Alpine technology/urban mobility leader streamlines global operations using Siemens PLM Software solutions
Rope systems specialist utilizes real-time release process to reduce costs
For 125 years, LEITNER has been a synonym for high performance in cable car technology. Over more than one century, the company has grown into a world-class organization with its core business in installations for winter resorts – cable cars, gondola lifts, chairlifts, funiculars, cliff railways and button lifts. The company also manufactures snow groomers and tracked vehicles (PRINOTH), snowmaking systems (DEMACLENKO), urban ropeways (MINIMETRO) and wind turbines (LEITWIND). The resulting group has seven brands, including AGUDIO, with longstanding experience in material transportation.
“Today, we are leaders in the winter business because we can deliver a full package to ski resorts, providing an essential competitive benefit, especially in new markets where operators setting up new ski resorts from scratch prefer to have a single supplier for all equipment,” says Alois Sparber, chief information officer (CIO) at LEITNER. “We are also growing fast in the wind power industry. Direct-drive wind generators are based on a working principle similar to our ski lifts.”
With 3,300 employees and approaching its one billion euro revenue target, LEITNER Group (LEITNER) invests consistently in research and development (R&D) to promote innovation.
Distributed design, reduced costs
The group’s product portfolio is very large, with design and manufacturing operations distributed among different integrated companies. Concept and initial offer are often based on simple 2D drawings showing the layout of stations and gondolas. The technical department team then develops parts in 3D, re-using a significant number of components and assemblies from previous projects.
Well-managed standardization and classification systems are critical to the success of LEITNER and its strategic partner, POMA. LEITNER is the majority owner of POMA. While the businesses operate independently, they collaborate on such activities as the purchase of raw materials.
To add value to the design of cable cars, gondolas and utility vehicles, whose success no longer depends almost entirely on functionality but now also on visual impact, the company collaborates with famous designers. Some snow groomers were designed by Pininfarina, and LEITNER’s designers are now creating new top-class gondolas with interiors by BMW.
Until 2012, design was scattered across multiple sites, with five main centers in Sterzing, Bozen, Vienna, Telfs and Turin, as well as two additional sites in France for the POMA and SIGMA brands. There is also a central hub that synchronizes project information across all sites. LEITNER addressed this issue with the implementation of product lifecycle management (PLM) technology, deploying Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter® software. The use of Teamcenter enabled LEITNER to reduce the number of active sites and laid the foundation for creating a unified organization, with a single hub, three main sites in Europe and one site in North America.
Sparber explains that there were a number of compelling reasons to streamline information exchange and data synchronization across all sites. Moreover, the resulting large-scale deployment of the Teamcenter solution delivered significant benefits relative to a distributed, collaborative design team. “We have different units working for the rope technology division,” says Sparber. “Therefore, integration is a key factor for efficiency. Until 2010, updates and synchronizations had a rigid time schedule, with possible risks of misalignment and obsolete data. Now, with the four-tier architecture of Teamcenter, all information is released in real time.”
Sparber notes, “We wanted to simplify, streamline and cut costs without impacting quality. Having decreased the number of servers to manage, we are reducing costs dramatically. Conversely, we needed to expand bandwidth; however, this is available at affordable prices today, so it is a natural step. We don’t yet have exact figures for the economic benefits resulting from deploying Teamcenter, but we have no doubts about significant savings and potential savings. Already, we have minimized the number of servers, eliminated overtime hours and cut costs for the production of parts that already exist.”
Integration across sites
The dissemination of Teamcenter at all levels of the LEITNER Group is clearly indicated by the number of installed licenses: 213 at LEITNER’s Vipiteno, Italy site and 25 at its Granby (Québec), Canada site, which represents the access point to America, as well as 90 for server management at the POMA facility in France. The integration project was supported by the availability of faster networking infrastructures and the continuous evolution of Siemens PLM Software solutions. “Siemens PLM Software technology has been an essential part of enabling us to reduce the number of servers we support and related costs,” notes Sparber. “Exceptional PLM advancements have enabled us to centralize and streamline all management and configuration tasks.”
Today, Teamcenter is utilized for data management by approximately 85 engineers who use Siemens PLM Software’s NX™ software as well as other mechanical and electrical computer-aided design (CAD) packages. That covers 210 users, 70 of which are design-based. “With Teamcenter, we manage all engineering activities in the technical department – including bills of materials (BOMs), all models and drawings, technical specifications and other documents, release states – up to the stage where products enter the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.”
By the end of 2013, the entire organization will be standardized on LEITNER’s ERP system. Direct and seamless integration between PLM and ERP was a critical performance factor. “We have great expectations from standardization. Our goal is to harmonize all processes in the technical area to reduce the number of components as well as increase the re-use of components, drawings and numerical control (NC) programs,” says Luca Caspani, PLM manager at LEITNER. “In this way, we will cut both time-to-market and costs. Already, lead time for a plant, from order to delivery of the manufacturing bill, has shrunk to six months. If you don’t have ready-to-use key components, it is impossible to meet such strict deadlines.”
Not only engineering
Many non-CAD professionals at LEITNER also use Teamcenter. Their use includes the management of numerous purchasing and production documents. The company is now considering upgrades, including adding special change management functionality and advanced classification technology, and possibly implementing a shape recognizer.
“Another essential integration project involves mechatronics,” says LEITNER’s Christian Allegrini, Research and Development, Rope Technology. “Until recently, electrical design wasn’t integrated with Teamcenter and we were losing control of the situation. At the end of 2012, we launched a process to integrate our electrical design offices, because we realized the high value of having the electrical system integrated with the NX model. After several meetings, discussions and analyses, we made the decision to use Teamcenter to manage electrical engineering data, which we create using specialized electrical CAD software.”
Sparber points out, “It’s important that the entire design process be on a unified platform, shared and accessible to all LEITNER engineers. We feel that mechanical and electrical engineering must be integrated to increase efficiencies, and for this purpose we rely on Teamcenter.”
The same is true for finite element analysis (FEA) and finite element modeling (FEM) applications. LEITNER’s engineers had been using distinct applications for structural analysis. Now, analysis is integrated with Teamcenter and NX, so that calculations can be executed during the design and development phase, without exporting or converting 3D models. “In this way, possible modifications are immediately reflected via structural analysis,” says Allegrini. “When a component changes, we can immediately identify all associated calculations. For structural analysis, we have selected Siemens PLM Software’s Femap™ software. We are adopting Femap at Leitwind, our wind power division, and then plan to extend the software to our Ropeways business unit, acquiring many licenses for our R&D team.”
LEITNER has also implemented computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology, with a machine tool pilot project currently underway. The computer numerical control (CNC) output files, setup sheets, and tool lists are all generated by NX CAM from the NX model. Full associativity between design and manufacturing applications allows any subsequent changes to be automatically updated.