Becoming a global player with a premium brand
Fuji Heavy Industries
Fuji Heavy Industries is increasing knowledge capture and re-use as a way to speed development and lower the production costs of increasingly complex dies – key enablers in achieving its business plan
Improvement in design and manu-facturing efficiency is a key element of Fuji Heavy Industries’ strategy for future success.
Respected automaker plans for the future
Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) is known for its Subaru brand of automobiles, which features such popular and proprietary technologies as all-time four-wheel drive (AWD) and a horizontally-opposed (boxer) engine. Although the Subaru brand has become firmly established in the marketplace, FHI has embarked on a plan to ensure its success into the future. As all automakers search for new business strategies to fight for survival, FHI is currently implementing a new mid-term business plan called FDR-1 (Fuji Dynamic Revolution 1), which was formulated in May 2002. The vision behind FDR-1 is: “To be a global player with a premium brand.”
One of the important goals of FDR-1 is reducing manufacturing costs. As part of this goal, FHI is working to improve the efficiency of die design and manufacturing operations, realizing that this area holds the key to cost competitiveness. A related goal is to transform the factory where Subaru dies are made into a global die factory that serves other customers as well.
NX for knowledge-enabled die design
The die design group of the Machine and Tool Department at Subaru’s Manufacturing Division has a long history of working with 3-dimensional designs. This technology has made it possible to create die designs that require little rework, have fewer errors and require fewer man-hours for addressing problems during try-out and optimization. Die design continues to be a challenge, especially with new car panel specifications becoming more complex every year. Meanwhile, other challenges facing the company involve the decreasing number of experienced designers and the transfer of maturing designers to different departments. This has raised concerns about the acquisition and succession of design expertise.
To address these challenges (and under orders from the Subaru Manufacturing Division director and as part of the implementation of FDR-1), the engineering group set a goal of automating press die design operations. Among different proposals considered, the group chose NX™ software as the system that best supports this effort. NX provides knowledge capture and re-use capabilities, and also has dedicated modules that provide tremendous support for press die design. In addition, FHI has incorporated its own proprietary operational expertise as NX provides an open development environment that enables it to be used in conjunction with other systems. FHI considered the use of NX to be the optimal approach for incorporating company knowledge and achieving design automation quickly and affordably. Subaru also considered the expertise of Siemens’ development organization, as well as future plans for the NX software, strategic to its selection decision.
Knowledge re-use improves die design efficiency
A key concept in achieving automation is the ability to embed designer expertise, operational rules and knowledge associated with structural design into 3D models. Using NX as a base, FHI first added attributes such as design regulations and manufacturing process information during process design, then used this information to develop its die structural design automation system. The plan was to create a system that does not rely on designer skills and in which design models can be re-used. At the same time, the group sought to achieve a large reduction in design time through improved efficiency and reduction in errors by modifying its design process.
Traditionally, even when design was done using 3D models, the manufacturing division always received design diagrams on paper. Now, with manufacturing sites using a 3D viewer, the division is communicating design intent more effectively, incurring fewer errors and reducing the number of man-hours required for design creation. In addition, the NX-based approach sets the stage for expanding FHI’s resources in die manufacture outside the company.