Advanced technology enables breakthrough vehicle development
Replacing CAD system with advanced PLM solution enables innovation across automotive design and manufacturing
New age, new solutions
Ulyanovsk Automobile Company (UAZ), a leading Russian off-road automotive manufacturer, was established in 1941. Today, UAZ vehicles are exported to more than 20 countries. UAZ’s family of cars has been significantly updated recently as the company replaced its prior product line with modern offroad vehicles including the UAZ Patriot, UAZ Hunter and UAZ Pickup.
Management considers advanced design technologies key to the company’s product development success. In March 2003, UAZ formalized the decision to replace its outmoded CAD system with one that could accelerate the development process and improve design quality.
The company planned to use the new CAD technology at every stage of the vehicle development lifecycle – from conceptual design to quality management. Therefore, UAZ approached the software selection process with great care.
There were three CAD candidates: Pro/Engineer, Catia and NX™ software. More than 100 selection and functionality criteria were proposed as part of the evaluation process. The company also established software configuration requirements.
“In the course of test runs, our workgroup’s experts investigated and analyzed these systems,” recalls Ivan V. Laptev, who directs UAZ’s CAD Department. “As to functionality, NX was the winner – being a more integrated system suitable not only for product development, but also for tooling design and NC programming.”
The workgroup determined that Siemens PLM Software’s NX system provided a number of key competitive advantages – software and hardware-independence, wide use both in Russia and abroad and especially in the automobile industry, and excellent consulting support.Other important factors included its problem-free geometric data exchange, comprehensive portfolio of modules and preconfigured solutions, and strong CAM functionality. UAZ was particularly impressed with NX’s ease of use, leading functionality for part and assembly modeling, drafting and process documentation, and the system’s ability to capture product knowledge for re-use. In addition and importantly, Siemens PLM Software’s NX solution offered a better price-quality ratio.
Considering NX’s breadth of benefits, UAZ invested in the Siemens system and began deployment in the fall of 2003.
UAZ Patriot – an engineering breakthrough
UAZ’s NX training was performed concurrently with the software’s test run. “The training was provided by the top experts from Siemens PLM Software’s Russian office,” says Laptev. “Siemens experts were at the factory all the time and guided us through any issues we encountered. Classes took place at the company’s training center almost every week for half a year. Since the end of 2003 (and through 2004), more than 120 people from many departments were trained in various aspects of NX. The study program covered the system’s entire functionality, including user application development tools. Today, the training still goes on. We hire new people; we use new technologies. User skills are continually advanced.”
The company’s training involved a real-world venture – a car restyling project resulting in the UAZ 3163 Patriot. Laptez explains, “NX’s deployment coincided with the beginning of the UAZ Patriot’s development. Collaboration between our engineers and Siemens PLM Software’s experts resulted in an extremely fast and high-quality design process and production planning for the new car.Once the manufacturing started in early 2005, it became obvious that NX was an excellent value since it facilitated the new car’s rapid development.”
Management noted that the company’s new car development technology represented a real breakthrough. Previously, UAZ took four to five years to design a new vehicle. But the UAZ Patriot’s deep upgrade took just 1.5 years. NX played a key role in significantly reducing product and tooling design time, as well as NC programming time.
Another important benefit of the NX deployment is the system’s ability to detect errors during the design stage. Prior to using NX, UAZ encountered costly errors en route to manufacturing.
The UAZ 3163 Patriot’s successful start was a pivotal factor in UAZ’s decision to apply NX to all of its new projects. “Today, all engineering changes are performed with Siemens PLM Software solutions,” says Laptev. “Both the UAZ Patriot and UAZ Hunter have been deeply upgraded. A number of our older models were also updated and some tooling restored. The brand new UAZ Pickup also was developed with NX.”
Designing a paperless car
Today, more than 190 people at UAZ use Siemens PLM Software solutions on a daily basis. The company has created a unified development and manufacturing workflow across conceptual design, production planning, tool making, manufacturing, quality management and reverse engineering.
UAZ uses Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) tools at each workflow stage. NX digital product development software is used by every engineering department for automobile part and tooling design. Solid Edge® CAD software is employed to develop design and manufacturing documents along with sketches and simple designs. Imageware™ freefrom modeling and inspection software is used to restore parts and tooling geometry and for quality management and reverse engineering. Tecnomatix® digital manufacturing software, the Jack application, helps with ergonomics evaluation, the car’s controls and interior analysis. And today, the Teamcenter® digital lifecycle management solution is engaged for the company’s product data management (PDM) needs.
Laptev notes, “Thanks to Siemens PLM Software’s solutions, we have saved a lot of time and money. We have switched to paperless technology and it significantly accelerates our collaboration.”
UAZ has created a standard digital feature and parts library that is extensively used. The library was developed by the company’s IT department in three months. The library is especially valuable for UAZ designers because it facilitates part re-use and improves design quality.
Laptev points out that modern technologies at UAZ have liberated the designers from tedious, non-creative activities. “Before Siemens’ solutions, many people considered new technologies to be just toys, but now our engineers cannot do without them. No design solution is made without the CAD system. In addition, learning the 3D modeling technology facilitates professional growth.”
Teamcenter – a new digital stage
In 2008, the company’s management made a decision to expand beyond CAD. “We badly needed a product data management system,” explains Laptev. “We were choking on the enormous volume of hard-to-manage information.”
After a thorough analysis of several candidate systems, UAZ chose Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter as its PDM solution.
The company’s PDM project started in the middle of 2008. Initially, the pilot Teamcenter deployment was supposed to upload and verify a product structure for just one car’s configuration, but over the course of this project, these plans were expanded.
The company uses numerous OEM parts and units, as well as joint inter-model BOMs. As a result, feeding just one product structure into the system was not efficient enough. “Today, the designer does not repeat the same operation over and over again; a BOM configuration is created instead,” Laptev says. “The designer now approaches product data structure management issues differently.”
Future Teamcenter integration will focus on transforming the data structures of all production vehicles to module-based ones. The company is also considering a plan to develop and approve its design documentation through Teamcenter, as well as to integrate the product data authoring and management capabilities of its production planning departments with Teamcenter.
Successful deployment, tangible results
Ulyanovsk Automobile Company has successfully deployed digital product development and production planning technology, and achieved meaningful results that are enabling a competitive edge. The company has significantly decreased development time, while product quality has changed substantially for the better, in part due to product and tooling design flaws being detected early. In aggregate, the company’s newly integrated development and manufacturing workflow saves substantial time and money and improves vehicle quality.
“Siemens PLM Software’s solutions exactly meet our expectations”, Laptev says. “We have gained new experience, learned modern design technologies used by world-leading automobile makers and we have also reached a critical new level of CAD usage in the development of a fully digital vehicle mockup.”