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Remtec Inc., a subsidiary of Remcor Inc., designs and manufactures tanker trailers for petroleum products. These are the big tanks you see delivering gasoline to service stations but they also transport other petroleum products, such as asphalt. While from the outside it may look like one big tank, on the inside, it is divided into four to six separate compartments. Remtec is the main petroleum tanker trailer manufacturer in Quebec, based in Chambly, but its parent company owns a similar business in British Columbia as well as two in the U.S. (in Nebraska and South Carolina). According to Remtec's director of research and development, André Bourgault, the market for these tanker trailers is not as large as for other truck trailers, so competition is strong. Customers expect faster and faster delivery times, so "the ability to design and assemble a trailer fast is a competitive advantage," he says. In addition to the pressure to deliver tankers quickly, Remtec faces other challenges in the design of its products. First, these tanker trailers consist of many parts (some designed in house, others provided by suppliers) and it's necessary to keep track of everything with an accurate bill of material (BOM). Second, because Remtec's tankers are oval rather than round (to lower the center of gravity and prevent rolling over), designers must work with complex shapes, in particular where the front and back "heads" of the tanker interface with the main portion of the body. Third, the majority of these designs involve sheet metal, making the creation of accurate flat pattern drawings crucial. Remtec's previous CAD system was 2D AutoCAD. It claimed it was difficult to do this work in 2D, especially when creating the complex surfaces of the heads as well as keeping BOMs up to date. It was necessary to create a new BOM each time a design variation was made. This was also true for the sheet metal flat patterns. With AutoCAD it was also more difficult to detect interferences prior to having parts made. Errors that were detected on the shop floor delayed delivery and increased development costs. Realizing that 3D modeling could address these issues, Remtec evaluated a number of solid modelers, and the first couple was ruled out due to cost. SolidWorks and Solid Edge were put through a thorough benchmarking process that led to the selection of Solid Edge. "The Solid Edge guys took better care of us and we were satisfied with the capabilities of the software," Bourgault explains. "Also, Solid Edge is easy to learn and use." WORKING QUICKLY, VIRTUALLY Remtec now builds virtual, complete tanker assemblies in Solid Edge, parameterizing the model so that it can be changed quickly to meet a customer's needs. "We have several models and depending on what the customer wants, we simply modify variables such as length, height, width, number of compartments and so on," Bourgault says. "With parametric modeling, this happens much quicker than it used to with AutoCAD." Once a parametric model is done, it takes Remtec about half as much time as it did in the past to tailor a design to a customer's specifications. One very important benefit of Solid Edge is its sheet metal modeling environment. Once a sheet metal part is designed, the flat pattern is generated automatically. "With 2D this was very time consuming, but with Solid Edge it is just a mouse click," Bourgault notes. A BOM is also just a mouse click away once the model is finished, saving the company the 12 to 15 hours that used to be required to generate a single BOM from drawings. The BOMs are also more complete because Solid Edge counts all the small items such as fittings, washers and bolts that used to be omitted in the past. When a customer asks for something unique and a new design is required, Remtec no longer builds a mockup. Remtec is confident about doing this because the company is able to detect interferences in the software. The accuracy of the designs created in Solid Edge has made it possible to design and build a first production unit 20 percent faster than before. And because there are fewer errors and scrapped parts, the company saves money on development costs. Solid Edge brings other advantages as well. Production drawings are now easier for shop personnel to understand. "They are clearer than before because now we can do exploded views and 3D views. The guys in the shop all like that and there is less error in assembly now," Bourgault says. "Another advantage of Solid Edge is that designers like it. It is a lot more motivating to work in 3D." Remtec also sends its 3D images to its customers for design reviews. The customers find the 3D images much easier to interpret than 2D drawings. John Smith is a technical writer for Siemens PLM. (c)2010 Siemens PLM Software Inc. Reprinted with permission.
For manufacturers looking to add, upgrade or replace ERP software, one of the most apparent concerns is what the system can do. Can the system handle the company's scheduling needs? Does it offer production monitoring and quality control? Can it streamline communication? While these are important, what an ERP system can and cannot do is only one consideration. In fact, functionality should be considered against the backdrop of the entire package: its technology and its vendor. Only by doing so can manufacturers ensure they make a right and lasting choice. • Platform. While platform (e.g., .NET, SQL, hosted, etc.) is important, an ERP system should not be selected based on platform alone. Doing so may distract from the real value an ERP system can provide. Choosing based on a pre-conceived idea that only one platform will fit the selection criteria may eliminate viable options before they are considered. Instead, look for high-caliber functionality then consider whether the functionality compensates for the platform difference. • Technology. As technology evolves, so too should a good ERP system. If a vendor is not on the leading edge of technology, chances are that vendor is not a viable option for the long haul. Check to see how they are keeping up with technology. Are they focused on research and development for future applications, or are they focused on past technology that will soon be outdated? • Number of vendors. It is important to understand how many total vendors will contribute to a package. Some are built upon technology developed by and acquired from multiple sources, but packaged as a single system. Sometimes the number of vendors can be as many as the number of system components. Sustaining multiple vendors can be cumbersome and should be a factor in determining the long-term affects on an information systems department. • Product demo. Product demonstrations are often a good way to see an ERP solution first hand, and knowing what to look for will provide the clearest picture. Consider whether questions are answered clearly and concisely. Be persistent when gathering desired information. As well, the most valuable tool is personal experience, so test-drive the system, too. • Customer referrals. While existing customer referrals are beneficial, remember three things: customers are on the referral list for a reason; vendors don't typically give out the names of problem customers; and vendors will most likely provide only the number of references requested (if two are requested, only two will be provided). Then check the vendor and customers' websites for case studies, quotes, customers in the news, etc. Ask for referrals from companies that used the same system, are similar in size or are in the same product industry as your own. The vendor may not have an exact match, but a software vendor that can offer a variety of customer referrals is more likely to have many happier customers than one who cannot. • Implementation time. When provided with an estimate for the number of days to complete an implementation, ask how the vendor arrived at the number. They may have a proven plan that does not match what their competition is offering. Times will vary from package to package, but don't take for granted the number of days noted by the salesperson. Get feedback, so when contacting a reference customer, ask whether the vendor met their implementation schedule. If they did not, how much longer did it take, and why? • Customer retention. It is one thing to have a short list of current, happy customers - but it is something else entirely to maintain the customer relationship for years to come. Ask the vendor what their customer retention rate is. Do a majority continue on with them for years - even decades? With the buyouts and recession of past years, no ERP vendor can claim 100-percent retention, but anything less than 80 percent should raise a flag to ask a question. • Think realistically. While it is always good to think about where you want to be in five or more years, also think about where you are now. Buy a package that focuses on your current market position but can carry you to your next goal and beyond. An over-the-counter ERP system bought at the local office supply store will not see a company through to its multimillion-dollar goal. On the other hand, the software solutions used by the Nikes of the world may be too big. An ideal package is one that can be purchased with only the components that are needed but expand with a business as it grows. • Consultant catch. The utilization of consultants in the ERP selection process can be useful and informative. However, beware of the consultant who has affiliations with a specific ERP system. Hiring a consultant should be paying for an unbiased opinion of which software truly is the best match for your company and not a test for them to see how they can sell you their ERP system. Daniele Fresca is the director of marketing for IQMS.
To bolster a critical new product launch and cut down on repetitive data entry (as well as to anticipate future needs), Ionics Mass Spectrometry Group took the plunge and deployed a company-wide enterprise resource planning (ERP) system - and saw immediate results. Founded in 2001, Bolton, Ont.-based Ionics manufactures solutions for customers in the mass spectrometry market. Over the years, the 50-employee company has emerged as a leading player in this market and its research has led to world-leading patented developments. Most recently, this included its small-footprint 3Q molecular analyzer, a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer with the highest of standards in performance, ease of use and serviceability, which the company launched in 2009. As Ionics was planning to expand its existing product line, the company realized it needed integrated supply chain planning and engineering tools to manage product development and inventory. With thousands of parts per machine, using spreadsheets for engineering revision control and material planning was no longer efficient. "With no MRP or ERP solution, we relied on manually entering data into spreadsheets," said Ionics vice-president of operations Vince Hamilton. For example, its new molecular analyzer "includes nearly 12,000 parts and we needed a better process to understand our inventory." With no previous inventory management solution, the company turned to Epicor and Six S Partners, an Epicor certified partner, to implement a new ERP system with integrated supply-chain planning and engineering tools that could support the company's critical new product launch and scale to support future needs. The company also selected Epicor 9 for real-time material requirements planning (MRP) and next-generation ERP functionality delivering in-context business insight and flexibility to meet both current requirements and future needs. "Epicor's staged implementation process was extremely beneficial for us," Hamilton said. "We took a 'crawl, walk and run' approach, starting off with a cost-effective manufacturing process platform that allows us to add other solutions down the road." Epicor is delivered 'out of the box,' with built-in workflow processes that enable manufacturers to manage the entire order cycle: from marketing and sales through production and planning, sourcing and procurement, installation and service and, finally, financial recognition. It also offers a range of supply chain management and distribution capabilities, delivered within a single business platform. After a four-month implementation period, Ionics went live with Epicor. During the beta testing period, the company was able to complete the Epicor training and see the benefits of a proven, formal planning and control tool. It also allowed the company enough time to input their inventory to support the upcoming product launch. It now has the ability to manage materials consumed, forecast end-product requirements, adjust production as forecasts change, and generate suggested purchase orders to fill anticipated gaps in raw material inventory. "We started to see the value and capabilities of Epicor 9 on the shop floor right away," Hamilton added. Ionics outfitted the Epicor platform with quality assurance, inventory management, purchasing and procurement modules. The solution provided greater visibility into the status of the inventory to determine what purchases needed to be made and when. The implementation also provided full engineering change control and management, and multiple revision control of products within a single solution "And we see this as just the beginning," Hamilton continued. Moving forward, the new platform will grow with the company, providing the ability to add new capabilities as needed. While Hamilton says Ionics plans to extend the use of Epicor by implementing CRM, quotation, sales, finance and accounting modules in the future, he says the company saw benefits right from the start. Kelly Poffenberger is a consultant with Lutz PR.
Flexpipe Systems masters product traceability with handhelds and IFS Applications Project delivers lean improvements, environmental protection for oil and gas industry vendor THE COMPANY: Flexpipe Systems Inc., of Calgary, Alberta, manufactures and sells proprietary non-metallic, corrosion-resistant pipeline products and crimped steel fittings primarily for oil and natural gas producers. The company was acquired in 2008 by a global energy services company, ShawCor Ltd., and migrated from its existing Epicor Vantage enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to Shawcor’s version of IFS Applications. THE CHALLENGE: Because Flexpipe Systems’ products are used in oil and gas gathering systems and other environmentally critical applications, lot tracking is critical. Flexpipe Systems has not had a fitting recall in recent memory, but wanted to proactively ensure the company could quickly mobilize a precise recall if necessary. Early on, Flexpipe Systems recognized the need to record the location to which each fitting was shipped, but their only means of collecting this data was doing so manually. This manual process was slow and labor intensive and was not practical, particularly in an emergency situation. “We provide pipeline systems and services to a highly regulated industry; keeping concise records, including the fabrication specification of each individual fitting is key,” inventory control manager, Colin Moyer, said. “In the very unlikely event of a pipeline failure, a thorough investigation into the possible cause is paramount to the reinstatement of that pipeline.” Flexpipe Systems was also performing extensive non value-added work by recording inventory and shop floor transactions manually and entering into them into IFS Applications. “We were recording everything on paper, which was then physically carried to an IFS station,” said business analyst, Grant Clarke. “Shipping or receipt details including the part number, serial tracking numbers, etc. would then be entered into IFS by someone when they had time… not necessarily at the exact time of the product shipment/receipt.” THE SOLUTION: Flexpipe Systems retained Cinqcon, of Vancouver, British Columbia to help them integrate Intermec bar code scanners with IFS Applications. Cinqcon leveraged IFS Applications’ service oriented architecture, using web services to drive data directly through IFS Applications’ business logic. Handheld devices now read barcodes generated by a Loftware, Inc. enterprise labeling solution, capturing serial, lot and batch data automatically and entering it in IFS Applications. “We offered Flexpipe Systems a standard transaction package to which when added a few enhancements to fit exactly what the company and its parent, Shawcor, had in mind,” Cinqcon Consultant Ilona Pretorius said. Cinqcon found that Flexpipe Systems did not require IFS Applications’ existing and very robust handheld interface, and instead chose to develop its own simplified data capture environment, easily tying this interface into the open architecture of the ERP solution. “Flexpipe Systems gained working efficiency and speed by opting for a more minimalistic interface and passing just the essential fields back and forth” Pretorius said. Despite a concurrent networking project that sapped resources from the handheld integration process, the entire project took less than four months, according to Moyer and Clarke. THE RESULT: The project has delivered lean improvements and allowed Flexpipe Systems to mitigate the risk of a recall. “It definitely helps purchasing, it helps the MRP planners for distribution orders, and it will soon be rolled out to other areas of the company,” Moyer said. “Prior to the implementation of the handheld devices and IFS interface, we had limited visibility on serial, batch and lot numbers. With our manual processes it may have taken days to identify and recall a potentially problematic batch of products,” Moyer said. “We have streamlined the process into a query search that now takes no more than 10 minutes. This also increases the speed at which we can ship our fittings. With our new system, were are able quickly scan each barcode as the products are staged prior to shipping; the manufacturing details, serial numbers etc. are captured and logged instantly increasing labor efficiencies and eliminating the potential for human error.”
THE COMPANY: Hayward Gordon Ltd. designs, manufactures and distributes process equipment; products and systems relating to pumping, mixing, filtration, and bulk solids handling. With 78 employees and branch locations in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, Hayward Gordon is headquartered in Halton Hills, Ontario, home of the company's custom-built, 50,000-sq.ft. office and plant facility, opened in the fall of 2006. “We serve a wide variety of industries,” says company President John Hayward, whose father, Len Hayward, started the business in 1952. “We're particularly strong in mining and waste-water treatment, but we also work with a wide variety of process industries: chemical processing, food processing, pulp and paper – the list is extensive, even the automotive industry needs pumps for paint.” As a result of the company's mining specialization, Hayward Gordon has established a growing global presence. “The company as a whole is very strong in North America,” says Hayward, “but we're also exporting a good deal of equipment to South America and other parts of the world. We currently have projects destined for countries such as Madagascar, Australia, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Chile.” THE CHALLENGE: Over the last few years, the company has faced a major challenge – the strengthening of the Canadian dollar. “That's put immense pressure on us to become more productive, and to reduce our costs,” says Hayward. In response, the company has been implementing lean practices. “That has a lot to do with leveraging our ERP. We underwent a very extensive business-process mapping project, a few years back, to find areas in which we could create efficiencies, and many of the ways we chose to streamline our business involve the use of SYSPRO.“ THE SOLUTION: When Hayward Gordon made the decision to invest in SYSPRO back in 1990, it focused on three main considerations. “First off, the work we do is highly varied – we're more of a job shop than build-to-stock. We felt that SYSPRO's Bill of Materials (BOM), Work in Progress (WIP), and Requirements Planning modules lent themselves well to a job-shop environment. Secondly, SYSPRO's integration of operations and finance was excellent – far better than anything else we looked at. Finally, we wanted to be sure that the ERP we chose would be properly maintained and supported. Many of the ERP companies we considered back then don't exist anymore. SYSPRO has stayed, and has supported its product very well.” In response to recent challenges, the company has relied on SYSPRO to implement electronic time tracking in the shop, and automate its labour posting function. “We get the tracking in real time now,” says Hayward. “By having SYSPRO do it, we've been able to eliminate a data entry position. We've also integrated Microsoft CRM (customer relationships management) directly into SYSPRO, thereby automating our order entry. Now we can have people in the field enter their orders automatically, eliminating the need for duplicate entry.” THE RESULTS: In the near future, the company is hoping to implement electronic funds transfer (EFT) to streamline its payables. “The timing for all these efficiencies has been good, because despite the market challenges, we've been seeing some growth. Getting more out of SYSPRO has allowed us to expand without breaking apart at the seams.” Leveraging SYSPRO has not only reduced costs, it has helped Hayward Gordon reliably meet its lead times. “One of the things we realized,” says Hayward, “was that we had to compress our lead times and make them more reliable. We've taken a number of steps that take advantage of the fact that processes that used to run consecutively, can now run concurrently. For example, these days, when an order is entered, it gets reviewed and the credit check is triggered along with a customer number request – all electronically and all at the same time. Previously, a paper file would spend many days travelling to multiple departments for approval before the order was placed. Now, if there's a problem with the order, action can be taken right away. It's much more efficient, and it's helping us serve our customers better.” Asked to comment on SYSPRO's ROI, Hayward offers a useful metric: “We've seen our revenue per employee increase by around sixty-five percent in the last four years. You can't do that unless you build into your company the ability to grow sales without growing costs in lockstep. If you don't have the right infrastructure in place, your sales can even cost more to make than they're worth. That's what productivity is about – if you have the right systems in place it gives your company extra capacity, without adding costs. That's the way we've been able to measure what SYSPRO has done for us.”
Dynamic Structures, a Coquitlam, BC-based designer, manufacturer and constructor of complex structures ranging from ski jumps to amusement park rides, was recently named Autodesk's Inventor of the Year for 2009. The Canadian company was originally selected 'Inventor of the Month' by the Autodesk manufacturing community for its work desigining enclosures that will house the world's largest telescope, the Thirty Metre Telescope. The company achieved the 'annual' title largely because of its use of Autodesk Inventor software in the design of theme park rides that take the term 'rollercoaster' to a whole new level. Of particular note is the RoboCoaster G3, which features four-passenger robot manipulators that operate in unique coaster train sets. Dynamic Structures caters largely to the industry, government, entertainment and academic sectors. Among its list of achievements is the Whistler ski jump - a rather complex project due to the strict standards implemented by the International Ski Federation. Not only was it challenging to form, fabricate and weld tubular trusses that were 95 and 125 metres long, but the building process had to be flexible enough to allow for transportation and assembling on a remote and rugged location.
For manufacturers looking to add, upgrade or replace ERP software, one of the most apparent concerns is what the system can do. Can the system handle the company’s scheduling needs? Does it offer production monitoring and quality control? Can it streamline communication? While these are important, what an ERP system can and cannot do is only one consideration. In fact, functionality should be consideration against the backdrop of the entire package: its technology and its vendor. Only by doing so can manufacturers ensure they make a right and lasting choice. • Platform. While platform (e.g., .NET, SQL, hosted, etc.) is important, an ERP system should not be selected based on platform alone. Doing so may distract from the real value an ERP system can provide. Choosing based on a pre-conceived idea that only one platform will fit the selection criteria may eliminate viable options before they are considered. Instead, look for high-caliber functionality then consider whether the functionality compensates for the platform difference. • Technology. As technology evolves, so too should a good ERP system. If a vendor is not on the leading edge of technology, chances are that vendor is not a viable option for the long haul. Check to see how they are keeping up with technology. Are they focused on research and development for future applications, or are they focused on past technology that will soon be out dated? • Number of vendors. It is important to understand how many total vendors will contribute to a package. Some are built upon technology developed by and acquired from multiple sources, but packaged as a single system. Sometimes the number of vendors can be as many as the number of system components. Sustaining multiple vendors can be cumbersome and should be a factor in determining the long-term affects on an information systems department. • Product demo. Product demonstrations are often a good way to see an ERP solution first hand, and knowing what to look for will provide the clearest picture. Consider whether questions are answered clearly and concisely. Be persistent when gathering desired information. As well, the most valuable tool is personal experience, so test-drive the system, too. • Customer referrals. While existing customer referrals are beneficial, remember three things: customers are on the referral list for a reason; vendors don’t typically give out the names of problem customers; and vendors will most likely provide only the number of references requested (if two are requested, only two will be provided). Then check the vendor and customers’ websites for case studies, quotes, customers in the news, etc. Ask for referrals from companies that used the same system, are similar in size or are in the same product industry as your own. The vendor may not have an exact match, but a software vendor that can offer a variety of customer referrals is more likely to have many happier customers than one who cannot. • Implementation time. When provided with an estimate for the number of days to complete an implementation, ask how the vendor arrived at the number. They may have a proven plan that does not match what their competition is offering. Times will vary from package to package, but don’t take for granted the number of days noted by the salesperson. Get feedback, so when contacting a reference customer, ask whether the vendor met their implementation schedule. If they did not, how much longer did it take, and why? • Customer retention. It is one thing to have a short list of current, happy customers — but it is something else entirely to maintain the customer relationship for years to come. Ask the vendor what their customer retention rate is. Do a majority continue on with them for years — even decades? With the buyouts and recession of past years, no ERP vendor can claim 100-percent retention, but anything less than 80 percent should raise a flag to ask a question. • Think realistically. While it is always good to think about where you want to be in five or more years, also think about where you are now. Buy a package that focuses on your current market position but can carry you to your next goal and beyond. An over-the-counter ERP system bought at the local office supply store will not see a company through to its multimillion-dollar goal. On the other hand, the software solutions used by the Nikes of the world may be too big. An ideal package is one that can be purchased with only the components that are needed but expand with a business as it grows. • Consultant catch. The utilization of consultants in the ERP selection process can be useful and informative. However, beware of the consultant who has affiliations with a specific ERP system. Hiring a consultant should be paying for an unbiased opinion of which software truly is the best match for your company and not a test for them to see how they can sell you their ERP system. Daniele Fresca is the director of marketing for IQMS.
If you’ve ever eaten corn flakes or planted a seed, chances are A.T. Ferrell Co. Inc. has touched your life. A leader serving agricultural, food and industrial markets, A.T. Ferrell has been designing and building equipment used to process, condition and convey grains, feeds, seeds and other bulk and powder materials for 140 years. The products its three divisions make are used and trusted by feed mills, farm operators and food, cereal and oilseed processors worldwide. Many customers have relied on their equipment and expertise for decades to maximize their profits. As a result, A.T. Ferrell needs to be agile and responsive, continually innovating their designs to deliver superior results and performance for their customers. The company has moved beyond 3D to digital prototyping, enabling it to design, visualize and simulate the real-world performance of its products before cutting a single piece of steel. Autodesk Inventor software has helped A.T. Ferrell to: • Better support its customers • Help lower costs and increase innovation • Avoid costly mistakes, speeding product development time • Use a single digital prototype for design, sales, marketing and manufacturing • Reduce reliance on expensive physical prototyping The challenge To meet each customer’s requirements, A.T. Ferrell configures its equipment to order, to meet customer needs, now and in the future. “Even though we have common chassis concepts, there are 15 to 30 variables that come into play when we build a customer’s machine,” explains Allen Gager, design engineer and CAD manager at A.T. Ferrell. “Adding to the complexity, we try to account for likely future processing techniques so that our customers can use our machines 20, 30, even 40 years from now,” he adds. “One reason that A.T. Ferrell has been so successful for so long is that our customers trust us to maximize their investments.” In addition to addressing customer needs cost-effectively, A.T. Ferrell’s food-grade products are subject to FDA and other government regulations. The company must also design its product with the safety of maintenance workers in mind to address Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. The solution A.T. Ferrell adopted Autodesk Inventor Professional software and Autodesk Vault Workgroup data management software, both part of the Autodesk solution for digital prototyping. They help A.T. Ferrell streamline its product development, sales, and marketing processes, from initial product configuration through manufacturing and beyond. The company uses Inventor Professional software to design the mechanical and hydraulic systems on its machines and Vault to reuse designs, track revisions and release finished designs to manufacturing. According to Gager, with this digital prototyping solution, A.T. Ferrell can create superior, optimized designs faster than ever. He says, “Taking advantage of digital prototyping, we can look at a number of different ideas for a solution before we cut steel. We can simulate and analyze our designs to minimize mistakes — and in the end provide a better product.” For example, A.T. Ferrell uses the built-in finite element analysis (FEA) capabilities to optimize material choices and sizes. “We can apply forces and stresses to find out how much material we really need,” he continues. “If we use material intelligently, we can cut costs and reduce our energy footprint. It takes less energy to cut a half-inch of steel than three-quarters an inch of steel.” The company can also better meet regulatory requirements with the help of Inventor. Gager explains: “During the design phase, we can address applicable regulations. For example, it’s easier to meet OSHA regulations because we can get accurate weight on panels that need to be removed during maintenance — and thus determine whether a worker can safely move and manipulate them.” Easier to ask “what if?” Recently, A.T. Ferrell experienced design optimization at its best when a customer asked the company to improve ease-of-use for a roller mill adjustment system. Gager immediately began to explore different options in Inventor. “I pulled up the model and just started asking ‘what if’ questions,” he says. “I went through about 15 scenarios to find a solution. I worked with our machine builder to make some minor revisions and then ran stress analysis and checked for interferences before we finalized the model. Finally, we generated shop drawings and went into production. It took just over two days from start to finish.” When asked how the company would have met this type of customer request before adopting Inventor software, he says, “We probably would have made four physical prototypes and there would have been 12 people involved. Inventor removes the risk of asking ‘what if’. I explore a wide range of design options without wasting time or money.” Digital models drive sales The optimized digital prototypes A.T. Ferrell creates in Inventor software drive not only product development but also help the sales team. “Digital prototypes make it easier to collaborate with our global customer base,” Gager says. “Customers can collaborate with us on their designs by viewing DWF™ files. They can explore designs from every angle to make sure that we’ve met their needs and there are no surprises when the machine arrives for installation. Our customers can even import Inventor data into Autodesk Navisworks software to help speed their facilities layouts.” In addition, A.T. Ferrell uses renderings from digital prototypes in its manuals and generates code for computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines directly from Inventor models. “When you’re trying to communicate using 2D engineering drawings, there can be communication barriers,” he notes. “But with 3D digital prototypes, those go away. From sales to marketing to manufacturing, everyone gets what they need right off the digital model. That’s certainly not possible with 2D geometry.” The result A.T. Ferrell is delivering the exceptional quality customers expect — and saving time and money in the process. “Without Inventor and Digital Prototyping, we would have to make several physical prototypes for each new design,” Gager says. “We still build them on occasion, but it’s rare now.” In addition, the company has created a custom Inventor application to automate aspects of sheet metal design. “Something that took a few minutes to do before now takes a single click,” he says. “For machines with 300 sheet metal parts, that adds up.” Gager estimates that Autodesk software reduces the workload of A.T. Ferrell’s designers by half. But more than that, Autodesk software frees them up to be creative. He says, “Instead of locating, opening, and printing hundreds of drawings in a project, we use Autodesk Vault Workgroup to complete the process with just a few clicks. As a result, we can spend time working on the fun stuff, which is designing machines that meet customer needs.” www.autodesk.com/inventor
Autonomous Mobile Robot Conference
September 17, 2019
Weidmuller Open House
September 17, 2019
International Metrology Congress
September 24-26, 2019
CMTS: Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show
September 30-3, 2019
October 1, 2019