Success with the chosen path
About Machinefabriek Emmen
Infrastructure engineering, environmental engineering, and general machine building
In Emmen there is a machine factory of the same name, which has three main specialities: infrastructure engineering, environmental engineering, and general machine building. Because the use of CAD and 3D has contributed demonstrably to the success of the company, we paid them a visit.
Let's begin with an overview of the activities of the different disciplines at Machinefabriek Emmen (ME). In the general machine building industry, machines are often built on the basis of designs submitted by customers. Much of the equipment is destined for the oil and gas industry. As a result, a great deal of work requires certification. When necessary, ME complements customers' designs with both draughting work and engineering. We'll return to this later.
According to my dictionary, infrastructure engineering is the construction of everything except buildings. At ME, it means the building of sluices, dams, and especially bridges. In the field of environmental engineering, ME develops and builds equipment for waste treatment facilities. Sieve drums, conveyors, and sewer overflows are the most important products for this.Read more
Arrival of 3D CAD
In their brochure, Machinefabriek Emmen B.V. refer to themselves as a young and dynamic metal working company. Although ME was indeed only founded at the end of 2006, they actually have a much longer history.
General Manager Derk Jan Weeke began working for the original machine factory in 1991. He says, 'At the time, I was an engineer and a project leader. CAD was not yet is use. We definitely saw the possibilities of 3D CAD, but it wasn't financially feasible at the time. In 1995, we took our first step towards 3D CAD by purchasing AutoCAD. A choice that was based on the popularity of the program, and many of our customers used it.
The conversation shifts to the more turbulent years in the company's history. Different parties began participating with varying results in 1998. Weeke refrains from sharing details, but he picks up his story at the end of 2006. At that time, incidentally, Inventor had already been in use for a few years, particularly for designing bridges. While this did not necessarily lead to designing things more quickly, it did help to prevent the errors that were still occasionally cropping up in the designs.
Growth after acquisition
Despite that, the curtain closed on the company at the end of 2006. But, together with some partners, Weeke already had a plan ready for an acquisition. Machinefabriek Emmen started off with 35 employees. 'Naturally, it was a very exciting time. There was still work to be completed for the first few months. We even worked between Christmas and New Year. And once the work was finished two months later, we needed a miracle.'
That miracle actually happened. The company won a large contract by convincing both a customer and the bank with a presentation based on 3D CAD models. Once again, that old saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words' applies, it's also worth more than a pile of work drawings. This was vigorously reaffirmed at a particularly crucial moment. ME has grown steadily ever since.
The initial workforce of 35 has risen to around 60. That amounts to nearly one workstation per month. Here, Mr Weeke notes a nice phenomenon: 'The original employees were, almost without exception, from the old guard. The new employees are generally quite young, but they're already quite good craftsmen. And nothing exists between these two extremes. This is a lovely reflection of the fact that interest in the profession is headed in the right direction once more.' Incidentally, ME is also an approved training company.
ME has nine workstations with Autodesk Inventor. Just like Head of Engineering Hans Geuzinge, the users are satisfied and enthusiastic about the software. Still, not every project is created in 3D. 'Some of our assignments involve repeating earlier assignments or they involve modifications or maintenance. Wherever possible, we reuse our already available design data, and often that is the 2D AutoCAD drawings.
Luckily, AutoCAD Mechanical is delivered with the Inventor package, therefore we are entirely up to date for AutoCAD software. All of the draughters work in both Inventor and in AutoCAD,' says Geuzinge. He continues: 'For bridge building, however, the design is always produced in Inventor. Here the option to control the functioning in the 3D design played a decisive role.
Expensive mistakes identified at an early stage
The costs of a mistake which only surfaces later, when the bridge is ready, are enormous.' Lately, the software suppliers have emphasized the use of their systems as a test environment for the digital, or virtual, prototype. Fewer physical prototypes are required, which naturally results in considerable savings. That goes even further with something like a bridge, because you do not normally build a prototype for a bridge. Inventor helps to immediately produce a flawless design.
Not everything is converted
The designs for environmental engineering have generally all been converted into 3D, excluding some older designs. The question is whether that will ever happen. 'We have been making them for a while now, and that has gone quite well,' argues Hans Geuzinge very practically.
As for the rest, ME delivers their part of the waste treatment facility to a partner who manages the rest of the process. This partner has set up the complete installation in Tekla. Exchanging 3D data between Inventor and Tekla is seamless. Obviously, exchanging 2D information takes place without any issues, not least because Inventor can produce work drawings in DWG format.
All in all, with enthusiastic staff in the workshop and the engineering department, and with a practical and results-focused CAD system implementation, Machinefabriek Emmen has the in-house resources to keep up their success.