Visual PDM - Article 2

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System Boosts Throughput by 400%

Breaking with tradition, this company scrapped their paperwork on the shop floor and installed a computer network.

from MAN, June 1996

Based in Chicago, Bodine Electric, makes a variety of fractional horsepower motors including small gear motors, with built-in speed reducers, and the first U.S. line of small motors and gear motors to meet international standards. The company has over 500 employees and markets to Canada, Europe and the Pacific Rim, in addition to the United States.

In the Peosta, IA plant, instead of the mainframe used at the companyís Chicago headquarters, a network of PCs (personal computers) was set up to handle assembly information. Fourth Shift Corp., a Minneapolis-based software company, was chosen to integrate manufacturing, accounting and information management on the network.

The system was designed to manage priorities through a common database, with on-line inquiries and updates, so the company could work together within a coherent framework. "Fourth Shift's MSS (manufacturing software system) was chosen because of its clear, simple design and its extensive integration within the industry-standard PC application environment," says Plant Manager Jim Johnson.

Poised for Paperless Production

Johnson had more aggressive plans, however. He was seeking a user-friendly way to create a paperless plant environment; so, he turned to Jack Schroeder, then a consultant and now a partner of Insight Solutions. Schroederís company had done extensive mainframe programming for Bodine and was given the job of developing a Windows application that put shop documentation on-line.

The goal was to develop software that brought CAD (computer-aided design) information together with bills-of-material and process plans without constantly updating drawings. In addition, the software had to be friendly enough to use on the assembly floor. "At the time, Windows was really a new thing," says Schroeder. "The number of applications out there was quite limited. We certainly could have found something DOS-based that would have been adequate, but we really believed in Windows as a user-friendly interface."

Schroeder's Insight Solutions (Schaumburg, Ill.), and a new product, Visual PDM (for Product Data Management), resulted and they have certainly helped Bodine's shift up to the latest in cellular manufacturing technology.

Today, each manufacturing cell has workstations, cellular manufacturing technology and Visual PDM. When it's time to build a motor, an operator simply types in the end item part number and all the information needed to assemble it is provided through the computer. With the help of Microsoft's ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) technology, Visual PDM calls up the appropriate AutoCAD drawing (or a scanned drawing), Fourth Shift's bill-of-materials and any accompanying process plans.

The CAD drawing can be zoomed or panned and the windows can be scrolled, minimized or maximized. Many of Bodine's parts look identical; only dimensions change. Bodine's design engineering department, in an extensive re-engineering effort, stored design parameters in a separate table. As a result, only a few drawings are needed to represent an entire part family. By simply substituting different values, CAD maintenance and computer storage demands are reduced. In addition, the risk of information errors is reduced.

Up-to-date MSS bills of material numbers are also substituted into drawings. Actual part numbers are not "hard coded" onto the drawings; they are substituted at the time of display. As a result, any time information is changed in Fourth Shift's MSS, those changes are immediately reflected in the CAD drawings. Also, the bill-of-material window uses a "hot link" concept. An operator can see a component part number there, double-click on it, and bring up that item, along with its accompanying bill of material, process plan and CAD drawing.

Proven Productivity Performer

Productivity improvements have been demonstrated, which is particularly remarkable considering the plant started with all new employees. In itís first few years, Bodine's Peosta plant has reduced final assembly lead time from four weeks to one week, changeover times have been reduced four-fold, and throughput has increased 400 percent.

"Prior to Visual PDM-based documentation, it could take more than a dozen individual drawings and reference documents to perform final assembly," observes Johnson. "Now, all documentation is delivered via one electronic format. All production is performed by associates who are new to Bodine. Working with all new people and still attaining productivity improvements proves that this is an effective tool for manufacturing documentation delivery."

The system has worked so well that Bodine recently began implementing it at the 500-employee Chicago site as well (both Fourth Shift MSS and Visual PDM are being implemented company-wide). Other Fourth Shift customers are also now implementing Visual PDM as well, including a Chicago-based division of Nalco Chemical.

"We've started by creating a 'factory of the future' with the help of this slick documentation and distribution system," says Johnson. "As new Visual PDM features are integrated with the Fourth Shift's MRP II and commercial systems, our goal of computer-integrated manufacturing is being realized." He concludes, "Our long-term goal at Bodine is to use Fourth Shift as the `centerpiece' of an information system infrastructure that efficiently supports shorter and shorter lead times while improving customer service and satisfaction."


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Last modified: September 03, 2009

Key words: pdm, erp, manufacturing, process planning, work flow,documentation,crm