Innovation at Fontijne Grotnes through CAD software replacement
About Fontijne Grotnes
Global market leader
While in the early days the company installed engines in ships, Fontijne Grotnes now focuses mainly on manufacturers of wheels for the automotive industry. These companies are supplied with machines for the manufacture of metal passenger car or truck rims. Fontijne Grotnes is the global market leader in this market.
Also outside Europe
Most of their customers are located in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. However, the automotive industry is growing rapidly in countries such as Iran, India, Korea, and China, creating a new market for rim machines.
Fontijne Grotnes also manufactures machines for making thick-walled pipes, plate presses for laboratories, and compactors for radioactive waste.
Additionally, general metalworking, including shrinking and expanding, are part of the company's market.
Industrieweg 21 syndrome
Increase efficiency in the engineering department, and do it as quickly as possible. That was no small task Cees Knegt received when he began working in October 2002 at special machine builder Fontijne Grotnes. The new manager was immediately convinced that replacing the current LogoCAD software with AutoCAD Mechanical would be an important step in the right direction.
From Knegt's description, it quickly became apparent that achieving efficiency improvements in the engineering department would involve more than replacing the current software. Fontijne Grotnes has had to contend with what they call 'Industrieweg 21 syndrome'. The name refers to the company's address, and it means something like: not looking past the end of your own nose or thinking that you know better than others.
This may also be the reason that no one doubted the efficiency of LogoCAD for so many years. The engineering department at Fontijne Grotnes soon had 37 employees. Of these, about fourteen were charged with producing detail drawings. Sometimes, these draughtsmen were left twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do.
This was reason enough for Knegt to the raise alarm bells with management. 'I said that it would be much more efficient to use temporary staff or to outsource work during the peak demand of orders. A problem, however, was immediately apparent: insufficient temporary staff or engineering firms were available that had LogoCAD experience. So hiring this staff would come with a hefty price tag, and they are almost never available at short notice.
Of course, you can also train the hired staff to use LogoCAD, but this system has a steep learning curve and the employer must pay for this.' Knegt acknowledges however that the temporary staff were also not capable of immediately working with AutoCAD Mechanical. This has to do with the relative newness of the software package. Still, according to the manager, the familiarization period for AutoCAD Mechanical is significantly shorter than that of LogoCAD.
Clearly Knegt is not one to let the grass grow under his feet. The switch from LogoCAD to AutoCAD Mechanical was not up for discussion. 'The efficiency-improvement had to be achieved within a short period of time,' explains the manager. 'That's why there was no time for endless discussions, a choice had to be made right away.
Of course, draughtsmen approached me with the question, "Why should we use AutoCAD Mechanical?" My question in return was, "Do you know of a better package that meets our requirements?" Most of them had no answer.' Van der Meulen continues: 'I've been able to work with AutoCAD products at different companies over the past ten years and to take a good look around me. 'Without exception, my experiences with this software have been positive. That's why I was convinced from the very start that the switch from LogoCAD to AutoCAD Mechanical was the right choice.'
During the selection phase, Cadac Group held intensive talks with the key user group. Because the entire migration had to be completed within three months, a complete project plan was drafted, including a training and a guidance plan. This working method proved to be the decisive factor for beginning the project.
In comparison to LogoCAD, AutoCAD Mechanical offers the engineering department the most advantages. The library that AutoCAD Mechanical comes equipped with accounts for the greatest time savings. LogoCAD does not have its own library, which requires us to draw approximately 1000 symbols ourselves.
Even more time savings
According to Knegt, 'another time saving measure is the fact that we no longer have to redraw the dimensional drawings of trade components using the ZEI format (LogoCAD) because these are now directly available in DWG format, via the Internet, for example.'
With LogoCAD, the drawing is typically done with a pen rather than with the aid of a mouse. Several employees indicated they found it difficult to bid farewell to the tablet and pen system. Furthermore, the pen is less likely to cause RSI (repetitive stress injury) than the mouse. Therefore, special software was used that could convert the pen movements into AutoCAD Mechanical commands. Nevertheless, over time more and more draughtsmen switched to using the pull-down menus.
Not all drawings have been converted to AutoCAD Mechanical, because this takes an incredible amount of time and it has not been necessary for a long time. That is why LogoCAD has not yet been set to the side. Knegt explains: 'All new drawings are produced in AutoCAD Mechanical.
The LogoCAD software is still needed to retrieve old drawings from the database. Drawings that need to be updated must be converted from LogoCAD to AutoCAD Mechanical and then changed. The Cadac Group wrote a routine for this conversion.' When asked whether, in addition to all those advantages, AutoCAD Mechanical also had some drawbacks, Knegt had to think hard. After some time, he gave an affirmative answer:
'Setting things up in component views requires more attention during the design phase. This allows the various views of a component to be linked to the subassembly. This intermediary step is not necessary in Autodesk Inventor; the different views are generated within the software itself from the 3D models. With AutoCAD Mechanical, we draw whenever possible using components. We use these components as much as possible to form subassemblies to keep the design clear and to promote component reuse.'
Still no 3D
The logical question becomes: why didn't they choose a 3D system in the first place? 'We didn't want to take on the role of forerunner,' says Knegt with firm conviction. 'Similar software still requires a lot of development. What's more, the purchased 3D software did not satisfy our primary objective: achieving efficiency gains in the engineering department within the shortest time possible.
3D is clearly the future
Still there was a lot to think about with 3D. Knegt explains that the company wanted to switch completely to designing in 3D within three years' time. That is why the following year a choice had to be made between Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, and Autodesk Inventor Professional.
Knegt says: 'We expect to have a smaller margin of error with the use of 3D, and, on this basis, to achieve savings. You can see in advance whether or not a particular model is feasible. Naturally, similar software is ideal for promotional purposes with new customers.