Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Shenzhen FIYTA Precision Timer Manufacturing Ltd., a subsidiary of FIYTA Group, designs and manufactures watches featuring the FIYTA brand.
Shenzhen FIYTA Precision Timer Manufacturing Ltd. (Precision Timer), along with many other companies, is a part of the FIYTA Group. Every year, the Baselworld watch and jewelry fair, the preeminent event in the world of horology (the art or science of measuring time), is held in the famous city of Basel, Switzerland, with around 2,000 brands exhibited. Among the many pavilions, the “No.1 International Brand” pavilion is the most coveted exposition area because it brings together the top-of-the-line wristwatch brands and horological exhibitors from all over the world to display their innovative new offerings.
Currently, only the Chinese Star, a brand of the FIYTA Group, displays its products in the No.1 pavilion. FIYTA Group, a participant at the fair for four consecutive years, is highly regarded in the horological industry, especially for fashion panache and creative designs.
What is FIYTA Group’s secret to success? According to company management, it’s research and development (R&D). Not just any type of R&D, but rather highly disciplined, continuous R&D.
“Compared with precision manufacturers from other industries, the horology industry focuses on discrete manufacturing, with process as a supplement,” explains Zhang Mingtian, assistant manager of the Engineering and Technical Department, FIYTA Group. “The production process is mainly to treat the metal fittings and to assemble each component. The main difficulty that companies face in bringing horological products to market successfully is inefficient R&D, resulting in a long period from design to product delivery. Another significant challenge is that the watchmaker must satisfy both the regular consumer goods and the luxury goods sectors. The horological industry is driven by extremes in market demand. As a result, an enterprise needs to be able to quickly react, which means a short and highly efficient R&D process.”
Since its inception, FIYTA Group has solved the key technical problems of high- and low-temperature resistance (under vacuum conditions), anti-shock and anti-vibration performance, anti-magnetism and a seal for an extra-vehicular spacesuit watch. FIYTA Group has achieved a technological breakthrough in the mechanical chronograph watch, of which it owns complete, independent intellectual property rights, whereas its competitors purchase movements from specialized suppliers.
To accomplish this, FIYTA Group focuses on brand supremacy, emphasizing the right information management platforms and efficient training for its engineers. To address the company’s focus on innovation and quality, management pursued a strategy of adopting key capabilities, including superior product lifecycle management (PLM) technology, an advanced manufacturing system and comprehensive digitally driven quality management process.
With increasingly fierce competition across the global watch market, Precision Timer paid special attention to its R&D capability and efficiency. As the nucleus of enterprise information engineering and a critical tool for product design, computer-aided design (CAD) technology was the first thing the company addressed. Management felt that finding the right 3D design solution to meet its unique product development requirements and bolster its R&D proficiency was urgent. Mingtian explains, “By combining the features of timepieces with our own R&D requirements, and after an evaluation by our senior leaders, we chose a flexible and easy-to-use software solution that addresses all aspects of the product development process. We chose Solid Edge® from Siemens Digital Industries Software.”
“The introduction of Solid Edge has brought about a one-third improvement in R&D efficiency compared with the prior system, because the interface of Solid Edge is intuitive and the system is easy-tolearn,” notes Mingtian. “What’s more, Solid Edge with synchronous technology accelerates the entire design process. The software can be used to read and edit the data produced by all 3D software, which enables exceptionally fast and accurate modeling and change management.
“Engineers can browse and modify features and even change the sequence of features using the Feature PathFinder. If the designers find any flaws in the design work during the process, all they need to do is re-edit the features; the system will automatically design the components based on the modified data. This greatly reduces rework.
“Solid Edge also has significant advantages in the area of surface modeling. The seamless fusion of surfaces and solids makes it easy for designers to switch between surface and solid modeling to complete numerous complicated design tasks. In fact, Solid Edge is not only easy to operate, it also provides some of the fundamental design functions of NX™. Compared to its competitors, we feel it is easier to use, has a shorter learning curve and, importantly, once implemented, results in a much higher R&D efficiency.
“In addition, Solid Edge is seamlessly integrated with NX and provides powerful assembly management as well as computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) functionality via sister product CAM Express, which par - allels NX CAM.”
When Solid Edge® software was introduced to Precision Timer, management adjusted its expectations, noting the engineers would need to acclimatize to a new way of modeling and that would require some transformation time. Mingtian points out, “Companies understand that sometimes new software can be difficult to learn and, minimally, necessitate some getting used to.” He notes, “Not so with Solid Edge.”
Siemens Digital Industries Software’s partner in southern China, Shenzhen SPRO Technology Consulting Limited Corporation (SPRO), provided technical support for Precision Timer. At the onset of the Solid Edge implementation, SPRO offered three-day, quick-start training for the engineers to help them navigate through the product design process. SPRO also provided orientation training for new employees and customized project training for experienced designers. Previously, training new employees to model watches usually took three months. With Solid Edge, it takes only one month.
In finding the right design to accommodate a watch’s functional performance and desired aesthetics, the company’s engineers begin by employing the simplest shape and most suitable materials. Typically, designing a watch means making smart decisions relative to modeling; strength of materials and manufacturability; the positions of parts for precise unobstructed movement; and quality, cost and the availability of standardized components. Mingtian notes, “Our R&D department mainly uses 3D modeling, including sketching, stretching, lofting, surface, punching, Boolean calculation and synchronous technology, as well as assembly and 2D engineering drawing tools. Our engineers comprehensively exploit the advanced functionality of Solid Edge in realizing our product designs.”
Although today Solid Edge is primarily being used for product design, Precision Timer is considering its use across the entire process of development and manufacturing cycle. Management feels such an integrated design-through-manufacture process would notably improve R&D efficiency, increase the speed of product release and enhance the enterprise’s overall competitiveness.
Mingtian says that using Solid Edge is already helping the company achieve its vision of building a global brand and becoming an international enterprise. Further utilizing Solid Edge is sure to fast-track its vision.