Aerospace & Defense
Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Xenon Architectural Lighting (XAL) develops, produces and distributes superior quality, innovative lamps and lighting systems, as well as light control systems using all the newest technology.
Light is much more than just the absence of darkness. The way we perceive things depends on the light in which we regard them. XAL – Xenon Architectural Lighting – sees its task as highlighting beauty for the eye of the beholder without making compromises. That is why this Graz, Austria based business develops lighting solutions that put every subject in the right light. In light of the trend towards minimalism XAL believes the true signs of success are when a source of lighting is almost invisible, when the system interacts harmoniously and effectively with the architecture, and when the focus of attention is directed to the intrinsic features of rooms, spaces and environments.
XAL’s corporate philosophy is strongly defined by constant innovation, intensive research and development, and a consistent emphasis on design, technology and quality. Uncompromising adherence to this philosophy has ensured rapid growth for the company founded by Andreas and Claudia Hierzer in 1989, despite being surrounded by well-established, large-scale producers. Today XAL distributes to almost every part of the globe, being an influential single-source supplier of technical lighting for interior and exterior applications. XAL’s project references include shops such as C&A, Versace, Humanic and Chanel, as well as the corporate headquarters of the Polish oil business Grupa Lotos. The façade of the HQ in Gdansk is made up of a large, dynamic LED field that can be completely illuminated when required.
In this 240-employee business growing by the minute, the construction department now has twelve members of staff playing a highly significant role in the company’s commercial success. A large vertical range of manufacture and a high degree of automation in parts logistics make it easy to respond quickly to the requirements of architects. If required, small series and custom-designed project-specific features can be brought to the prototype phase within two weeks and production can commence within a month of order placement.
Quick and accurate implementation of development goals, heavily influenced by design and architectural determinants, into easily producible and thus affordable solutions, necessitates close cooperation among constructors, designers and the production department. The company’s founder and owner, Andreas Hierzer, continues to play a main role in the development of new lighting systems. XAL introduced 3D design software for product development tasks way back in 1998. The advantages over 2D design have certainly also played a significant role in the extremely dynamic development of the company.
It became obvious, though, that the solution chosen could not keep pace with the company’s growth. Performance problems, service and maintenance hiccups made life difficult for the technicians and the prices with the enforced parametric High-End System became a balking point for certain purchasers. No surprise then that XAL began to look for a long-life follow-on product in 2003.
XAL wanted a full package of CAD/PDM functionality offering the option of importing data from their own Navision ERP System. One essential prerequisite in view of the speed at which the department was growing was that employees joining the company could find information and integrate quickly, easily and efficiently.
“Above all, the data management functions have to grow in parallel because the larger the department, the less likely it is that everybody knows everything – about everything, and because there’s a lot of time pressure in product development,” says Michael Engel, CEO.
After a short period of searching, manufacturer presentations, a test phase and above all reports provided by existing users, Solid Edge® software was selected. An essential benefit was the Insight™ data management solution, the Solid Edge built-in cPDM system, offered as an integrated solution for design data administration and a problem-free link-up to the ERP system.
Intuitive operation and easy learning are qualities facilitating the speedy integration of new employees in the design process. This is important for XAL. The development department is expanding rapidly and the training of apprentices to become qualified technical drawers is a response to the threat of a lack of skilled staff on the market.
Solid Edge Insight offers these qualities as it provides seamless integration of CAD, data administration and web-based collaboration in a single, simply implemented and easily administered tool. Insight also removes the barriers to successful PDM introduction and provides all the functions required for effective design data administration. Thus, Solid Edge Insight stops invalid and out-of-date drawings from infiltrating production and unfinished parts from entering authorized assembly groups – factors fundamental to the functioning of jointly used information systems. As opposed to conventional data admin systems, Solid Edge Insight is not an add-on module with supplementary order functions, so there is no need for extra user training.
This may reduce the turnover made from training courses by Siemens distribution partner ACAM System automation GmbH, but it does raise the XAL level of satisfaction with the modular tool based on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services + SQL Database, which currently manages 50,000 documents. On top of the extremely speedy article search in Insight, the conscientious service provided by ACAM is also a significant benefit.
One obstacle for XAL was the transfer of data from the previous system. In view of a lack of standards in 3D design data from different systems there was really only one follow-on method available – in principle a two-stage method: as part of the service, ACAM provided for the basic transfer of 30,000 documents from the old system into Solid Edge. Subsequent re-parametering of article data was carried out by XAL design engineers as and when required, ultimately ensuring the successive construction of completely utilizable parametrically compatible database content.
Aside from the functional advantages of Solid Edge Insight, organizational IT issues were also decisive. A seamless link-up to the business’ commercial side of the software environment aids further automation of design tasks. Navision is XAL’s chosen commercial software system so ACAM was able to create an interface for transferring parts list data without much effort thanks to the setup within Solid Edge Insight. Using the interface created for XAL, components can be exported from the Navision article inventory with all their attributes and imported into Solid Edge Insight. This ensures there are complete part lists in CAD documents and uniform synchronized data with the ERP system.
Direct access to construction details from the commercial environment software system via a direct interface created by ACAM guarantees that access to the most up-to-date documents can be ensured in production, even in the case of alterations made only seconds previously. Retailers also have authorized access where necessary to detailed information such as mounting points for products ordered.
“By now, all the experiences and effects of the changeover three years ago have been collated,” explains Engel. “There is always an element of risk with a software changeover, but we now know we made the right decision.” Engel cites practical principles: “Constructors should be dealing with construction tasks and not be held up by irritating jobs like data administration. This is ideally facilitated by the very unobtrusive data management of Solid Edge Insight and tight link-ups to Navision.”
The use of Solid Edge software with the integrated data management system Insight and its link-up to the business environment software helps XAL preserve its competitive edge over larger mass producers regarding the ability to react quickly to requirements, despite constant growth and the ever broader distribution of knowledge within the company.
Similarly, simple, optimized knowledge management and intuitive operation allow design engineers to devote their entire attention to the technical challenges at hand. This facilitates the harmonization of quality and price requirements placed on XAL products, ensures competitiveness against a background of global competition, and contributes toward continued growth with the company’s power of innovation.
XAL’s corporate philosophy: XAL stands for the pure and uncompromising fascination with the world of light: – “a fascination we love to share with everyone who sees things as uncompromisingly as we do.” So it comes as no surprise that this business uses a software tool that pursues the goal of providing optimal support for constructors with easily learned and simply structured operations.