate in a pilot program to determine the real-world benefits of a new software program dubbed UGS Synergy.

Developed by Hewlett-Packard Co. and UGS PLM Software, a division of Siemens Automation and Drives, UGS Synergy enables automotive suppliers and their OEM customers to transmit design data back and forth using a common format called JT.

JT simplifies normally complex computer-aided-design files for easier transmission, regardless of what CAD program is used by the sender or receiver.

Because the CAD files are converted into a less-complex format, the amount of band-width required to transfer them is dramatically decreased, says a UGS spokesman.

“What makes it lightweight is it doesn’t have all of the robust detail and definition in it that a native CAD file does,” he tells Ward’s. A JT file is 15%-20% the size of the CAD part from which it is created, he adds.

Another benefit of UGS Synergy is it allows suppliers to work with only one CAD program, as long as it is able to recognize the JT format, which most do, the spokesman says.

“For the last 20 years, the way the OEMs and suppliers worked together around design is that the OEMs asked the suppliers to adopt their CAD system,” he says. “From a supplier perspective look at that problem.

“You have one program at OEM X using this environment and another program at OEM by using a different environment,” he says. “It may even be the same CAD system, but it might be a different version of the CAD software, or something else different that requires a supplier to maintain different environments. The burden that places because of administrative costs is enormous.”

According to a report conducted by Cyon Research Corp., utilizing a single platform such as JT as a data-transfer mechanism could save suppliers in the range of $500 million to $800 million annually.

Ford plans on using the software in an internal pilot program related to its joint venture with General Motors Corp. to produce 6-speed transmissions, says Pete Lamoureux, Ford’s manager of C3P deployment delivery.

Lamoureux, who oversees information technology systems used to share CAD files between Ford and its suppliers, agrees that UGS Synergy has the potential to provide substantial cost savings to its supplier base.

“This will allow suppliers to be more flexible in their IT systems, that’s the biggest thing,” Lamoureux says. “They can optimize their own internal IT systems opposed to being basically tied to what we specify.”

Ford expects to complete the pilot program in the third quarter of this year, Lamoureux says, adding that cost savings realized by suppliers could eventually be passed onto Ford and other OEMs.

The pilot is more of a field test, as the program already had been thoroughly evaluated and debugged, the UGS spokesman says.

“We can sell it now. The technology is ready now. What we’re going through is the real process change this enables between the supplier and the OEM,” he says. “That’s the thing that has to be piloted out, not the technology.”

While still in its early stages of rollout, UGS Synergy already has attracted much attention from suppliers hoping to leverage the software in an effort to cut costs.

“In my 20 years in the industry, I have never seen customers react so positively to something we’ve put into marketplace,” the spokesman says, declining to reveal how many suppliers already have agreed to purchase the software.