Robust growth at Maene thanks to Autodesk Inventor and NXTdim Configurator

About Maene

Maene is a Belgian family business that designs and produces balustrades, staircases and banisters. Because every element of a construction is different, every design is a unique project. But Maene recognized the need to standardize its products to stimulate sales and business growth. Autodesk Inventor enabled Maene to develop modular predesigns for its most successful products. Since then, orders have really taken off.

At Maene, innovation is a core value. “We were one of the first companies in our sector to start using CAD,” recalls business manager Geert Maene. “And we very quickly ended up with Autodesk. First the two-dimensional design software AutoCAD, then Mechanical Desktop, and now Digital Prototyping software: Autodesk Inventor. Inventor gave us a much better way of copying existing balustrades with minor adjustments. Essentially, more standardization.”

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Autodesk had already given us three dimensions. But the Cadac Group gave us a fourth: time!

Geert Maene

Zaakvoerder - Maene

Inventor brings dramatic increase in number of orders

After standardizing the designs and developing commercial brochures for every product line, Maene’s orders really began taking off, and the studio had trouble keeping up. “With Inventor, the designers have a little more work, but this is because before they didn’t always draw everything. Now, the drafter actually has to put more details into the design.”

So was Autodesk Inventor really the right choice? “Absolutely! The switch to Inventor made our design work more professional and allowed us to expand our services. Before, you could send off a half-finished drawing to production and count on the technical knowledge and experience of your builders to cover the rest. But things sometimes went wrong, due to misunderstandings on both sides. Now the drawing work is 100% accurate and all production has to do is follow the drawing.”

But Maene still needed a solution to speed up the drawing work. “The design phase took longer than the commercial and manufacturing phase, because every project is unique. So we were always starting over from scratch with every project, and that was inhibiting our growth. Of course we could always hire an extra drafter, but 3D developers were thin on the ground. So we went at it from a different angle, and went looking for a new 3D partner, to help us get the most out of Inventor. And I hit on the solution right away,” says Maene.


Product Configurator in NXTdim Inventor accelerates the design process

The Cadac Group proposed using a product configurator, which is included as part of NXTdim Inventor. The Product Configurator gives you a handy configuration screen that lets you adjust standard products in a flash. In Maene’s case, it helped their drafters to work up to 80% faster. Now, when the company wants to standardize a new product line, it’s simply a matter of entering the Inventor assembly into the Product Configurator in NXTdim Inventor. “In the beginning, it does take some time,” admits Maene, “because you have to figure out which parameters you will probably be changing. But now, it saves us tremendous amounts of time.”

And Autodesk Inventor is also helping things run more smoothly in the workshop. “In 2D, we always had to keep track of everything, like hidden lines in a top view. You didn’t have those in 2D, so you always had to draw them in by hand, and that meant the risk of human error. Now the software automatically adjusts all elevations and dimensions whenever you change something, and does it perfectly every time. Before, you had to copy a drill hole into every view; now, you just draw it once and it’s automatic.”

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Parts lists become extremely important

The Product Configurator in NXTdim Inventor lets Maene update parts lists just as fast. Maene enters a basic parts list in the pre-design, and the parts list is updated automatically with every change. This means the drafter no longer has to go through the labor-intensive and time-consuming task of making sub-drawings, since the builder will find all the information on the parts list. And this change has made the parts list an important point of attention for the designer. Before, updating the parts list was something that was not only a great deal of work, but a major responsibility for the drafter. Errors in the parts list meant errors in production. Geert Maene had to move heaven and earth before his drafters included parts lists with their designs. And that’s one more worry that NXTdim Inventor has taken off his hands.

Maene says that since the company started using Product Configurator in NXTdim Inventor, its customers are more satisfied, and there are no debates about the end result at the finish. Now, the customer gets a 3D drawing to approve before installation, and this gives a much clearer picture of the end result than a flat 2D view.


Outsourcing thanks to Inventor

Maene can now outsource some of its work.” Sometimes we have to put holes in certain pipes. Because you couldn’t show all the details in 2D, our builders sometimes lost a lot of time in re-measuring. This was something you really had to pay attention to, because if you were just a hair off the pieces wouldn’t fit. That’s all a thing of the past now. Today we send the pipes out with an Inventor file to a partner who laser cuts the holes automatically, completely according to the design. They love that in the workshop, because they know the pieces are guaranteed to fit.”

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