Process efficiencies allow a focus on innovation and patent registration
Teamcenter and NX link design and engineering with manufacturing and ERP
When accuracy really matters
When a dental technician creates a crown, it must fit exactly. When a surgeon performs a delicate technique on the brain, there is absolutely no room for error. When working to deadlines, many manufacturers cannot stop to take components off machines to check precision. In these situations, Renishaw’s measuring instruments and probes provide accuracy where tolerances are measured in microns – thousandths of a millimeter.
Since the early 1970s, when Renishaw created a new specialist market, the company has been an innovator in metrology, the science of measurement. Its first product, the touch-trigger probe, was invented to solve a specific inspection requirement for the Rolls-Royce Olympus engines used on the Concorde. Renishaw’s tools are now used by machine manufacturers across the world, with the healthcare and dental sectors emerging as new applications for calibration and measurement.
Renishaw has kept its leading position by a continuous commitment to innovative products and processes, all protected by patents. According to Martin Rudnicki, PLM manager, this is the company’s business model and the reason for its success. However, patents run out and competitors aim to catch up. Renishaw is always seeking to stay ahead by adding new technology to its products and refining its own processes. “We’ve invested a huge amount of R&D on the manufacturing process as well as design,” Rudnicki says. “We are an R&D company and Siemens PLM Software products are part of our fabric and strategy.” The company uses the NX™ digital product development system and the Teamcenter® digital lifecycle management solution to help maintain its position.
CAD upgrade leads to Teamcenter
Renishaw made the move from 2D to 3D modeling within its mechanical design department in 1991. “At that time our strategy was to bring design and manufacturing together as closely as possible,” Rudnicki says. “Over the years, we have achieved that. We can get from solid model to production very quickly because we have developed a streamlined process based on our NX suite of solid modeling, drafting, assemblies and CAM. This reduces overall development time and improves design quality. The initial design process has shortened from weeks to days by using rapid prototyping direct from the NX data.”
After streamlining the CAD/CAM process, data management became the next issue. “In the early days we had to go to the source application to obtain information,” Rudnicki explains. “This meant that someone from manufacturing, for example, had to ask a designer for a document. That was clearly inefficient. We knew we wanted to integrate data throughout the whole process and the only way to do this was with a product data management (PDM) system.”
The original PDM system served as a data repository with access via a web browser. The benefits were clear immediately. “It was a means by which to deploy data without individuals needing to understand the design application,” Rudnicki explains. “Manufacturing could take a look at drawings. Procurement began to use it to manage proprietary parts, and documentation began to use it to store desktop publishing files.”
In 2004, Renishaw upgraded to Teamcenter. Prior to this, the company conducted a pilot study. “We were convinced by the integration possibilities,” Rudnicki says. “It was clear that we could use Teamcenter for everything and interface with other applications. There was a clear technological justification and the group engineering director and the financial director approved the upgrade.”
Using NX and Teamcenter across the business enables the transfer of data and engineers between facilities in different countries because the same toolset is used regardless of geography. Teamcenter is now used within the machine shop, assembly and procurement. Non-CAD staff access design data relevant to their jobs, reducing the time taken from issue to distribution. Renishaw is preparing a tool management database in Teamcenter. The Teamcenter part planning functionality will assist in consolidating process documentation under a unified bill of manufacture.
Teamcenter also controls the application that creates user guides and data sheets and Renishaw leverages this capability in repair centers across the world, as well as at its assembly unit in India, which complements its main manufacturing facilities in the UK and Ireland. The electronic design team uses Teamcenter to store its data and each specialist application has an interface with Teamcenter, giving end users direct access to controlled data. Previously, the data would have been requested from the UK, incurring delays due to international time zones.
The full Teamcenter implementation gave Renishaw the opportunity to review all of its processes. “Teamcenter highlights any inconsistencies and shows what we take for granted so it can improve strategy and thinking,” Rudnicki notes. Engineering change is the focus of a major ongoing project. As Rudnicki explains, “The aim is to reduce the level of changes by a greater understanding of cost, risk and production cut-in and then planning changes effectively so that we minimize the impact on manufacturing. The process of implementing Teamcenter prompts questions and gives an opportunity to re-evaluate. We have found this again and again with Teamcenter – it forces you to think about how to approach something.”
Renishaw also intends to fully integrate Teamcenter with its new MRP solution, SyteLine, to allow people to exchange information and make better decisions. “We did not have this possibility with our previous MRP solution,” Rudnicki adds. The objective is to enable design and production to fully understand the impact on processes, materials and lead times when introducing product change.
Another objective is to extend the benefits of visualization and allow some users to manipulate the solid model as well as see it. For this reason Renishaw is in the process of implementing the JT™ neutral file format. Rudnicki notes, “With our new engineering change process, the ability to annotate solid models, drawings and parts lists will be key to providing graphical information within a controlled envi-ronment. This will improve communication between the design and manufacturing teams without compromising security.”
More time to focus on innovation
According to Rudnicki, efficiency gains are one of the main benefits that NX and Teamcenter bring. “We have improved the efficiency of the design process and are reducing non-value added activities,” he says. “By automating processes, our design engineers can concentrate on their core skills and no longer have to get involved when other people require design data. For example, if someone interrupts a mechanical designer to ask for a drawing, they are breaking in on conceptual work. If procurement relies on a designer to provide information for a quote and the designer is not available, that creates a delay. Teamcenter collapses this lead time because everyone can get information for himself or herself. And because Teamcenter enables continuity and good housekeeping it is always the latest information, available instantly and without error. This saves time, avoids frustration and speeds up the communication between the team members.”
The ability to access design data at any time is particularly useful for machine shops that work shifts on two nearby sites and for the assembly plants in Ireland and India. For example, the machine shop can see what is due to enter production. Product engineers can access information such as a technical publication or a drawing and get information on a proprietary part. This enables better decision making, especially with regard to timing.
One new application area is brain surgery, particularly for Parkinson’s disease. This emerging technology depends on implanting electrodes deep within the brain with great accuracy. Renishaw is using Teamcenter to manage this project, which has a high degree of security because it is commercially sensitive. “Innovation and patent protection are fundamental to the success of the business,” Rudnicki says. “Teamcenter gives us the level of flexibility and control we need to manage our R&D projects.”