“Using Autodesk Inventor, projects that once took over a thousand hours to produce are now being generated in half the time and with far more detail than we ever dreamed possible.” —Jim Lambert, C.E.T. Design Engineering Manager at Bosch Rexroth Canada
Bosch Rexroth Canada (Rexroth) is a subsidiary of Bosch Rexroth AG, one of the world's leading specialists in the field of drive and control technologies. Using the power¬ful visualization capabilities of Autodesk Inventor, the company secured a five-year project to modernize the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) on the Welland Canal part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a 2,038-mile shipping artery that connects the St. Lawrence River from Canada to the five Great Lakes in the United States.
Using Autodesk® Inventor® software, Rexroth is de¬signing hydraulic systems for the canal in 3D. As a result, the company is seeing dramatic reductions in design times and drawing errors, and it has been able to pass these savings on to the Seaway in the form of improved on-time deliveries and timely responses to design changes. Rexroth is also using Autodesk® Vault to automate its release process, track engineering change orders, and ultimately integrate with the company's ERP system.
As business increased over the years, Rexroth added staff to meet the demand. Despite hir¬ing more designers, it was experiencing a downward trend in drawing accuracy. Not wanting to jeopardize its mission to provide superior-value products and service to customers in a profitable manner, change was imminent.
Rexroth migrated from AutoCAD® to improve its design creation and produc¬tion processes. When the company was invited to bid on the SLSMC project, Ben Gilmore, project chief designer, jumped at the opportunity to put Autodesk Inventor's capabilities to the test. "Our design team used Autodesk Inventor to create animations and renderings in our proposal that helped us gain the Seaway's confidence," explains Gilmore. "By using Inventor to create 3D drawings, ren¬derings, and animations, we convinced the Seaway to change its standard from AutoCAD to Inventor for the project."
With Autodesk Inventor, Rexroth has been able to not only streamline the design process, but also increase the details included on its designs and improve visualization for everyone from customers to the shop floor. What's more, the software transi¬tion was smooth. Rexroth had felt the pain of adopt¬ing new software and platforms before, so ease of use was very important. "When we migrated from 2D to 3D, we had a lot of doubters," says Martin Eberhard, CAD administrator. "But we rolled Inventor out in stages with proper training and those same guys are coming back to me now and saying, 'I can't even imagine going back to 2D.'"
Eventually, the team modeled the frame in Autodesk Inventor so it could show in 3D how the fabrication shop needed to build the weldment. "The shop gained a clear understanding of the design by viewing the model in a 3D environment, allowing them to fabricate the weldment much quicker," adds Jim Lambert, design engineering manager. "In this way, we've been able to leverage 3D down to the manufacturing shop floor.
Reducing Errors Its Autodesk manufacturing solution has facilitated Rexroth's design changes, an important benefit for the SLSMC project in particular. Now, Rexroth's designers are able to make changes and distribute new drawings immediately. "We used to make changes in one view in AutoCAD, but they weren't updated in another view," explains Lambert. "Now, we know that when one feature changes on a model, every drawing that relates to that feature will be automatically updated."
With design changes made easier, and rich visu¬alization showing complex design details more effectively, Rexroth has been able to reduce design errors. Lambert explains, "We deal with a lot of complex shapes that are difficult to envision, which can lead to problems like interferences and incor¬rect dimensions. 3D helps us address these issues. With Autodesk Inventor, we can see removal areas and interferences between parts. It shows complex shapes, such as hoses, that are true to life so we can design around them. We now have very few errors on all the projects we design and engineer within our systems group."
Sometimes the shop floor may even see or suggest a way to do things differently, and they can adjust designs on the fly. "With Autodesk Inventor, we are making changes at least 50 percent faster than we were before," adds Lambert.
Facilitating Collaboration Rexroth has implemented Autodesk Vault software for release process auto¬mation, engineering change order tracking, and bills of materials (BOM) management. "It's very important that we have a secure system that facilitates collaboration and design between designers," says Lambert. "Our plan is to im¬port all of the SLSMC and legacy data into Autodesk Vault and connect it to the SAP system we're implementing."
With Vault, Rexroth keeps its managers better informed about project status and improves project workflow. "There are a lot of hard copies we are now stamping and sign¬ing," says Lambert. "We look to Vault to help managers find out the status of a project, what documentation has been released to the shop, and what components are completed. We want to do electronic signoffs on hydraulic schematics, which are the foundation of everything we build."
Rexroth's teams have reached new heights of pro¬duction, creating more drawings and releasing more projects to the shop floor than ever before. "Despite the increase in the number of drawings, our design team has reduced its average monthly non-conformances by 46 percent and shaved drawing errors by 25 percent," notes Lambert. "To top it off, we've estimated that design times have decreased by over 50 percent compared to previous projects. With Autodesk Inventor, projects that once took over a thousand hours to produce are now being generated in half the time and with far more detail than we ever dreamed possible before."
Thanks to 3D visualization Rexroth now enjoys, the company has also been able to eliminate piping with machined modules. Lambert explains, "Using the 3D visualization of Autodesk Inventor, we produced machining and fabrication drawings to our exact specifications, ensuring fit, form, and function were proofed in the engineering office and not on the manufacturing floor. If we'd used our old piping method, we'd have spent 15 to 20 percent more in material and labor costs."
Autodesk Inventor has also enabled Rexroth's mar¬keting department to virtually eliminate the cost of photographing products. "We give them animated prototypes," says Lambert. "When our marketing department sees the renderings, they can't believe their eyes. We've received rave reviews."
Dino Paladino, General Manager of Industrial Hydraulic Systems, summed up the success of the Digital Prototyping implementation this way: "Inventor has certainly provided a significant ROI, by allowing our design engineering team to design systems ef¬ficiently and with less errors and lead-time."