First-of-its-kind briefcase hits market bug-free
Samsonite Europe tapped Siemens PLM Software to ensure the error-free rollout of its inaugural “intelligent” briefcase
- Packed with novel features and manufactured using new molding technology, the Hardlite had to hit shelves with bugs already worked out or risk alienating consumers.
New niche, new production process
Samsonite Europe had big plans for the Hardlite briefcase. The first to incorporate wireless communication technology, it would also be produced using a new, patented molding technology that combines different materials to yield the protection of a hard frame with the light weight of a foam shell. The case would incorporate popular Samsonite features such as Smart Stay, which keeps the case from opening more than 30 degrees when the shoulder strap is used, preventing contents from spilling. Between the novel features and the new manufacturing process, there was plenty of room for error. But that was out of the question because Samsonite was planning to make the Hardlite the first of many models using the new molding process.
Revamping the design process
Management realized that this project, involving the joint efforts of Samsonite engineers, a German lockmaker and a Portuguese moldmaker, would demand error-free communication and super-smooth collaboration. Just working out bugs related to the new molding process could require hundreds of design modifications, a process that formerly took weeks per change due to data translation delays and errors. To speed this process, Samsonite decided to engineer the entire product (case and molds) in NX, with suppliers using this software as well. Modeling took place simultaneously at all three sites. Teamcenter gave engineers immediate access to all product definition data. Samsonite used Teamcenter’s visualization technology (in standard JT file format) instead of paper drawings to convey design concepts to management and marketing personnel.
Why iterations went so quickly
Previously, when Samsonite engineers needed to modify a moldmaker's design, they struggled with an imported file or prepared a PowerPoint presentation showing the necessary changes. There was a lot of explanation and checking of others’ work. With everyone using NX on the Hardlite project, Samsonite engineers could quickly modify suppliers’ files themselves.
The key benefit of the all-NX approach was a much faster process of design modification, one speedy enough to permit design optimization and a thorough digital de-bugging of the briefcase and its molds. Changes were made so easily that the bugs related to the new molding process were worked out completely in software, prior to making the actual molds. Also, a new on/off function for the Smart Stay feature was created and implemented in only six weeks, something that would have been unheard of in the past. Best of all, when the cases went into production, quality was just what Samsonite wanted for this breakthrough briefcase.