SolidWorks: Improving material handling equipment development with CAD
THE COMPANY: Mitchell Mill Systems Canada Ltd. designs and manufactures material handling equipment used in grain, livestock feed, pet food, fish food, fertilizer, seed cleaning and other industrial processes.
THE CHALLENGE: For many years, the company used 2D CAD software to develop its material handling equipment designs. As the manufacturer grew, however, its equipment business included an increasing number of standard products. In addition to improving the development of custom material handling systems, the company’s need for a 3D CAD application for realizing greater efficiencies in standard equipment assembly design became increasingly apparent, according to Stephen Mitchell, the company’s president.
"We have been developing material handling systems for some time, and the part of our business focused on standard product lines has grown to about 50 percent of the total," Mitchell explains. "We began looking into 3D tools primarily to improve our standard equipment development efforts through greater efficiencies in the handling of assemblies. Design reuse and configurable assemblies were important goals, and we also believed 3D would improve interaction with our customers."
THE STRATEGY: Mitchell Mill Systems selected SolidWorks Professional software because of its ease of use, sheet-metal design features and large assembly capabilities. Mitchell Mill Systems also values the software’s design configurations, interference detection and advanced visualization functionality.
Mitchell Mill Systems managed its transition from 2D to 3D in phases, starting all new development of standard equipment in SolidWorks software before moving on to existing design modifications and retrofits, and then to custom-designed projects. The company quickly realized the benefits of visualizing large assembly designs in 3D as part of its CAD migration.
THE RESULTS: "Because we can better visualize what we are designing – such as simulating motion to detect interferences – and because it’s easier and faster to make design changes, we not only are saving time and money, but also boosting the level of innovation that we design into our systems," Mitchell notes. "With SolidWorks, we can both see where a collision can occur, which eliminates errors and reduces development costs, and explore new ideas, innovative concepts and better ways of doing things."
With the implementation of SolidWorks software, the company has also achieved greater efficiency during equipment manufacturing and assembly.
"Having a 3D model to work from generates additional efficiencies throughout production," Mitchell stresses. "Working from a 3D model makes it easier and faster to assemble our equipment. In manufacturing, our assembly time has improved since we moved to SolidWorks.
"Having the 3D design and the 2D drawing as references gives our production personnel a better understanding of what they are building and manufacturing," Mitchell adds. "There are fewer assumptions and back-and-forth questions, which saves time and contributes to our overall productivity. SolidWorks is a tremendous tool when used properly."
By moving to SolidWorks software, Mitchell Mill Systems has improved the quality and effectiveness of its communications with existing and prospective customers. The company uses 3D visuals produced in SolidWorks as part of its sales presentations and proposals, and relies on eDrawings design communication tools to communicate more effectively with customers.
"With eDrawings, we can design our systems and send 3D models to our customers so they can visually evaluate the design," Mitchell points out. "Our customers can visualize the design better in 3D, and typically see things in the initial design that they might not have caught in 2D. This capability results in much better feedback from our customers, which translates into fewer customer problems and misunderstandings.
"In addition to improving design communication with existing customers, 3D models certainly add pizzazz to our presentations and proposals," Mitchell adds. "More and more of our customers expect to see what a system looks like without trying to envision a 3D image from a 2D line drawing. SolidWorks provides us with the tools we need to secure new customers, and better communicate effectively with the customers we have worked with for years."