An innovative project at an international steel manufacturing company has revolutionized the way hand welders use design drawings to manufacture parts and has led to some unexpected benefits and cost savings.
Following an acquisition and integration, the steel manufacturer’s business moved from standard design drawings, to a proprietary drawing type for fabrication. The documents were a combination of very simple “stock” part images and text-based instructions usually printed on paper when used in production.
However, over time, both the manufacturing landscape and the steel manufacturer’s needs have changed. The proprietary drawing format required a long training period for all employees. The company recognized that as most of their work force already understood standard drawings, if they could create their own internal drawings with the standard format, they would spend less time and money training employees.
As the manufacturer and AbeTech started analyzing the options, we realized an opportunity for another gain. The best way to generate standard drawings was to create a digital 3D model of each part and use construction industry software to automatically create the documents. The manufacturer would then not only have all the standard drawings they needed, but also a 3D model of each finished part.
The manufacturer ran a pilot of the new standard format drawings in their facility and immediately noticed the vast amount of paper printed for every hand welder to use on each job. This equated to roughly $300K a year for all of the manufacturer’s facilities just in printing drawings! Luckily, AbeTech quickly saw a cost saving opportunity: instead of printing paper-based design drawings, keep them in a digital format each welder can access on a tablet computer.
AbeTech went on site with a variety of tablet models for the manufacturer to test live in their environment. The company chose ruggedized xTablet T1200 tablets from MobileDemand because these rugged tablets could both survive and be warrantied within the harsh manufacturing environment. Now welders are able to use a fully custom application on the tablets to view the new standard drawings together with a full 3D model of each part they are fabricating.
Coincidentally, the manufacturer was working on another project to improve how they assess hand weld efficiency from the weight of material welded per hour to a measure based on the time taken to weld the part. The system has a very good algorithm to estimate how long it takes to hand weld each piece and this unit of measure was incorporated into the application running on the MobileDemand tablets.
Using the built-in scanner on each T1200 tablet, the manufacturer can now automatically measure and log time welding each custom frame part and so drive efficiency.
The new digital design drawings, together with the MobileDemand tablets have removed the need for paper based drawings. This move to digital will save the manufacturer $300k each year. Plus, the company has made record gains in efficiency each month the tablets have been in use. And the hand weld team leaders say the new method of working is easier for training and improves quality of the finished product.
The manufacturer is confident this move to digital design drawings and a 3D model for each product we create is a stepping stone to more technological improvements in the business. AbeTech will be there as a long term partner to suggest new hardware, software and services to complement these technological improvements along the way.