Case Study

3D wins business by lowering costs to customers

Hess Industries Ltd.

A solids-based design process increases efficiency and reduces rework, permitting a significant reduction in the price of progressive and transfer dies

A commitment to great work

Hess Industries Ltd. is a full service tool and die shop specializing in building and repairing progressive and transfer dies using the most advanced technology. Its customers include Tier 2 and Tier 3 automotive suppliers as well as companies that make consumer appliances and motorcycle parts. Hess Industries operates by the principles in its vision statement, which says, “We are firmly committed to earning our reputation as a dependable and trustworthy supplier of high quality goods and services to the metal working industry. Always employing cutting-edge technology, Hess’s dedicated team of responsive employees delivers exceptional value, on time, every time. In all of our accomplishments we give honor and glory to God.”

Hess Industries faces challenges common to American companies in a variety of industries. One is to reduce turnaround time, as customers are demanding tooling built in less time. Another challenge involves finding ways to reduce overall costs to its customers as a way of competing against the lower labor costs overseas. Hess is using technology to address these challenges, and one of its most successful efforts so far has been an upgrade from 2D AutoCAD to solid modeling. “We have to be more efficient at how we design and build our dies,” says Mark Hess, the company’s founder and president. “We needed to streamline our process. The move to solid modeling has definitely helped us accomplish that.”

Compatibility with customers, suppliers

Hess Industries chose Solid Edge® CAD software from Siemens over SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor for several reasons. The main reason was Solid Edge’s tight integration with Siemens’ high-end design software solution, NX™, which is used by many of Hess’s customers in the auto industry. “Both Solid Edge and NX are built on the same Parasolid® software foundation,” Hess explains. “The integration between them is excellent and they share the same support staff.” But Solid Edge’s compatibility is much broader than that, which was another reason why Hess choseit. “Our customers and vendors have a variety of different CAD systems and we liked the number of different file formats we could bring into Solid Edge,” he continues.

Solid Edge’s ability to work with the company’s legacy AutoCAD data was another selling point. “The ability to go back and forth between 2D and 3D made the transition easier,” Hess notes. Finally, other tool and die shops in northeastern Ohio had selected Solid Edge for their own use, helping convince Hess this was the right choice for them as well. The local Solid Edge reseller, Appropriate Technology, provided customized training for Hess’s designers. “The training was really excellent,” Hess says.

Kenny Ginter, a tool designer at Hess, says he finds Solid Edge to be “very user friendly” and easy to customize. “We can tailor it to suit the way our company works,” Ginter explains. “For example, I was able to set up a file that automatically loads the tooling data that is standard for the machining operations in our shop.”

Customers evaluate virtual dies

With Hess’s new solids-based design process, customers’ 3D parts are imported into Solid Edge and the die is then designed as a solid assembly around them. One of the most important advantages to working this way, according to both Hess and Ginter, is the ability to visualize a die and the end product in 3D while the die is still in the design stage. Customers use a free viewer to pull up, rotate and zoom in on the models. They also take advantage of easy screen captures for 3D design reviews. “This is very important for the customer because it gives them a clear view of what the tool will look like before we cut any metal,” explains Ginter. “But it’s also important for those designing the tools because it helps them avoid errors often times not visible in a 2D design. It’s much easier to see the complexities of the die in 3D compared to looking at a number of 2D drawings.”

Another advantage of the new process is the ability to re-use Solid Edge data in the CAM program rather than recreating it there, as in the past. “When we had to redraw the AutoCAD data and add surfaces for machining, it was very time-consuming,” says Hess. “Now, CNC programming tasks that formerly took hours, now take only minutes.

Since Hess Industries has been using Solid Edge, the company has reduced its overall costs, allowing it to give its customers a more competitive price. Hess stated that the reduction in error and rework has saved the company both time and cost. In addition, the time to write the CNC programs has also been reduced. This reduction helps Hess Industries bridge the gap between what foreign competition charges to build dies, which Hess says is typically 30 percent lower than American manufacturers.

Overall, moving to 3D has been so beneficial for Hess and his company that he recommends it to all American manufacturers as a way to stay competitive in difficult times. “Today many companies are facing the same struggles that they did when they were designing on the board and had to make a change to AutoCAD,” Hess says. “It was easier to just draw something up on the board. But those companies that made the transition and spent effort to change are different now because they did, and the companies that continued to draw on the board are no longer around. I believe that 2D to 3D transition is in the same category. The sooner you make that decision to go into the 3D world, the more opportunities you’ll have. It is the right decision.”

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