“We are fascinated by the fact that a manageable range of parts enables an almost infinite number of transmission variants and gives the impression that everything is very simple. We achieve this through very efficient design processes and with automated variant management, ”reports Christian Kolz, Head of Product Innovation & Tools at Neugart GmbH. Neugart is a family company from Kippenheim in southern Baden. The gear manufacturer with 700 employees develops, produces and sells planetary gears and customer-specific special gears.
Neugart products are based on a variable modular system, so that technically more than four million product variants are possible. In the past five years there has already been demand for 35,000 transmission variants. These differ, for example, in terms of engine adaptations, different lubricants or special drive shaft designs. "In the past, each variant required around one hour of construction time for technical clarification, the generation of parts and manual processing of the parts list, the creation of work plans and documentation," says the head of product innovation.
Each product variant required an hour of construction time
In order to reduce this effort, the manufacturer has been looking into the possibilities of a future-proof PLM system for variant management and for automating the design processes since 2011. With the help of the external consultant Josef Schöttner, SICON, a technical concept was developed and finally a benchmarking of PLM system providers was carried out. Christian Kolz complains about many solutions that adjustments require additional programming know-how: “We decided on the solution from intellivate, an authoring system that we can adapt ourselves. Thanks to the variant management in PLM, we also have access to consistent product data at all times over the entire life cycle of a product. ”If a customer wants to order from Neugart today, they can put together their own gear variant in a product configurator on the homepage. The rules for the product configurator are supplied directly from the PLM system.
In addition to innovative PLM system components for fully digitized product data management, intellivate GmbH offers a fully integrated module for variant configuration. Christian Kolz names the three decisive reasons for the provider intellivate: "The variant management, the variant management and the variant management!"
The PLM system automates the processes
A particular challenge in product data management for more than 35,000 transmission variants is data maintenance and change management. These include technical changes, updates to parts or the product structure when old components are replaced by new ones. "We have achieved that change management is implemented fully automatically according to defined rules," says Christian Kolz, describing the progress. The variant master is integrated into PLM as an independent object. In this way, each variant configurator recognizes its rejected parts. Thanks to the authoring system, the designer only revises and updates the set of rules of the variant master and sends all parts affected by a change to the automated revision. The auto-configurator adapts the parts to the new version of the set of rules and transfers the data consistently to the ERP system.
The intellivate solution has been in use for five years and new features are regularly added. The variant configurators can now also be used to automatically generate individual components and the descriptive documents in the form of drawings and the associated CAD data. "If the designer now needs a new part, he leaves the PLM system with the rule-based generation of all product data and the drawings," reports the head of product innovation. The automatically generated drawings are then checked by the designer and all data released.
We have saved many thousands of design hours
Christian Kolz rates the cost-benefit analysis of the PLM system from intellivate as very positive: “We have increased sales significantly in recent years and saved more than 35,000 design hours just by automatically creating new products. Now it takes less than 5 minutes from the product configuration by the sales representative to the provision of the operating order in assembly. With the automated data maintenance in our PLM system, we have also saved more than 10,000 construction hours after two years. After all, we expect further savings of several thousand hours in construction with the current expansion. "
The Head of Product Innovation emphasizes that the steadily growing requirements of Neugart could always be implemented by intellivate. He particularly emphasizes the flexibility of the system and the consistent data model, which has proven itself very well in practice. He also rates the satisfaction of the employees with the solution positively: “The PLM system automates the monotonous and boring work. The designers are happy that they no longer have to adjust 3,000 parts manually, but have more time for more demanding projects. "
As a further outlook, Christian Kolz mentions the automated creation of the technical documentation with the geometry and performance data of the products: “We would also like to have this documentation created in a next project, so to speak, 'on the fly' during the product configuration in PLM.