Aerospace & Defense
Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Koenig & Bauer AG is one of the leading manufacturers of printing presses worldwide.
Manufacturers such as Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) use many purchased standard parts in the designs of their machines. They also redesign a certain number of components that already exist or are very similar to existing parts. As the well-known saying goes, they “reinvent the wheel.” Or they lose time looking for the appropriate screws, nuts and so on. The huge printing presses made by KBA, a leading manufacturer with locations all over the world, consist of approximately 80 percent standard and purchased parts, and design engineers spend between 10 and 60 percent of their time looking for components. According to one of the company’s surveys, the expenses for a new part, including design, purchasing, logistics, support and quality management, can add up to several thousand Euros.
With multiple facilities and having acquired other companies (which brought their own part families and standards), KBA has been working to bring product information management under control for quite a while. An older part classification system contained 30,000 components in a total of 2,500 part families. However parts were only described by their attributes. A graphical representation was maintained in a paper catalog of standard parts, which each design engineer had to search manually.
When KBA implemented Unigraphics in 1999 as its new design technology, UG/Manager took over data management. Before the introduction of the product data management (PDM) system iMAN in 2001, standard parts were administered in Excel spreadsheets, which corresponded to the Unigraphics part families. A graphical search was impossible. “Components were locked in the ERP system,” says Elmar Tober, KBA manager in charge of standardization for web presses and responsible for implementing a PDM-integrated method of part classification in the KBA group. “Designers didn’t notice this until the release and then faced a problem at the end of their work process.”
With the goal of overcoming these difficulties once and for all, KBA cooperated with another manufacturer, Hauni AG, to develop requirement specifications for a new classification tool. The fundamental requirements were: redundancy-free, clear filing of components, assemblies, design parts and logical conjunctions; graphically supported searches using class hierarchy; fast description of search results with graphical information; and the ability to use the found components directly in the CAD environment.
Meanwhile KBA had measurably improved its design by installing the NX™ product development system (which evolved from Unigraphics) on all of its 450 workstations. KBA had also considerably enhanced its data management by using the Teamcenter® digital lifecycle management solution (which emanated from Metaphase and i-Man). Siemens PLM Software was as interested in extending the component classification and re-use capabilities of its Teamcenter solution as KBA and Hauni were interested in having that type of functionality. Siemens put its accredited sales and development partner, BCT Technology AG (Willstätt, Germany), in charge of developing a classification solution built on Teamcenter, which came to be called “aClass.”
BCT Technology AG is a specialist in software solutions and consulting services for optimizing product development in the manufacturing industry throughout Germany and other European countries. BCT provides practical engineering tools and data management systems based on the high-quality solutions developed by its partner, Siemens. BCT provides customers with measurable added value on standardization and simplification of processes. One of the successful software solutions, the BCT aClass Classification system, provides structured storage and re-use of product data within Teamcenter.
The development of aClass was finished in 2003 in close co-operation with both KBA and Hauni. Additionally BCT wrote a migration application to move existing data to aClass. In April 2004 designers began pilot applications. In October 2004 aClass became a critical tool on approximately 300 design workstations. “Using aClass, designers find suitable parts, masters and alternatives faster and easier than ever before,” Tober reports.
Search results are shown graphically and can be printed or documented immediately. Once a component is detected, it is easily adapted to NX. Redundant data management has been eliminated through integration between Teamcenter and the company’s ERP system. People who don’t use NX or Teamcenter (such as those in purchasing and assembly as well as those at external engineering offices) can use aClass Web to view product information using a web browser such as Internet Explorer. The user interface of aClass, which is similar to that of Microsoft Outlook, simultaneously allows access to four areas: standard and purchased parts, design parts, the machine construction kit with complete assemblies, and common parts.
To support part standardization and reduce the number of parts that must be designed, the software includes an additional component blocking feature. “Blocking at the beginning of a process chain and easy substitution of the parts concerned, as well as blocking of components by the specialist department, should bring us considerably closer to the optimal solution,” Tober states.
BCT proceeded with a follow-up project, developing an integrated inspection routine that scours BOM lists for blocked parts. Each time a design engineer saves an assembly, the search is started and every detected part is listed. In addition to the existing blocking mechanism a new status was defined: N (Not for new designs). Assemblies with such parts can be released later on. Regular analysis routines should show to what extent this happens. Technically, part status is imported from the ERP system to aClass, Teamcenter and NX where each is clearly visible.
Jürgen Hillemann, chief executive officer of BCT, holds the view that an “intelligent classification of construction parts can not be based solely on geometric attributes.” That’s why aClass combines attributes with descriptive information gathered from NX and Teamcenter, and why the concept of class structure has been extended at KBA. Management made the decision to start pilot applications using this extended structure as a way toward achieving standardization across locations.
Tober sees another, possibly even more promising opportunity in the classification of user-defined features such as borings: “During the design process each individual feature is not only combined with purchased parts such as screws (with their procurement, rationing and stock keeping costs), but also with production facilities such as tools, test equipment and operating materials.” Hillemann notes, “Simply by already offering the design engineer a choice of components according to the factory standard in the CAD system – which leads to the NC machines in continuous processes – you can save enormous processing costs. If you combine these efforts for standardization with the use of knowledge-based engineering in NX, the result is an intelligent product configurator.” That project is now underway at KBA.