Manufacturing News

Designing better factories – virtually

Plant design and optimisation services using PLM software is providing cost-effective solutions for India’s booming automotive industry. Katherine Crichton writes.

EICHER Engineering Solutions (EES) is a unit of VE Commercial Vehicles Limited and is a significant player in India’s automobile industry.

The 250-member organisation works from four different worldwide locations and is divided into four practice areas: design, analysis, testing and digital manufacturing solution services.

Focussed on providing solutions for automotive and automotive component manufacturers that are either trying to expand their existing capabilities or to install additional capacity, the company’s client roster includes automotive OEMs and suppliers such as Nissan, Toyota, Daimler Chrysler, Peterbilt, Navistar, Kia Motors, GM, Harley Davidson and Johnson Controls.

The company’s Digital Manufacturing Solutions discipline, under the direction of Sachin Sanghi, is a key part of the organisation. With eight years experience in industrial engineering at GM, Sanghi is charged with bringing modern scientific plant design and optimisation practices to companies that are still using 2D factory planning methods for the most part.

The group uses the Tecnomatix® digital manufacturing solution from Siemens PLM Software as its software foundation, which Sanghi says provides his eight-member team with invaluable virtual 3D factory design capabilities (in FactoryCAD), comprehensive analysis tools for factory logistics (FactoryFLOW) and simulation capabilities that provide an intelligent foundation for business decisions (Plant Simulation).

Another feature of this solution for the group is the breadth of its functionality.

“This is a real benefit as the factories I create virtually contain all the data about the layout, the material handling devices, the racks, the machines and so on,” Sanghi explained.

“I take an inventory not by physically counting but by asking the software for a report. This is a huge contrast to how internal groups handle their factory data, and it demonstrates a clear advantage of our approach.”

Real world solutions

Recently Sanghi’s expertise and experience were called on by the Group’s sister company, Eicher Engineering Components, a global tier one gear manufacturer in India.

The Digital Manufacturing Solutions team were asked to advise on an expansion that needed to increase the company’s capacity by a factor of three. The company had already done some planning when Sanghi’s group got involved and had determined that the expansion would need to use most of the available land.

Using FactoryCAD, he was able to design the expansion in such a way that they could increase capacity by a factor of almost five without additional land.

Because he had created a 3D virtual factory in FactoryCAD, one of the options that Sanghi noticed right away was that a number of non-value-added activities could be moved to the mezzanine of the existing facility.

“This is the sort of thing that becomes very clear when you have that third dimension to work in,” he explained. “Even the customer started contributing ideas once he saw the layout in 3D.”

Sanghi made a number of other changes as well and overall for this client increased space utilisation by 33% and in addition, he used FactoryFLOW to reduce material flow in the facility by 26%

“Previously they had to move material an average of 1,000m (3280″). Using FactoryFLOW, even though I had increased the floor space, the average move was down to 703m (2,300″),” Sanghi said.

The duration of that entire project was just three months.

For the most part, the Digital Manufacturing Solution group’s customers do not supply digital data for their facilities or equipment. Sanghi and his colleagues create the necessary geometry using FactoryCAD. They have found that this is the fastest way to work because the extensive libraries in the program eliminate the need for modelling items from scratch.

At times, Sanghi has also used the NX™ digital product development system from Siemens PLM Software to create digital product models, such as tires and fuel tanks for a warehouse space optimization job.

The ability to do this work quickly can be the clinching factor to winning business and new contracts.

But a more important selling point is giving prospective clients the assurance that the Digital Manufacturing Solutions team knows what it is doing.

“It is very effective to show 3D simulations of assembly processes, or material handling processes, or even a walkthrough of an entire facility. It meets an emotional need,” Sanghi added.

For most of India, the use of plant design and optimisation software represents a new approach to factory planning.

With Tecnomatix and a growing body of case studies showing the cost-effectiveness of this approach, it can been said EES’s Digital Manufacturing Solutions team is helping Indian manufacturers make more knowledgeable decisions as how to expand their capacity to better compete.

PLMA 02 9410 4701.

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