Case Study: UniversalDB

How UniversalDB overcame the labour shortage of CAD technicans

Using AI to automate 3D CAD for earmoulds and improve modelling efficiency by 400%

Executive Summary

How UniversalDB overcame the labour shortage of CAD technicans

About UniversalDB

UniversalDB is a leading audio manufacturer based out of the UK. They provide a wide variety of custom audio products to a range of industries, including institutions such as the NHS and BBC.

Challenges & Goals

While their ability to provide such a broad range of high-quality custom audio devices is what sets UniversalDB apart, it requires running a team of CAD technicians. Such CAD technicians are in short supply, resulting in production bottlenecks and difficulties scaling up production capacity. These issues were exacerbated in 2020 when the UK’s Covid-19 lockdowns commenced. 17/20 of Universal DB’s staff were forced into furlough, leaving only 3 staff to process hundreds of earmould orders each week.

“We were struggling to meet demand. The current 3D CAD workflow was time consuming and highly repetitive. We knew there had to be a better way” - Paul Thorpe, UniversalDB's Lab Manager.

Product

Upon hearing about Hearables 3D’s automated CAD solution, AutoDesign, from friends in the industry, Paul immediately connected with the team. After learning the details of the situation, the Hearables team proposed setting up a custom web dashboard where UniversalDB could simply upload their scans and download automatically modelled CAD files.

 

Paul went with it. In 1 week, Hearables integrated UniversalDB’s unique CAD requirements into the system, and from there UniversalDB began testing the solution.

“Overall we were very impressed. We had some feedback, but this was quickly addressed”.

Results

Straight away, UniversalDB began using AutoDesign for >90% of their earmould orders. Every 2-3 days, a UniversalDB modeller uploads a large batch of earmould scans, configures the order, and within 2 minutes, ready-to-manufacture CAD files are automatically generated. “It’s really easy for our designer to use” says Paul.

 

Modelling efficiency increased by >400%, freeing up time for the team to engage on higher value activities. “I no longer spend 1 day/week supporting the CAD team, and the CAD team itself has more capacity to work on complex and strategic orders” says Paul.

 

As a result, UniversalDB successfully met production demands during the pandemic, despite only having 3 staff. What’s more, after the pandemic, UniversalDB increased total production capacity by 36% compared to their pre-pandemic levels. “Hearables has been a major help in enabling this” says Paul.

 

Going forwards, Paul plans to automate more products’ CAD workflows, such as RIC hearing aids.