DataSuite takes Kelly Engineering to next stage of its evolution
Central Innovation • 20 July 2018
From its beginnings 30 years ago as a relatively small family company based in Booleroo Centre SA, Kelly Engineering has grown into a global concern. The agricultural equipment it produces – chiefly tillage systems for soil preparation and weed control, designed to be towed behind tractors – is now manufactured in Australia, Germany and the US, and Engineering Manager Roger Dunlop estimates that today some 50 to 60 per cent of Kelly’s customer base is in the US and Canada. The remainder is spread across Australia, Europe and emerging markets such as Southern Africa.
Central Innovation has been assisting Kelly Engineering with its design process solutions for the past seven years, and the relationship has been a fruitful one. The latest step of this ongoing journey is Kelly’s implementation of Central Innovation’s DataSuite data transformation solution, which facilitates the seamless transfer of data across multiple platforms by providing a common language between systems.
The move underscores Kelly’s commitment to utilising such technological tools to improve business efficiency – which Roger Dunlop sees as an ongoing evolution from the company’s initial investment in a SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional (Product Data Management) system some six years ago, once the business had grown large enough to support multiple users.
“Investing in SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional at that stage was a smart move,” Roger affirms, “as we’ve kept on growing since. When I joined the business three and a half years ago, engineering consisted of one and a half people, and we now have a team of seven including product designers and R&D engineers. We have six SOLIDWORKS licenses here in South Australia, where our R&D centre is based, and we work closely with our manufacturing partners in the US and Germany.”
Having initially utilised SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional to get its engineering documentation under control, the next step for Kelly was to consult with Central Innovation on how it could further be used to implement an engineering change workflow. “We needed to be able to control change within the organisation from a paper-based to an electronic system,” Roger explains, “to optimise our own requirements in terms of supply chain and production, as well as those of our overseas partners. Central Innovation has been instrumental in customising that and making it work for us. That led to us developing a closer relationship, which has culminated in the implementation of DataSuite.”
Roger explains the rationale behind the decision to bring DataSuite to the business: “From a SOLIDWORKS model we need to produce a lot of documentation like PDFs, STEP files, jpegs, all of which is non-value-added activity for us. Also, using a manual process to construct this documentation is quite prone to error and not ideal when you’re working in a dynamic, fast-paced and constantly changing environment. We use Ostendo ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software to run our commercial operation and we were spending a lot of time inputing data, part numbers and bills of material into the system, linking SOLIDWORKS drawings and so on.
“By providing us with the Datasuite solution, Central Innovation has enabled us to automate data transfer from SOLIDWORKS into Ostendo – everything from the generation of part numbers, 3D thumbnails and isometric views so we can see them directly on the detail screen in Ostendo, to the creation of Model Based Definition database files,” Roger says.
With the implementation having progressively ‘gone live’ over the past few weeks, Roger estimates that automating the data transfer process has already sped up transfer times between 25 and 40 per cent. “And it’s not just about improving efficiency,” he adds, “but also eliminating the propensity for error that’s inherent in manual processing. We’ve got rid of the manual input and also eliminated the need for 2D drawings on the shop floor.”
Roger liaised closely with Central Innovation team members in overseeing the final steps of the transition to DataSuite and says they have been integral to the project’s success: “I’ve been working with them on it for some considerable time, and during the implementation stage their developers have been intimately involved in understanding our needs and creating workflows that will work for us.
“They’ve worked with us not just remotely but also on site, in terms of implementing the system, training the team and imparting best practice guidelines, which has been an extremely important component of the process. I’ve nothing but praise for the whole Central Innovation team, not only in terms of their knowledge of best practice across a broad range of industries, but their ability to apply it to a specific situation and provide us with a customised solution.”
With the implementation phase now complete, Roger is already investigating the further potential of SOLIDWORKS and DataSuite to enhance Kelly’s operations: “We’re already using SOLIDWORKS Composer to repurpose existing engineering models as graphic content for our assembly manuals and ultimately we see ourselves generating 3D output formats for all our manuals – at the moment we still do printed documents but we would prefer that they were all animated.
“Given we service so many different markets, there’s a need to minimise the amount of technical content we’re generating – we want to move away from the written word, especially in Europe where there are something like 25 different languages! We need to represent things more graphically, and SOLIDWORKS Composer helps us do that.”
He says DataSuite’s implementation on the engineering side has proven to be a big eye-opener in terms of its further application: “If you look at it as a universal translator, we could use it, for example, to link our CRM (Customer Relationship management) system into our ERP. We use Salesforce as our CRM tool, and being able to translate that data into our ERP is a pretty powerful proposition.
“DataSuite’s engineering implementation to date has been invaluable to our business, although we are only using the basics at the moment. We realise that the DataSuite solution from Central Innovation has great potential for further application, and undoubtedly we will explore its advanced features as we gain more familiarity and confidence with its operation.”
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