Rotobec introduces innovation for new product development
Attachment manufacturer’s managed development environment facilitates concurrent engineering, accelerates information access across the supply chain and dramatically improves productivity through design re-use
- With increasing competition from European and North American companies, Rotobec sought to make dramatic improvements in its 3D-based product development process, driving far greater efficiencies.
Boosting the efficiency with a managed development environment
Rotobec, located in Sainte-Justine, Quebec, Canada, is the North American leader in continuous rotation attachments (grapples). The company also produces attachments for other material handling applications, such as orange peel grapples for the recycling industry and clamshell buckets for aggregate and wood chip handling. Outside of its core attachment business, Rotobec also manufactures and commercializes harvesting heads and log loaders dedicated to niche environments. Rotobec products are sold around the world and the company is known for its commitment to customer satisfaction.
In recent years, increasing competition has forced Rotobec to look for ways to operate more efficiently. The company has long relied on CAD to speed product development. It was one of the first companies in the province to implement 3D when it adopted Unigraphics nearly 20 years ago. Rotobec has since upgraded to NX. At the time of the upgrade, to make sure its designers were getting as much value as possible from the software, Rotobec asked Siemens to evaluate the designers’ use of NX and then put together a training program to address their needs. “We see a big difference,” says Sylvain Talbot, designer and Teamcenter implementation leader at Rotobec. “We are using functionality that we didn’t use before.” Using NX, Rotobec achieves “almost perfect products when they are released into production,” says Talbot.
To increase efficiency of product development even further, one year ago Rotobec began an implementation of Teamcenter product lifecycle management (PLM) software. By adding this to its implementation of NX, the company has created a managed development environment that offers the time and cost-saving advantages that Rotobec needs to compete in its increasingly competitive market.
Managed development is more productive development
Teamcenter provides the information management and collaboration infrastructure that Rotobec needed to streamline product development. For example, all design data is now stored and managed in the Teamcenter vault. Currently the vault contains all NX part and assembly files. In the future Rotobec will store engineering specifications, service manuals and other technical documentation there as well, giving people a single location where they can find all product-related documents.
One of the benefits of using Teamcenter is that it is now easier to find and re-use existing designs than it was in the past. Previously, designs were printed and stored as drawings, which meant that designers had to search through stacks of paper to find what they were looking for. “We always tried to re-use designs in the past, but it took so much time to find what we wanted that re-using information wasn’t really as effective as it should have been,” says Talbot. “Now, with Teamcenter’s strong search capabilities we can find what we need with a few mouse clicks.” Rotobec has reduced the time it takes to find an existing design. Because designers aren’t wasting time searching for information, and because they spend less time recreating existing designs, productivity has increased. Also, they can now trust that the information they’re working with is accurate and up-to-date.
Moving toward parallel development
Another benefit of making product data available from a single location is that there is now a platform for concurrent engineering. Rotobec’s engineering team includes five engineers and eight designers. When launching a new project, Rotobec tries to build a team that will mix diverse experience, result in new ideas and permit shared knowledge. This was difficult to do in the past when most design work was done serially. “Now that everything is available in Teamcenter, the circulation of information is more fluid and we are able to create teams that work concurrently,” says Talbot. The benefit of this will be faster time-to-market. “We can see improvement already, and we think that in a year or two we will be able to develop even more quickly because we will do more of the work in parallel,” Talbot says.
Rotobec will soon be using Teamcenter to make product information available to manufacturing. Currently, the company allots resources to the task of delivering product data to the shop floor. Soon, manufacturing personnel will be able to call up documents such as work orders and drawings on their own using Teamcenter. Teamcenter’s visualization capabilities will permit them to interact with all relevant product data, irrespective of what created it or where it came from. The ability to view 3D CAD models this way will be much more effective than looking at drawings for understanding how assemblies go together.