The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Process testing in machine and plant construction
Innovation – Cideon

Cideon checks potentials

Process workflows. Like a check-up at the family doctor’s, the Engineering Quick Check from Cideon – a member of the Friedhelm Loh Group – examines the design engineering processes in mechanical and plant engineering from head to toe.

Text Ulrich Kläsener ––– Photography

From case history and diagnosis to a complete treatment plan – naturally taking into account the subject’s specific state, current and previous ­problems and risk factors – there are striking similarities between a medical check-up and the Engineering Quick Check (EQC). “Yet our customers are not patients,” says Gerhard Wulff, Head of Product ­Management Engineering at Cideon, with a smile. “We see them as top-flight sportspeople, primarily from mechanical and plant engineering, who are keen to improve their performance. However, companies also come to us that have a vague awareness of problems, but can’t verify whether there is potential for improvement.”

The EQC is a compact, interdisciplinary analysis tool for companies with their own product development operations. Initially, the engineering activities of mechanical and plant engineering companies are looked at in isolation, then in combination with other departments such as sales, work preparation, production and purchasing. The EQC creates the basis for an efficient engineering process and is also ideal whenever a system change, a CAD/CAE software update or the introduction of a data management system in the product lifecycle is due. Managers and users draw on interviews, workshops and a final check to obtain practical recommendations for optimising technology and process management. “We produce a top-down overview with a technological, methodological and business focus,” says Wulff, “which is why the results aren’t just of interest to the head of design but also for the management team.” Presenting the findings to management is an obligatory part of the EQC – “otherwise we won’t take any action,” he adds.

Welcomed with open arms

Alexander Remes, Managing Director at IEM Fördertechnik GmbH, was impressed with the expert approach and in-depth engineering know-how. IEM Fördertechnik – one of 83 companies across Germany that have already completed an EQC – designs, develops and manufactures conveyor systems for bulk materials and scrap in Kastl in Germany’s Upper Palatinate region. The on-site EQC identified three areas for action – standardisation of product development, optimised methods for using CAD and the necessary consistency of data and workflows in product data management. Remes, who took over IEM Fördertechnik in 2014, is in no doubt: “The Engineering Quick Check was carried out highly efficiently. Although we’d more or less expected the results due to having conducted our own analysis, we lacked the expertise to ­harness the potential for optimisation.” For example, he explains, the 3D solution had repeatedly come to nothing at IEM ­Fördertechnik in previous years. “The reasons for this were many and varied, but the main ones were undoubtedly the lack of in-house experience and expertise and an unstructured approach.”

“Each position offers considerable potential for optimisation, even when viewed in isolation.”


Gerhard Wulff
Head of Product Management Engineering at Cideon

The approach is now structured, and after introducing 3D engineering, a new data management system is being implemented. “The two combined help to reduce the workload,” says Remes. “We can now obtain all the production documentation from engineering directly, such as drawings and parts lists, and are much more efficient, particularly in work preparation. It will also soon be possible to send 3D data to machines directly, without having to produce drawings.” There is great optimism among staff in the departments involved, he says. “The approach with end-to-end digitization has been welcomed with open arms, and this is in part thanks to the highly professional launch.”

Humans, systems, processes

The EQC views engineering as a unit comprising the three critical factors of humans, systems and processes. There are many different key questions. Are the systems able to cover the actual requirements? Do the interfaces work from one IT module to another? How is the software used? Are the established methods suitable for meeting the requirements? Are the systems used consistently and clearly? “Each position offers considerable potential for optimisation, even when viewed in isolation,” explains Wulff. “Things tend to get really exciting when it comes to interfaces and points of contact. This is where end-to-end workflows with seamless sharing of data are needed, as an end-to-end system is essential for smart product development and products.”

  • Three Questions to

    Three Questions to

    Alexander Remes
    Mining and industrial engineer,
    Managing Director IEM Fördertechnik GmbH

    The results of the Engineering Quick Check are presented to management. Is that useful? I think it goes without saying. End-to-end digitization is simply too important for us. That’s why these days, 3D CAD is no longer a nice-to-have option either. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you make a professional start in engineering, you can communicate much more efficiently with customers, partners and suppliers in the long term – especially as engineering lays the foundations for paperless, digital manufacturing.

    The EQC identifies potential in engineering automation. What insight has IEM gained from this? There used to be modular systems, but these fell by the wayside with the advent of CAD. This is where we need to take action once again. We were pleasantly surprised by the proposals from Cideon for an approach using rules-based configured modules, even for custom designs.

    What do your staff say? Satisfaction levels among project staff have risen considerably. We have formed teams and provide regular updates on how the project is progressing. Effective change management is key to acceptance.

     

How smart a product development process really is can be seen, among other things, in the productivity of individual departments and the quality of the data flow from research and development through to design, production, sales, commissioning and maintenance. The EQC is thus used for examining the compatibility of people, IT systems and processes. Critical points include the handling of systems by staff, the acceptance of processes in the company and harmonising IT systems and processes. The best indicator of errors at the interfaces is divergence between targets and the actual situation in everyday practice. “The best processes are pointless if no employees use them,” says Wulff, “which is often the case when systems give a cumbersome or inadequate representation of processes.” The problem is frequently exacerbated if IT systems allow redundant working processes and switching between media. As a result, the data is neither consistent nor available in near real time. In other words, the ideal smart product begins to falter because its foundations – data of the highest quality – crumble.

Losses at the interfaces

Let’s look at the human-to-human interface. This calls for pragmatism – after all, shortcomings in communication stem from the differing data in the dialogue between the engineering disciplines of mechanics, ­electrical engineering and software. “There is a historical reason for this,” explains ­Sebastian Seitz, Managing Director at ­Cideon and sister company Eplan. “Although using expert systems since the 1990s has significantly increased departmental productivity, a great deal of action still needs to be taken with regard to communication and collaboration. This comes as no surprise if one person works in an assembly-oriented way, the second person has a function-based approach and the third adopts a modular method.” To reduce throughput times and the outlay needed to make changes, electrical designers, mechanical engineers and software developers have to compare their data and do so in all languages so that everyone understands the information shared. “Working side by side – mechatronics in its truest sense – is then possible,” says Wulff.

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