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MEAF Machines uses Solid Edge and Teamcenter to optimize the design and data management process; achieves virtually flawless production
Customized development is highly prevalent in machines for the plastics industry. As a result, every machine is actually a prototype which, naturally, still has to have the quality and price level of a mass-produced machine. This work requires a tight process, from development up to and including purchasing and assembly, during which all relevant data must be available at the right time. The experience that MEAF Machines BV has gained is applied to its own line of machines, as well as for the development of prototypes for third parties.
MEAF Machines’ speciality is developing tailor-made high tech production machines and lines. For example, take its own range of machines for the extrusion of plastics into sheets, which are then turned into packaging materials via thermoforming and vacuum forming processes. “Ninety-nine percent of these machines are exported all over the world, for which MEAF Machines has established an extensive dealer network,” according to Ardjan Houtekamer, technical director at MEAF Machines. “While our focus abroad is directed at sales, purchasing is also a key activity. Even though we are a relatively small organization, we must purchase effectively to get the best value for our money on a worldwide scale. For us, the price alone is not enough.”
To ensure the quality and the feasibility of a design at an early stage, MEAF Machines’ engineers are involved in the sales process. “We need to be able to change pace quickly in the sales process,” says John Elenbaas, an engineer at MEAF Machines. “We set up standard machines in a modular format. This allows us to re-use large parts from these machines to make new products. Customized adjustments are developed as an adaptation of the standard. We need to know where and what the customized modifications impact, so that we can make a keen offer, manage a short lead time and provide the desired quality.”
To efficiently and effectively design products and manage data, this approach requires modern tools. Therefore, MEAF Machines needed design and management software that is user-friendly and performs well, whether its staff is implementing localized changes or, in the case of very large structures, has to deal with tens of thousands of components. As a result, it is extremely important for MEAF Machines to be able to re-use components and modules as much as possible.
MEAF Machines also needed design software that could produce ready-to-use assemblies and production drawings in order to step up its entire development process. “MEAF Machines is an innovative company,” explains Houtekamer. “You will find innovation not only in our products, but also in the software we provide to our people. We selected Solid Edge software as a tool for product development and Teamcenter software as our PLM solution. This last choice was not particularly obvious for a small company like ours.”
Houtekamer discovered that Teamcenter® software, preconfigured for rapid deployment and fast return on investment, was a good fit for two engineers and a total workforce of 12 people. “Over recent years, we’ve switched from internal production to worldwide subcontracting,” says Houtekamer. “It facilitates fast communications, which makes it possible to iron out ambiguities in production. Providing accurate data is of vital importance if we want to be supplied qualitatively and cost effectively. This is where Teamcenter plays a major role for us.”
MEAF Machines manages its customer projects using Teamcenter. Elenbaas explains, “We do not manage a generic standard; rather, we develop the project-related standard further. A machine is built from subassemblies. The components that can be re-used for a new order go directly to work preparation, while those requiring adaptations are processed by us.”
Everything is literally remodeled in this way, “up to the very last bolt and cable, since we take care of all electric and pneumatic components as well,” adds Elenbaas. “This is where the combination of Teamcenter with Solid Edge proves its strength. It offers great possibilities to open assemblies selectively. We can work rapidly with very large structures, which was hardly possible with our old system. And the functionality is extended to such a degree that so far we haven’t been restricted in any way – even when we develop our designs down to the smallest detail with, among other things, routed systems in the form of pneumatics and electrical engineering.”
Because MEAF Machines’ production equipment operates at high speeds, it is necessary to check that all of the mechanisms are in good working order. “Formerly, this was done schematically with the help of drawings and the prototype as the first real test,” says Elenbaas. “We can carry out virtual tests now thanks to Solid Edge. Not only do we test movements but also servo controls, which allows us to calculate the required engine capacities on the basis of these tests. This avoids expensive surprises. The later a defect is discovered, the more money it costs.”
The company uses Teamcenter to store each order as a separate project. “Since we are a small team and a designer stays with a project from A to Z, we would naturally be able to retrieve data directly about completed projects from our own experience,” says Elenbaas. Moreover, MEAF Machines wanted a safer process, therefore it decided to store all of its project data using Teamcenter so that personal experience is no longer needed for its retrieval.
As a result, MEAF Machines can retrieve designs fast and re-use them often with the help of Teamcenter. This approach also ensures that there is no chance of the project designs being overwritten. “As an additional benefit, the so-called ‘as maintained’ situation is ensured in this way,” notes Elenbaas. “Modifications on machines in the field are incorporated in the designs and recorded in ERP.”
Over the past several years, MEAF Machines has switched from producing everything itself to subcontracting almost everything. As a result, drawings are produced as comprehensively as possible, including the processing instructions. While revisions are primarily managed using Teamcenter, MEAF Machines’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is responsible for introducing items. Items are used in the design only if they are recognized in the ERP system. The parts list is placed on a drawing and integrated into ERP by means of a manual control.
“Of course, it is possible to transfer the parts list digitally,” says Elenbass. “But implementing the check through work preparation is an additional guarantee that the subcontracting work takes place flawlessly. The ERP system is also used to monitor purchasing.”
Solid Edge® software is used to check if all of the components are at hand and whether there is enough room to use assembly tools. This approach is used to ensure smooth assembly. Manuals and assembly instructions are illustrated with Solid Edge images.
“Because we make a lot of unique products and prototypes, it is no longer possible to walk around a machine to photograph it,” Elenbaas says. “Since the machine goes directly to the customer as soon as it is ready, the documentation always used to be too late. Thanks to Solid Edge, we can now show customers lifelike machines that have yet to be built. As a marketing tool, nothing beats that yet.”
“With Solid Edge, you can do a lot of great and cool things,” says Houtekamer. “At the end of the day, the issue is whether you can position yourself well in the world, whether you are not alone with an application but rather open and capable of collaborating. We use Teamcenter to engineer more efficiently. It allows us to track down items faster and re-use more. As a result, with Teamcenter and Solid Edge, we achieve more production with fewer staff, while becoming even more flexible.”
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MEAF Machines BV produces machines for the plastics processing industry, all the way from pellets to packaging. The company also builds prototypes for other companies.
"This is where the combination of Teamcenter with Solid Edge proves its strength. It offers great possibilities to open assemblies selectively. We can work rapidly with very large structures. And the functionality is extended to such a degree that so far we haven’t been restricted in any way – even when we develop our designs down to the smallest detail with, among other things, routed systems in the form of pneumatics and electrical engineering."
MEAF Machines BV
"Over recent years, we’ve switched from internal production to worldwide subcontracting. It facilitates fast communications, which makes it possible to iron out ambiguities in production. Providing accurate data is of vital importance if we want to be supplied qualitatively and cost effectively. This is where Teamcenter plays a major role for us."
MEAF Machines BV
"We use Teamcenter to engineer more efficiently. It allows us to track down items faster and re-use more. As a result, with Teamcenter and Solid Edge, we achieve more production with fewer staff, while becoming even more flexible."
MEAF Machines BV
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