Process and packaging systems
Selo designs and implements process and packaging systems for the food, animal feed, pharmaceutical, and non-food industries. Selo takes care of automated projects, from the initial design phase through the commissioning of systems. The company, located in Oldenzaal, has in-house technology, automation, engineering, assembly, and follow-up departments.
Two engineering departments
Selo also has two engineering departments that, although focused on different disciplines, collaborate on projects. The first is the mechanical engineering department, which designs packaging and handling machines. The second is the process engineering department, which designs entire production lines and examines how factories can best run their processes. Thobias Reerink, head engineer at Selo, explains that the two design departments rarely collaborate on designs. 'The process engineering department works with P&IDs and flow diagrams in AutoCAD, while the design department creates the machines in Inventor. The process engineers work with huge margins when designing something. It's not as precise as the flow diagram. The machine builders work at millimetre level and everything is built perfectly, given that the fast-moving machine components needs to be perfectly aligned.
A good management system is essential for creating the models and engineering documents at Selo. These documents are now managed in Autodesk Vault Professional, but this wasn't always the case.
'We used to work with paper documents,' Reerink explains. 'We filed the drawings in folders and added all necessary documentation. This was far from ideal as sometimes the folders would be missing documents and the service technician didn't always know if he was working with the latest version.' Reerink continues. 'So he would ask the engineering department to print out a drawing. This was smart, because otherwise he'd have the wrong information when visiting clients, but it made it hard for the engineers, who would rather focus on designing new systems. So the designers looked forward to working with a digital system that would give everyone access to the documents they need.'
The first step
The first step in Selo's digitization process was to use the free program Autodesk Vault Basic, but this did not give Reerink and his colleagues the functionality they needed.
'The basic version is little more than a file browser for Inventor. This was a step in the right direction, but the real breakthrough came when we started using the Professional version,' he explains. 'This helped us manage our documents and our revisions. We also use Cadac Organice Vautl by Cadac Group, which taught us how to set up the best document management system.'More about Cadac Organice Vault
Reerink was happy with the support they received when implementing the PDM system, certainly given the fact that Selo had to make some changes before it could start using the document management system.
'We made parts that were, in turn, made up of different parts. Each part was assigned a project number, a sub-group number, and a serial number,' he explains. 'While this may seem logical, the problem is with the intelligence of the number itself. The component number is more than just a number; it has real significance. It helps us identify it, but when something changes, it's hard to keep track of the different versions. How do you process a change in a number like that?' Reerink says. 'Problems also arise when a part is re-used for a different project. This would mean that different numbers are assigned to the same part, which is problematic when it comes to revisions. In short, there were lots of reasons to make these component numbers less intelligent, which we did.'
Reerink's example illustrates the importance of carefully reflecting on the way a PDM system should be implemented. Only then can you reap the benefits. 'The preparation phase took a lot of time and energy, but it was more than worth it,' says Reerink. 'The advantages may not be clear yet, but I think over the next few months, when we start linking the ERP system, we'll be very happy with the way we handled things.' Cadac Organice Vault and Cadac's PDM Awareness Training have made a valuable contribution!More about Product Data Management
PDM Awareness Training
The first step in a standardized project approach to data management is to offer a training course that explains how the system works in theory and in practice. During their PDM Awareness Training, Selo discussed component numbers and how to link products and drawings. 'Not all of the drawing components had to be linked to the products,' explains Reerink. 'If a minor change is made to a drawing, say a different size is added, you don't want the product to automatically be assigned a revision number. So we decided to unlink them.'