Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
T.RAD is a large independent specialized manufacturer of heat exchangers. Founded in 1936, the company manufactures radiators, oil coolers, charge air coolers, EGR coolers and other heat exchangers used in automobiles, motorcycles, industrial equipment and air conditioners.
T.RAD Co., Ltd. (T.RAD) is a major independent specialized manufacturer of heat exchangers in Japan. Since the company was founded as Toyo Radiator Manufacturing Co. in 1936, T.RAD has leveraged its technological expertise to manufacture heat exchangers for automobiles, motorcycles, industrial equipment and other products. The company is the world’s leading manufacturer of heat exchangers for motorcycles, and its radiators command over half the global market for liquid-cooled motorcycles. T.RAD’s motorcycle radiators are considered the industry standard and are a driving force in the advancement of these products in functionality and performance.
The company also produces giant radiators for massive off-highway dump trucks, which are used in dam construction and mining, and for emergency power generators for buildings. T.RAD plans to expand production to North America, China, Southeast Asia, and Europe.
Noriyuki Hashimoto, Chief, IT Promotion Business Reform Office, is responsible for setting up internal infrastructure and implementing applications.
T.RAD regularly modifies existing designs to create new products. This makes managing drawings and computer-aided design (CAD) data extremely crucial. In 2012, the company used a competitor’s software for a 3D CAD tool and implemented a product data management (PDM) system to manage 2D and 3D data created on it. When the data was copied and saved on this system for reuse purposes, links between drawings and 3D data were frequently corrupted. This was a major issue because T.RAD’s larger products contain hundreds of parts; fixing broken links additional time and effort to repair. Because of this faulty software, T.RAD’s CAD operators spent most of their days unsuccessfully saving and registering data.
Managing data on the company’s legacy file server while unable to effectively use this newly implemented system led to other operational issues. For example, T.RAD could not manage its design data history or know which CAD data was most recently updated.
This PDM system had two additional problems. The first was its hardware restrictions. This system required a UNIX machine from a specific supplier, rendering its hardware costly to maintain and manage, and limiting the number of IT personnel trained to perform maintenance. The other problem was that the system could only manage a specific version of the competitor’s software data. This is a huge drawback for suppliers who, based on client needs, usually hold many versions of multiple pieces of CAD data.
The system also had upgrade issues. T.RAD considered upgrading the competitor’s software used in its main CAD systems, which meant upgrading its PDM system to accommodate the new version. The company found, however, that this required an extremely time-consuming upgrade of the PDM system’s operating system (OS) and hardware. Due to the potential impact on operations, T.RAD was forced to quit the upgrades, as well as the competitor’s software, altogether.
A few years had passed since T.RAD adopted the PDM system, and the maintenance contract for its hardware was expiring. With the hardware requiring renewal, T.RAD found that retooling the system would be cost-prohibitive and consume significant amounts of time and manpower. This led to the obvious solution of replacing the PDM system. T.RAD’s requirements for a new system included hardware that required less initial investment, cost less to maintain and operate, required less operation effort for designers, and promoted easier design re-use.
Hashimoto had only one PDM system in mind: Teamcenter® software from Siemens Digital Industries Software, where today meets tomorrow. Teamcenter is a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution that empowers companies to take control of their product data and processes, including 3D designs, electronics, embedded software, documentation, and their bill-of-materials (BOM). The Teamcenter portfolio enables companies to leverage product information across multiple domains and departments, such as manufacturing, quality, cost engineering, compliance, service, and the supply chain.
“Many companies use Teamcenter together with (the competitor’s software), so we were able to start its trial use with confidence,” says Hashimoto.
In implementing Teamcenter, T.RAD took proof of concept (PoC) very seriously. For the trial use of its previous PDM system, the company was required to purchase hardware and spend additional time and money on building test environments and other test-related matters. This severely compromised T.RAD’s ability to conduct sufficient PoC and learn about the aforementioned issues of the competitor’s software in advance of actual implementation.
“Testing cost so little and that had a huge impact,” says Hashimoto, “Not only that, we were able to check just about everything we were concerned about, so we felt ready to move forward with the actual implementation.”
In addition, the hardware used in this testing was an unused Microsoft® Windows® server that had been used by another system in the company, so the only costs incurred were for the software.
For their PoC environment, T.RAD used Teamcenter® Rapid Start, which provides multi-CAD data management capabilities that enable manufacturers to efficiently manage, control and share mechanical CAD data across the entire design and supply chain. Using this solution, T.RAD first built a small test environment within the company. Teamcenter Rapid Start comes with the minimum settings required for testing out of the box, allowing T.RAD to build the environment they needed for their PoC in a matter of a few days.
For the project team, several workers were selected from different design departments. For testing, team members first stored their own data to the system. They carefully checked to see if there were any problems, such as broken links that caused trouble in the previous PDM system and found no issues. After testing on actual devices, the team confirmed that with Teamcenter software they could re-use their designs without any difficulty, a point of concern for T.RAD. The tests also gave project members a taste of how intuitive and easy Teamcenter software is to use. Hashimoto says this was the determining factor in T.RAD implementing Teamcenter.
“Teamcenter was so easy to use and operate, and intuitive, too,” says Hashimoto. “Teamcenter allowed us to cut the time we spent on data management, such as registering and re-using design data, by 80 percent compared to the previous PDM system.”
With the previous system, users had to learn how to register. With Teamcenter, data management is as simple as using folders in a file system, significantly reducing user stress and time allocated to train new hires. This allows designers more time to design sophisticated tasks such as modeling. Teamcenter supports Microsoft® Windows® OS, eliminating the need for any special skills and thereby enabling anyone in the IT department to manage it. This resulted in a significant reduction in maintenance and IT time and costs.
Teamcenter also works well with and supports multiple versions of various CAD software, resolving other issues posed by the previous system.
T.RAD currently uses Teamcenter to manage its data between three locations in Japan: Nagoya, Hadano, and Shiga. The company also plans to use it at its overseas locations, including in China. It is also looking to expand the use of Teamcenter to areas other than data management to significantly reduce work effort. This includes managing engineering bill-ofmaterials (EBOM) and creating work instructions while also utilizing viewer features of Teamcenter that make use of the JT™ data format.