Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Sankyo Research and Development does design subcontracting for various industrial products, including environmental plants, steel bridges, railway cars and industrial machinery.
Headquartered in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, Sankyo Research and Development (Sankyo) specializes in the design of a range of industrial products, including plant equipment, railroad cars and industrial machinery. Kazumasa Hirayama, the section chief of the first design section in the technology department of the company’s headquarters, explains, “Many companies that subcontract design work have comparatively few employees, but Sankyo has as many as 50 designers, which allows us to support large-scale projects. Also, from the beginning, our design practices have been based on strict standards, and recently our information security management has become stricter as well. We believe that adhering to rigorous management standards helps us win the customer’s trust and is a source of strength for our company.”
In contrast to a company that executes design work based on its own initiatives, Sankyo has to separate the use of 2D computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D CAD, and it must use the 3D CAD system that is requested by the customer. When Sankyo received an order from a new client that was using Solid Edge® software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software, the company decided to introduce the software to its organization.
When Hirayama, who was already well-versed in many 3D CAD solutions, used Solid Edge, he realized that it was extremely well suited for design outsourcing work.
“I think that the unique characteristic of Solid Edge is that it has the best aspects of history and non-history features,” says Hirayama. “Our job is to realize the customer’s ideas and requests as actual parts and products. When executing an actual design process, the customer requests various changes. Editing with a history-based CAD system is very difficult during the initial stages of development. Synchronous technology has been helpful to us.”
Hirayama describes the changes that Solid Edge has brought about, saying, “Because it is easy to edit 3D shapes without being tied to the history, we now perform conceptual design with Solid Edge that used to be done with 2D CAD.
“The assembly is easy to put together, and assembled items as well as items imported from other CAD systems can be easily edited,” says Hirayama. “We are impressed with how easy it is using Solid Edge to import data from another CAD system, manage the data and fix any errors.”
In addition to a perpetual license with annual maintenance, Siemens Digital Industries Software has a rental plan for Solid Edge, which features a monthly subscription, an unusual structure in the mechanical CAD industry. Sankyo has used Solid Edge since starting its monthly subscription in 2013.
A lump-sum initial investment plus a maintenance structure is required when using a conventional perpetual license. In reality, it is difficult to invest when a company cannot forecast the future. Hirayama recalls, “We first started by purchasing one license. Because it was a monthly payment, it was easy to convince the company to take that step.”
Freed from concerns about the initial cost, utilization ratio and annual maintenance fees, Sankyo soon realized that its use of Solid Edge was producing notable results, so the company added Solid Edge monthly subscription licenses in order to further increase the number of users with the intention of using it more proactively for design evaluations.
“Design outsourcing work is very dependent on the customer’s situation,” says Hirayama. “With the monthly subscription, if the outsourced work increases in the future, then the number of monthly licenses can easily be increased based on the work amount or, alternatively, the licenses can be reduced by the decreased amount. We believe that this flexibility is a great fit for our work.”
Hirayama explains that the appeal of the monthly subscription is that the company is always able to use the latest version: “We can’t stay on the older version when the customer is upgrading, so we must continue to upgrade to the same version. This means that we can’t just buy a license without maintenance. Since the monthly subscription includes maintenance, we can maintain the latest version without adding cost.”
Currently, all exchanges with the client who prompted the introduction of Solid Edge are conducted using only Solid Edge data. Designers use 3D data from Solid Edge, and when blueprints are required in addition to 3D data, the company uses Solid Edge 2D data. Soon after the introduction of the Solid Edge system, Sankyo implemented a sequential workflow from conceptual design to the delivery of 3D data and blueprints.
The ease of use of this kind of tool also helps designers quickly get up to speed. Experienced in many different 3D CAD systems, Hirayama notes, “I think that Solid Edge is the easiest solution to use.”
When Sankyo first introduced Solid Edge, none of its employees had any experience with the system. Therefore, the company started implementation with a designer who only had experience with other 3D CAD tools. According to the designer, he was able to effectively learn the operations of Solid Edge in just a few weeks using only the online help and tutorials included with the system, enabling him to be productive quickly on projects in his queue.
The designer who replaced the initial manager had extensive experience in design, but he had little experience with 3D CAD.
“We did two to three days of tutorials and then performed the job transfer through on-the-job training with the previous manager,” says Hirayama. “The designer was able to achieve a sufficient professional level as part of his work after using Solid Edge for about a month.”
Subsequently, new employees were added to the process and were able to reach a professional level by using the tutorials and on-the-job training. In addition to the ease of increasing software licenses, another advantage of using Solid Edge is the rapid speed of manager training.
Hirayama points out that from the perspective of general operability, design managers who have used other 3D CAD tools find Solid Edge easy to use.
At Sankyo, when there are no restrictions from the customer on what software to use, the designers managing the project often engage the tool that is easiest to use. Hirayama believes that in the future, the advantages of Solid Edge will become apparent in the design of various products. Wanting to further improve efficiency and productivity, his goal is to increase the number of designers who use Solid Edge.