Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens designs, manufactures and installs custom-designed kitchens using predominantly recycled content materials.
You may have seen Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens Limited on television and not even realized it, for the company provided the hi-tech sustainable kitchen that was featured in the 2012 United Kingdom (UK) national television Channel 4 documentary series Home of the Future. According to Rob Cole, director of the company, “The series featured a family from Sheffield who had their lives transformed by cutting-edge technology, giving them a taste of how we all might be living the future.”
Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens designs and installs custom-built kitchens in and around the City of Sheffield and The Peak District National Park in the UK. In business for just five years, the company has already been successful in winning a Sheffield City Council Digital Direction scheme award. Cole explains, “Our success depends on us doing the right thing for our customers. To qualify for the word ‘sustainable’, we do our utmost to be energy-efficient. We use chipboard made of 98 percent recycled materials and use our best endeavors to source timber locally to produce something that is going to last and won’t need replacing in a few years’ time.
“We are now in the process of developing a range of cabinet doors made from locally sourced hardwood – of which there is a lot in the Peak District – timber taken down by tree surgeons when maintaining woodland. We feel this is better for the environment and the local economy than shipping timber from halfway around the world.”
Cole describes the drivers behind the company’s move to product lifecycle management (PLM) technology from Siemens Digital Industries Software: “In our business, the best use of time and effective logistics are huge business challenges. Our big push is on efficiency, and CAD (computer-aided design) is a vital part of that.
“I looked at some dedicated kitchen design software, but it was too hard to create bespoke components and units, so we ruled that out. Then Luke Wawrzyniak joined us as a CAD technician who studied Furniture Design and Making at Sheffield Hallam University, where he’d had to use another CAD system. We’d had an early version of that in the past and we’d spent a day at a reseller looking at it, but to be honest, we didn’t get on with it.
“We heard of Solid Edge through another local company that pointed us in the direction of Majenta PLM. They were very helpful, decent people who came to see us and look at what we needed to do, and after further research and talking to other users, we decided that Solid Edge was the right solution for us.”
“With Solid Edge, the time it takes me to create a design is down from almost two days to less than one,” notes Wawrzyniak. “That means it’s also faster for Rob to produce a quote and it’s a more accurate quote. It’s then so easy to make any changes the customer may want. This is in-part because we can make global changes such as trying different handles or doors at the click of a mouse.
“The re-use of data is immensely important to us and probably makes the single most important contribution to our improved efficiency. We’ve built up a massive library of parts that is growing with every job we do.” He explains, “I can build up, for example, a door, enter some design rules and make it variable. To use it, all I need to do is bring it into the design and enter a couple of dimensions to make a new door size. The door pattern, number and size of panels changes according to the design rules.
“It can take up to an hour to model a fully dimensionally accurate and complex kitchen appliance. When there are multiple appliances to fit, we can save several hours of design time by re-using and modifying an appliance already in the library. We can also create a dimensionally accurate appliance, an oven for example, built to look right, attach material properties, render it and add it to the library. I can then bring it in to a kitchen design pre-rendered.
“We also store components in the library based on the most frequent color we are asked for. That means we don’t have to go around every element of a particular kitchen, attach materials to each item and then render everything at once. This prerendering saves a lot of time and we can still change the color if we want.”
Visualization is a key factor in the process. Cole explains, “Our customers really like the quality and level of detail of our visualizations, not having been impressed with the quality of 3D renderings produced by other kitchen suppliers. Potential customers can vividly see what their kitchen is going to look like right down to the lighting and the fruit bowls, flower vases, toasters and kettles, before they place an order. The final render, from first click to completion, takes just one minute. Solid Edge uses the CPU (central processing unit) and the GPU (graphics processing unit) to process the renders when others seem to use only the CPU. You could waste a lot of time that way.”
Fitting time is normally a week or two, and Solid Edge® software has been of great help in reducing fitting headaches, especially as most of the company’s projects involve older properties. “With the documentation from Solid Edge, the fitters now have a very clear picture of the installation,” says Cole. “It saves organizational time when fitting, and we don’t need to be on site for each and every job explaining the installation to them.”
Solid Edge was supplied by OnePLM, a Siemens Digital Industries Software Platinum Partner in the UK. Funded by Sheffield’s Digital Directions program, onsite training was provided by one of OnePLM’s specialists.
“We gave OnePLM a brief of what we wanted to be able to do and how we wanted to be able to do it,” says Cole. “We had two days of intensive hands-on training followed by a period of consolidation using Sold Edge, then a third day of training on site. Throughout, OnePLM handled our technical support queries with patience and understanding.” And quickly. Cole notes that even with the most challenging of questions, OnePLM responded in just a few hours.
Cole is very pleased with the company’s decision to go with Solid Edge. He notes, “We supplied 31 quotes in the first quarter of this year, when last year in that same period we managed to get out just seven. We’ve reduced the time between quote and order, and customers are often able to make a decision based on the images we send them. The benefits we are getting are almost too many to quantify: product quality, fitting quality, finish quality, customer service quality.”