INNEO supports EFD Induction GmbH in global product development
Company: EFD Induction GmbH
Topics: Product development, Design & Development, Product data management (PDM/PLM), Computation & Simulation, Virtual Reality (VR), 3D rendering (CGI)
Well-positioned globally despite the Coronavirus pandemic
Collaboration across multiple locations, streamlined documentation, and a high degree of standardisation and reuse characterise the development landscape of the induction specialists at EFD Induction. INNEO not only supplies them with Creo CAD software and Windchill PLM/PDM from PTC, but also its own efficiency tools and IT expertise.
Induction technology has made its mark in our lives - not only in the form of practical and efficient hobs but also in manufacturing with much higher temperatures, for example for hardening steel. As part of a global network, EFD Induction GmbH in Freiburg, Germany, develops and manufactures its induction systems using PTC's Windchill and Creo software solutions. INNEO Solutions not only supplies and supports their development environment but has also established itself as a reliable partner for their IT department.
"I couldn't imagine using a 3D CAD/CAM/ CAE system without PDM," reports CAD/PDM system administrator Karlheinz Brenn, "especially if several sites work together, as is the case with us." Accordingly, the seamless interaction between Creo - then still on the market under the name Pro/ENGINEER - and Windchill was one of the main reasons for introducing these systems to EFD in 2005.
Minimising data inputs
"I had written a management program myself for the 2D CAD system we had been using until then - so the users were accustomed to a management solution that was extremely well adapted to our requirements and expected the same from our new solution," Brenn continues. At EFD, the premise of never entering data twice has long been applied, which is why the PDM system is linked to the ERP system. And, of course, this level would be achieved again with Windchill. "We were already able to create ERP material numbers from the CAD system in the nineties, and of course we didn't want to fall behind that level."
For the implementation of the new software, the EFD IT managers, therefore, looked for a competent system partner in INNEO, who understood and could implement these requirements. The IT service provider also brought along another component that Brenn says was indispensable: The tool suite developed by INNEO for Creo and Windchill called GENIUS TOOLS: "GENIUS TOOLS includes a whole range of enhancements that we use extensively - for example, automatic number assignment, which ensures that the 3D model, drawing and other documents all receive the correct, same number," explains the system administrator.
With the help of the Parameter Manager from GENIUS TOOLS, EFD staff organise eight language versions. The user selects the designations from a library when filling in the attributes on the drawing. Each library entry contains the naming in eight languages, so drawings can be translated into English, French, German, Romanian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Italian at the touch of a button.
Standardisation ensures reuse
"Almost more important than translation is standardisation," Brenn adds, "through the library, everyone uses the same spellings and expressions." EFD uses a globally synchronised SQLite database for this purpose, which can be updated and expanded very quickly and easily via Linux. "This standardisation makes it easier to find parts - which in turn leads to a very high reuse rate: we analyzed this just recently, the most customised plants have 30 per cent of unique parts, while the average is only 15 to 20 per cent. The rest is taken from existing designs and libraries."
The EFD designers manage a large number of their own components and entire assemblies in the GENIUS TOOLS library because, in Brenn's experience, searching there is up to 50% faster than in Windchill - not least because of the miniature image display, which allows the desired parts to be identified quickly and easily.
Design and manufacturing specialists in the team
"The design of the tools, in particular, requires a lot of experience," continues Karlheinz Brenn, "even two identical machines do not behave the same way because, for example, the converter oscillates slightly differently and therefore the tool has to be adapted to achieve the desired hardening." That's why at EFD, design engineers and colleagues from the workshop work hand in hand on the development of the tools.
Manufacturing also uses Creo when it comes to generating NC programs for the machining centres. Creo NC loads the 3D geometry of the parts to be machined directly from the PDM system, and the NC programmer can define his machining strategies. "A major advantage of the direct coupling is the possibility of having the NC program recalculated with no or only minor adjustments when changes are made to the geometry," emphasises Brenn.
"Even I, as a non-technician, can see that our plants are also looking better and better tidied up on the inside," interjects IT system administrator Jürgen Hoffmann. Brenn attributes this to the introduction of Creo Piping: "Our plants have three water circuits, one for cooling the moulds and a second through which the water is supplied for quenching the heated components. A third water circuit then uses heat exchangers to cool the cooling water and the quenchant with industrial or freshwater." So the machines contain a large amount of piping that used to be installed during assembly based on a schematic drawing. Today, the designers already define the piping in the 3D model with the help of Creo Piping. On the 3D model, the piping can of course be laid more cleanly and in a more orderly manner than is possible during step-by-step installation on the machine.
"In the past, the designers defined 70 per cent of the plant, and the rest was added by our experienced assemblers," Brenn continues. "Today, the machines are completely defined in 3D before manufacturing starts - for this purpose, we use the Creo Framework module for the frames in addition to Piping." On the one hand, this ensures a cleaner setup of the plants, and on the other hand, the assemblers can work faster using the predefined parts lists for pipes or even frame parts.
INNEO supported the CAD and PDM introduction from the very beginning. During the introduction and adaptation of the Windchill installation, the IT department was involved with a whole range of specialists. "It is important that INNEO not only has a high level of technical expertise in CAD and PDM but also in IT," emphasises IT system administrator Hoffmann. "Initially, we had only ordered a few CAD workstations from INNEO, but then we also asked them about general IT topics and were positively surprised by the expertise we encountered there. For example, a major project is currently underway together with INNEO to rebuild our storage systems using NetApp technology distributed by INNEO."
INNEO's IT knowledge is also in demand in the global development network at EFD. The PDM installation is located on a server at a service provider in Hamburg, which is connected via VPN tunnel to replication servers at various locations worldwide. Servers at other locations are procured locally and then set up remotely by INNEO and EFD's IT department. "Working with INNEO is very pleasant," Hoffmann emphasises, "for example, INNEO and our hosting partner in Hamburg work directly with each other on server updates without us having to act as a liaison. The two companies worked together excellently right from the start - we'd only be slowing down if we got in on the act too."
Updates of CAD or PDM installations have also become very simple, as Brenn adds: "For CAD updates, I go to the update training at INNEO and then create my own training courses for my colleagues, adapted to our requirements. We then reinstall one computer centrally, and all other Creo clients - almost 100 worldwide - then install themselves thanks to a tool developed by INNEO. In the case of PDM updates, we of course also work closely with INNEO"
Flexibility in the age of the Coronavirus pandemic
The switch to the latest version of GENIUS TOOLS was a great relief for Brenn: "Previously, I had ten servers with Startup TOOLS databases in operation worldwide, which was still manageable. However, when Corona hit us, many designers moved their workplace to the home office. They needed their own server instances for this due to poor Internet connections, which was feasible thanks to a generous licensing policy from INNEO."
"However, this expanded the number of servers to almost 40 - a nightmare to administer," Brenn continues. "Fortunately, GENIUS TOOLS 6 put an end to that - now all Creo workstations automatically synchronise against the central server in Hamburg every two hours. And with GENIUS TOOLS 7, the synchronisations now also run incrementally." Only the changed stocks are transferred, which significantly reduces data traffic. "This is a very important step and a great relief!"
"How well our collaboration with INNEO is going and how well our development environment is now running is demonstrated by a decision taken by the Group's top management in Norway," concludes Karlheinz Brenn. "They took a close look there at how we have structured and set up our IT and, above all, development, and they decided to roll out this implementation, which was developed here in Freiburg together with INNEO, throughout the Group. That makes us proud, of course, and shows what impressive solutions we have found here with INNEO."