Customization through modular construction
About Mechanisatie Haarlemmermeer
Engineer to order
At Mechanisatie Haarlemmermeer, machine building involves modifying existing machines according to clients' specifications and developing and building their own products. Their main products are planting machines and harvesters for flower bulb cultivation. These machines bear their brand name: the abbreviation M.H. Speciaalmachines.
Hoofddorp has grown over the years
Mechanisatie Haarlemmermeer B.V., as an agricultural mechanization company, was formerly located in its 'natural environment,' but now has a new home at the edge of a residential area. The company began back in 1968, originally as part of Cebeco Handelsraad. In 1998, the activities were continued independently, because Cebeco developed in other directions than Mechanisatie Haarlemmermeer deemed desirable for themselves. Those activities are varied yet closely related: agricultural mechanization, machine building, and internal transport.
Walter van Haaster, Head of Engineering for machine building, and one of the few from his family not involved in the flower bulb company, tells us, 'As the son of a flower bulb farmer, I do benefit from a great affinity with the sector. Combined with my technical knowledge, that can quickly lead to realization of a solution that meets the customer's wishes.'
Drawings are naturally an indispensable tool for building products, and M.H. has long used AutoCAD to make these; first in combination with the Genius application, then with AutoCAD Mechanical. That approach was sufficient for the time, and the company's products, such as the modular-built planting machines, were drawn with this software. M.H. has been a pioneer in modular construction; a building method that others later thankfully adopted.
Switching to 3D
2D did not actually get in the way of advanced, complex designs, but we still decided to switch to 3D.
'With customer-specific projects in particular both for new buildings and for building modification,' says Van Haaster, 'you're often faced with clients who are very knowledgeable about their profession, and thus have specific wishes. Sometimes, however, these same customers find it difficult, or are simply unable, to interpret the 2D drawings we produce for our solutions. With a 3D presentation, designs are not only clearer, they are also easier to discuss. This benefits both the customer and us; because especially for one-off projects, you want to complete them successfully on the first try.'More about Autodesk Inventor
Getting it right first time with Inventor
We began in 2002 with the fifth version of Inventor, and we have not regretted our decision for a single moment.' The question of whether the software has more advantages than just 'getting it right first time' is an obvious one. 'Let me start by saying that I don't believe 3D is always faster than 2D,' continues Walter. 'For us, the major benefit lies in having control over the manufacturability and the accuracy of the data for exchanging information with third parties.
Consider, for example, the rectangular tubes used to construct the frame of a harvester. We outsourced the cutting of these profiles to a firm with a pipe laser machine. Not only do the ends have to be cut to an exact shape and size, but they also have to use a laser to engrave the locations on the tube that show where to weld the components. The frame also acts as a reservoir for the hydraulic oil, and the holes for the connections of the hydraulic system are already cut out. In other words, the component is delivered pre-fab.'
As I look around the shop floor, I see that work activities at M.H. are nearly all limited to assembly of the purchased components, including the lasering. 'Here it mainly comes down to constructing the puzzle that we have designed ourselves; thus it's easy and it always fits!'
Using this method, production can be carried out by only a seven-person team. The draughting room has expanded to include two people; besides Walter, we now have a former work placement student who has joined the company and who learned to work with Inventor during his placement. Incidentally, the presence of work placement students is no coincidence. M.H. is an active training company that happily promotes the agricultural mechanization industry.
Autodesk Vault is crucial
Although Inventor 2009 was released some time back, M.H. employees are still working with version 2008; they just have not had enough time to make the switch. The switch will take place, and they are convinced that, when it comes to the functioning of Inventor, they can complete this transition with little help from outside. There is less time and enthusiasm for the facets of installing or upgrading Vault. Autodesk's document management system comes with Inventor and is crucial for handling complete projects, even with two users. Confident in their abilities, M.H. have left the installation of Vault to Cadac Group, who have performed this task various times in the past.
The advantages of 3D
Implementing 3D has enabled Mechanisatie Haarlemmermeer to better provide data to their suppliers, who deliver the components for the machines. This better guarantees the quality of the components and the complex machines can be built error free and without difficulty. Thanks to 3D information made available at an early stage, the clients for whom these machines are intended can gain a better impression of the proposed design, so a decision can be taken more quickly. In a seasonal industry, that can be vital.