Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Knott GmbH develops, designs and produces components for braking systems and trailers such as axle assemblies, chassis, drawbars and breakaway systems.
Knott GmbH has successfully specialized in the development and production of braking systems for motor vehicles as well as all facets of technology for vehicle trailers. With its headquarters in Bavaria and 15 additional locations in Europe and the United States, Knott employs a workforce of approximately 1,350. The company produces nearly 2,000 different models of band, drum, disc and multi-disc brakes, which are adapted to customers’ specific requirements. In addition, axles, towing and breakaway systems have helped the corporation grow into one of the world’s largest contractors for trailer technology.
Since the 1990s, the design department at Knott has recognized the advantages of 3D technology, and its goal has been to use a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) system to more efficiently design brakes and trailer components. In 1998, research led the company to PBU CAD-Systeme GmbH, the newly established partner of product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software. PBU CAD-Systeme had started marketing Solid Edge® software from Siemens Digital Industries Software.
“The PBU team, led by Bernd Krucker, made a very professional impression with their consulting and support,” recalls Josef Strasser, a long-time development engineer at Knott. That’s why Knott chose the innovative, midrange system that utilizes Windows® software. “The user-friendly and affordable Solid Edge has all the functions we need, without burdening us with superficial features,” says Strasser.
Today, approximately 100 employees from all Knott corporate divisions use Solid Edge. Of those, approximately 50 are designers involved in the comprehensive product program. PBU CAD-Systeme continues to provide the company with consulting, training and support services.
At first, the switch to 3D technology required some extra consideration because the components had to be modeled as complete 3D objects before they could be output to drawings. However, that initial effort is now paying off significantly. For example, according to Strasser, one especially great advantage of Solid Edge is that designers can create technical documentation and instructions very quickly. The visualization options prove to be extremely useful in the customer-specific development of components and modules. Knott uses the 3D design models to make convincing presentations of proposed solutions.
Strasser praises the different data export options of Solid Edge. Publication of 2D drawings as PDF files or 3D models in STEP format is quick and easy. This lets the design team transmit complete 3D data of entire modules to clients, such as an axle chassis, that clients can use for further design. If they don’t want to provide all the details of the 3D data, Solid Edge accommodates with user-friendly functions. In a short period of time, designers can reduce CAD models to their lightweight geometry so that the recipient of the data can only see the visible parts of a module.
The automotive industry is among the most demanding and poses numerous challenges for Knott. For example, the sector for braking systems and trailer parts is very price-sensitive. Manufacturers are under intense pressure to innovate. Due to new European Union (EU) regulations, the safety-relevant parts of braking and trailer technology are subject to numerous approval procedures.
Knott addresses these challenges in the design division with the modular organization of components. Designers are endeavoring to re-use components and to use identical parts. However, there is still no software program being used for component classification. “We’re still very old fashioned in this regard,” Strasser admits. For products containing as many as 1,000 individual parts, large assembly tools within Solid Edge are proving to be especially helpful.
Strasser is enthusiastic about the tools in Solid Edge for wire harness design. These tools were designed for the efficient laying of cables and cable harnesses, and save engineers a great deal of work with their functions for the automatic creation of cable harnesses. At Knott, engineers use the wire harness functionality for the installation of Bowden cable assemblies in trailer systems. “The wire harness functions facilitate this process tremendously,” notes Strasser. “It’s almost like a dream.”
The sheet metal processing capabilities of Solid Edge enable users to handle many work processes automatically, which were done manually before. “The automatic sheet metal unfolding functionality of Solid Edge works smoothly and reliably from start to production,” Strasser says.
Another advantage of Solid Edge, which benefits Knott in terms of productivity, is the software’s ease-of-use. At Knott, as a rule, interns spend two days on the integrated tutorial. After that, they are already able to complete simple design tasks on their own. For Strasser, one of the most important features of the CAD system is its reliability and stability. “I’m excited about the user-friendliness and reliability of Solid Edge. When I come to the office on Monday morning, I can be absolutely certain that everything is running smoothly,” he says. Strasser points out that in spite of large modules and numerous users, the software is exceptionally reliable.
In 1998, PBU CAD-Systeme assisted Knott in the implementation of Solid Edge and has been on hand ever since with help and advice. The business relationship is characterized by mutual trust and friendly, professional collaboration. Strasser notes that the company feels a small, directly accessible, localized support team is a real advantage.
PBU supported Knott during the initial deployment and learning stages with dedication, and always helped in finding solutions. Today, PBU provides assistance primarily in the transition to new versions of Solid Edge.
Knott’s future plans include the integration of Solid Edge with a new product data management (PDM) solution and the company’s existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Based on prior experience and smart decision-making with PBU, Strasser says, “I am certain that we will implement the best solution together.” He adds, “By the same token, given the choice, we would pick Solid Edge every time.”