Integrating design and manufacturing data to support expansion

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The Kelly Harrow is used to cultivate the top 30-40mm of soil, destroying weeds and chopping up crop residue.

Kelly Engineering has grown into a global manufacturer of agricultural equipment from humble beginnings in South Australia. Manufacturers’ Monthly finds out how Central Innovation’s flagship product DataSuite has helped support the company’s rise.

The Kelly family settled in Booleroo Centre, South Australia in 1875. Owner of the business Shane Kelly recounts that if his father Peter needed some machinery for the farm, he would often build it himself. In the 1980s, Peter Kelly set off with a demo machine of his Kelly Diamond Harrow around Australia. He towed the machine behind his four-wheel drive to all the relevant field days, trade shows and potential customers.

Building off the reputation of its products, Kelly Engineering now exports to Europe and South Africa, and manufactures in the US and Germany, with 70 per cent of its total customer base in the US and Canada and 85 per cent in total revenue coming from offshore markets.

Lawrence Healy, product designer at Kelly Engineering said the company sold around 200 machines – chiefly tillage systems for soil preparation and weed control, designed to be towed behind tractors –in the US in the last year. To support this demand, Kelly has worked with Central Innovation for years to integrate its data, constantly adapting the software to the requirements of the market.

“In 2012, we decided to invest in a SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional system, because the business had grown large enough to support multiple users,” Healy said. “Back then PDM only had one and a half users. We had two SOLIDWORKS licenses at the time, so Kelly made that decision a long time ago, based upon the foresight to see how important document control is.”

Having initially utilised SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional to get its engineering documentation under control, the next step for Kelly was to consult with Central Innovation on how it could further be used to implement an engineering change workflow.

“We needed to be able to control change within the organisation from a paper-based to an electronic system,” he added. “To optimise our own requirements in terms of supply chain and production, as well as those of our overseas partners. Central Innovation has been instrumental in customising that and making it work for us. That led to us developing a closer relationship, which has culminated in the implementation of DataSuite that is used to link the data in our Design software, PDM software and ERP software.”

Central Innovation’s flagship solution, DataSuite, helps computer-aided design data (CAD) flow seamlessly to production systems. The software was developed by Central Innovation in Australia to enable businesses in the manufacturing industry to introduce a single process to their data management and approval processes.

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Updating software systems has been crucial in supporting Kelly Engineering’s growth.

DataSuite is used by companies in Australia and New Zealand to provide a common language to transform and merge data between systems and automate the business rules of just about any company. It automates the previously manual, error prone work of moving data from one system to another. DataSuite also has the capabilities to host a production workbench with business rules, for example checking for compliance with the correct drawing numbers, part numbers, specifications, and standards.

Kelly Engineering is moving to the next level of their automation with the move to a new, Netsuite ERP System, and they are utilising DataSuite to integrate the system to their own Design and Data Management environment.  There is no additional cost for software as Kelly Engineering is still using the same DataSuite software they implemented for their first ERP integration.

Healy explained the aspirations and plans of the company to introduce a new ERP system.

“We have been able to implement the ambitious plans of Kelly Engineering by retaining and growing our investment in systems where appropriate and introducing new systems such as our cloud-based ERP,” he said. “DataSuite has meant that the resilience and continuity of our business operations has been maintained whilst enabling us to put in place a new ERP.”

The investment of people, effort and change management was minimised because of DataSuite and the upgrade path it provides. With DataSuite to manage the integration, Kelly has been able to retire older technology, and embrace cloud or desktop applications that are appropriate to the needs of the business as it grows. DataSuite supports whatever direction the business chooses.

“Kelly Engineering is running to keep pace with the positive-demand for its products globally,” he added. Implementing PDM, Web2 for our supplier portal, DataSuite enables quicker, accurate and secure manufacturing data sharing, which is completely controlled in the PDM.

We are reviewing our CAD and PDM system needs for the next 5 years currently. We expect Central Innovation to be able to talk to us about their product roadmap over the next 3 years at least. As cloud-based CAD and computing becomes more common place Kelly needs to be keeping up with the pace of change.”

Healy added “the key to the business relationship with Central Innovation has been the ability to customise solutions as Kelly’s demands change”.

“We come to Central Innovation and describe the outcome we would like, and they can advise pretty quickly whether it’s possible or not, and usually it is because it’s about manipulating simple information and transforming that into different fields,” he said.  “Kelly is a great example of a medium sized equipment manufacturing business that wants to grow and recognises that if you want to bring on new people and expand, having the right partners and software to support that makes it so much easier.”