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Integrated PLM and manufacturing technologies reduce non-productive idle time – even for small series and single item production
EROWA AG, a globally renowned tooling and clamping system manufacturer, has achieved significantly increased success since the introduction of Siemens PLM Software technology, including NX™ digital product development software and Teamcenter® digital lifecycle management software. The integration of Siemens’ PLM technology with EROWA’s Flexible Manufacturing Concept (FMC) system has enabled the company to establish transparent continuity across all of its product lifecycle processes from the receipt of an order to the delivery of the finished product.
Most importantly, the PLM solution has enabled the company to drastically reduce nonproductive standstill times and significantly prolong operable production of its manufacturing machines. These productivity increases have been evident even in the case of smaller series production and frequent changes that have affected customer orders, tools and workpieces.
Machining manufacturing processes only attain maximum efficiency when everyone involved in the product lifecycle is able to interact, including designers, NC programmers, production planners and machine operators. The NX system is well-suited to provide optimum delivery in such an environment. NX provides CAD/CAM/CAE capabilities for the entire design and manufacturing process, from industrial design and development to simulation, analysis, optimization, NC programming and production planning. Once NX users generate product data, it can be consistently used on a cross-departmental basis.
EROWA uses NX CAD to automate its design and product development processes, NX CAM to program and simulate its production processes and Teamcenter to administer all of the data generated throughout the company’s entire product lifecycle.
Siemens PLM software and FMC are based on a similar functional philosophy, where even the smallest part fits the largest plant. This enables EROWA to maximize the advantage of its FMC system by leveraging FMC in a PLM environment.
EROWA uses its easily understandable FMC system to simplify its production processes and extract the maximum benefit from modern manufacturing technologies. The production concept, which is also used in-house by EROWA, consists of four stages of implementation. The first stage is concerned with standardization, which shortens waiting times even for series production runs with an increasing number of variants and more frequent retooling. On the physical side, standardization is achieved by means of a common clamping system with standardized workpiece carriers equipped on all processing machines. This innovation shortens standstill times because workpieces move from machine to machine in defined reference positions. The clamping system forms a precise interface for automating the production process.
The functionalities of NX start to pay off at the second stage of implementation, where work steps that run in parallel are organized and potential savings are exploited. For example, through NX data imports, the clamping of workpieces takes place at the same time as other workpieces are being machined. The workpieces clamped in the workpiece carrier are set up in special measuring cells. Data is unambiguously assigned to each workpiece by means of inductive chips, which include a unique ID number that links to the main database. The database connects the chip ID to the CAD/CAM, measuring and process data. The chip on the workpiece carrier constantly informs the manufacturing organization about where the workpiece is located and which manufacturing steps have been completed.
The third implementation stage is concerned with automation. During this stage, the manufacturing cells are equipped with handling devices. This automation enables production to proceed even during unattended shifts at night or over the weekend.Once this expansion is in place, the machine operator can manage several manufacturing cells in parallel.
The entire manufacturing process becomes controllable with the integration of PLM – the fourth stage of implementation. By leveraging data from NX and Teamcenter, EROWA’s own cell control software is now able to inform the machine operator about how to correctly react to immediate requirements, such as change tracking, express processing or priority changes.
At this stage, EROWA is able to establish total continuity over the entire production sequence – from clamping the workpiece on the workpiece carrier and tool administration to production monitoring and warehousing. Productivity is increased as EROWA employees across the whole company are able to access and leverage Teamcenter-managed product and process knowledge as the basis for making the right decisions throughout the entire product lifecycle.
When EROWA adopted NX for product development, the company did more than simply improve the productivity of individual users and their respective departments. NX and Teamcenter are able to leverage both industry best practices and proprietary corporate knowledge to automate routine tasks, as well as to minimize errors, process delays and costintensive rework.
Designers are now able to streamline the design process by re-using existing tools and jigs. Among advantages, this facilitates savings by reducing the number of tool variants. Processes have been put in place to inform designers about new or changed tools and jigs. If new parts need to be created, the designer can search for similar parts in the Teamcenter database and modify these part designs. This best practice process saves a considerable amount of development time. EROWA also established a classification structure in Teamcenter so that designers can easily procure standard parts and gather quotes from approved suppliers.
In addition, NX is leveraged in a work process that automatically checks designs to validate their compliance with standards and regulations, as well as their ability to satisfy customer requirements. This process enables EROWA designers to recognize errors at an early stage and avoid subsequent amendments to the design or even costly changes to the physical prototype. With the aid of simulation tools, designers can evaluate several design variants virtually and make well-founded decisions more quickly. Designers are able to bring products that precisely meet customer requirements to the market in a competitive time frame.
The deep integration of NX and Teamcenter supports the entire product lifecycle in an optimum way. Teamcenter acts as a uniform data and visualization platform and a central source of information for all product information; it also facilitates common parts list management. Both designers and the operators of the individual machining centers always have an overview to the current status, tools and operating resources across the company’s entire manufacturing process. In addition, product design changes are automatically included in a simulation of the manufacturing process and their effects are checked and assessed.
The control system of every manufacturing cell contains the interface between the virtual NX world and the real FMC world. Robots, machines and workpieces, axis movements, feeds, rotary speeds, coolant supplies, tools and even the individual cutting tips are modeled in 3D and recorded by users with the current dimensions retained in NX. As a result, EROWA can optimize machining and movement sequences down to the finest detail and prevent collisions. Even the exchange of worn cutting tips is simulated, as is the optimization of the entire work sequence on the machine by means of additional work assignments. NX is constantly informed of the current location of a workpiece or tool and which manufacturing steps have been completed or are in progress. Since all relevant data is recorded in Teamcenter, there is no double storage of data in the case of changes.
A manufacturing cell can encompass several machining centers where several axes work simultaneously. The control system is located on a PC (cell computer). Simulation of the machining and handling is also performed here. The CAM simulation can be performed at any programming station; it is completely independent of the machining operations that take place simultaneously on the individual machines. NX CAM is a complete system with all of the elements of an NC programming system, including capabilities for programming and checking tool paths, machine tool simulation, data conversion, process planning and workshop documentation, and CAD functions for modeling components and assemblies, such as clamping devices, jigs and handling devices. Manual programming of machine tools is no longer necessary.
The extensive range of EROWA’s PLM solution provides significant benefits and far-reaching possibilities for the company in implementing numerous innovation initiatives efficiently and quickly, with continuous functionality for brainstorming, developing, planning and manufacturing new products through to their delivery and service. EROWA’s enterprise PLM strategy enables the connection of all company locations, different disciplines, partners, and product and process knowledge in a uniform database accessible to all lifecycle participants. Since all participants work with the same up-to-date database, valuable synergies are leveraged and costs saved in every lifecycle phase.
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EROWA AG develops, produces and distributes a complete range of industrial products, including tooling systems, automation facilities and process control software. The tooling systems interface between the machine and the workpiece. The measuring systems serve to get offset data and for quality control. The loading systems contain all robots for workpiece change. And the data transfer systems include all software products to control the production machines.
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