Accelerating product development to capitalize on changing customer tastes
3D CAD enabled development of a new line of steel office storage products in only nine months, a cycle time reduction of 50 percent
Changing customer tastes
Triumph is one of the UK’s leading designers and manufacturers of steel office furniture and storage solutions. In recent years the company has found that tastes in steel office storage are changing, with customers demanding fully welded flush carcase designs, rather than panel-based systems. This trend is being driven by the fact that flush designs create a more streamlined look which is more pleasing to the eye – particularly important for the growing number of offices in which storage systems are also used for screening and partitioning.
To capitalize on these changing customer tastes Triumph was intent on replacing its panel-based products with a welded flush carcase design across the range. The company’s goal was to design and bring its new range to market at Orgatec, the premier office furniture fair in Cologne, Germany. This gave the company an extremely tight timescale of just nine months to design, develop and introduce its new product range. Normally developing a new range would be expected to take in the region of 18 months.
Moving from 2D to 3D
In order to create the new improved designs and to meet its fast time-to- market, Triumph made the decision to move away from the Radan 2D CAD design software it was using to a more sophisticated 3D CAD modeling system. It was felt that 3D modeling would be better suited to supporting the company in its rapid product development program. The expectation was that the designers would be far more productive working in 3D, having to do less visualization in their heads, with less reworking and a greater likelihood of getting their designs right first time.
The design team at Triumph, which is headed by senior designer, Nick Wilding, evaluated a number of 3D packages including SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor and Solid Edge® software from Siemens PLM Software. The company was specifically looking for an easy-to-use product that would let its designers – who had become very accustomed to working in 2D – migrate smoothly to 3D and work swiftly to develop the new product range. A key requirement was for the product to include a robust sheet metal design component. Solid Edge and SolidWorks were both close to meeting the company’s requirements. Wilding explains, “We considered both Solid Edge and SolidWorks to be excellent products. But in the end we decided on Solid Edge, because of its sheet metal application and its ease of use. The all-round quality of Solid Edge combined with the quality of the demo and the service from Cutting Edge Solutions Ltd (Oxfordshire), a leading Siemens solutions provider in the UK, also helped make the decision for us. Solid Edge also came highly recommended from Triumph customers who had previous experience of using it.”
“The software was picked up and implemented within a week of receiving a copy,” says Wilding. “We did not believe any of the other systems could be up and running so quickly, making the decision easy for us.”
Winning over Triumph personnel was always going to be a challenge as the design team had preconceived ideas about 3D as opposed to the existing trusty 2D system. Solid Edge is particularly good at easing the migration from 2D to 3D and this helped to reassure Triumph about any difficulties the changeover might cause the design team. The software enables users to continue working on existing 2D drawings and data and includes a 3D wizard to turn them into intelligent 3D models. 2D and 3D representations can be mixed and matched in a hybrid system, with 3D detail only being added when required. In this way organizations can gradually begin introducing the advantages of 3D to all their projects.
Following the swift implementation and product training for Solid Edge, Triumph embarked on its product development program to meet its Orgatec deadline. The pressure to turn around the development cycle as quickly as possible was even greater because, in the meantime, the company had won a tender to supply 4,750 units to a large customer for delivery three months before the official planned launch of the new range in Cologne. “The customer order certainly focused the team, and became a useful ‘preproduction’ run,” explains Wilding.
Improved accuracy and less rework
Wilding recalls, “Solid Edge was a key tool during development, producing a high success rate by ensuring that required parts could be developed quickly and accurately – negating the need for rework, which had always been a major problem using our previous software. Working with Solid Edge what you see on screen is what you get – leading to less guesswork and much greater accuracy.
“The ability to model our products in 3D was a great benefit. Previously we would spend valuable development time manufacturing real models – many of which would have to be scrapped because they were not what were actually required. With Solid Edge we could create accurate 3D CAD models which could be assessed onscreen for suitability.”
Moreover, the ability to quickly generate parts in 3D and then manufacture those actual parts, led to much higher accuracy and success rates across sheet steel and plastic molded parts. In the end, supported by Solid Edge, Triumph was able to design and successfully introduce its new range of products and to meet its customer order ahead of Orgatec.
Wilding sums up the contribution of the Siemens software, “Solid Edge was instrumental in enabling us to successfully meet our product development deadlines. It is so user friendly, meaning that our designers were able to become productive with the new software almost immediately. It improved accuracy and produced a fantastic reduction in the amount of rework required, saving us time and money and ultimately contributed to us being able to halve our product development cycle to just nine months. On top of this our team actually found the product very enjoyable to work with.”