Opening Manufacturing 'Doors' with 3D Communication
"Within just a few months of adopting Lattice Technology's XVL compression technology we have already seen major benefits to our business", said Sebastien Jame, Engineering Services Director at KVAL Inc, "Conservatively speaking productivity gains of 20-25% in manufacturing, technician learning curves reduced to minutes instead of days and spare part service calls often reduced from 15-20 minutes to just seconds."
KVAL Inc. is a family-owned company that has been designing and manufacturing heavy industrial woodworking machinery since 1947. For 60 years KVAL has been providing high quality machinery, parts and service to the millwork industry and is especially recognized as an industry leader in the design and manufacture of precision-engineered, solidly-built door machining equipment. Increased competitiveness within the millwork industry has forced many smaller companies to become more specialized – KVAL has successfully focused on customizing the design and configuration of many of its machines to the needs of specialized customers. Today, KVAL creates, ships and installs over 300 unique machines/year and maintains more than 10,000 in the field. Often a single machine can have up to 6000 individual parts.
Innovation in the creation and adoption of technology has kept KVAL at the forefront of design and manufacturing of precision-engineered door machining and millwork equipment ever since founder A.A. Kvalheim designed and built a panel saw employing an ingenious traveling carriage. In recent years KVAL adopted SolidWorks, a powerful 3D modeling solution to quickly and accurately provide the necessary custom design services. "KVAL also tried to use SolidWorks eDrawings capability to share 2D and 3D designs downstream of engineering", said Jame, "we still use eDrawings for 2D but the size of the 3D files for KVAL machines and the consequent time to load, view (zoom/pan), and manipulate the models was too slow for 3D model sharing and publishing". Then Jame discovered Lattice Technology and the XVL compression technology, "We did an evaluation, easily created our 3D files at a fraction of the size of the edrawings ones and tested high performance viewing even on low price PCs – we were sold right away and haven't looked back since. The combination of SolidWorks to create 3D models and XVL to share them has decreased assembly and reworking time by as much as 20 percent, reduced new technician learning curves to minutes instead of days and reduced spare part service calls often by 15-20 minutes."
Architect-Di Computerized Hinge and Lock Machine
This new 3D communication has opened new doors in KVAL:
Door One: between KVAL Design and Manufacturing
To a specific customers requirements Engineering would design a variant automatic door milling machine and send it, "over the wall" to the company's 30,000 square-foot production floor, and then not hear anything back for a while. They assumed everything was okay. But often personnel would find difficulties in the design's manufacturability and send a set of marked-up paper drawings back 'over the wall' to engineering. The two departments communicated in this manner, not just from their physical separation, but because the 'wall' consisted of a mainly a technological barrier. Design spoke CAD; Manufacturing talked red ink on paper.
After installing Lattice Technology Solutions in the Design department, which ultra-compresses the CAD models, KVAL soon proved the benefits, " for example 3D even helps the welders see more quickly how to arrange and weld the parts in a more efficient sequence" . Overall the Design and Manufacturing workload is reduced because there are not as many CAD changes coming to Design from Manufacturing. On the other side, Manufacturing is now giving valuable input into the Design process.
Lattice models to handle customer queries
The new 3D XVL technology did not make lobbing projects back and forth over the wall more efficient or faster – instead it opened a door in the wall. Now the process of design and manufacturing has become a team effort between the two groups: advice from the production floor on the easiest way to build an assembly is now immediately accessible by the designers. Manufacturing had no CAD knowledge, training or systems but once they obtained the 3D models in XVL format and could use the simple XVL animation tools and free viewers all these benefits started to accrue and the result was increased productivity and reduced rework!
Door Two: between KVAL Manufacturing and Support
In just a few months, the compression innovation has had a similar effect on KVAL Technical Support and Service where support calls often come in . Often the customer, while looking at their installed KVAL machine, is calling from a cell phone and trying to order a spare part. The KVAL technical Support and Service staff used to have to find the right paper drawing, including the variants for that customers particular machine – now they automatically published HTML pages showing the model, the assembly structure and animated disassembly on their desktop PCs via a web browser and instantly click on the 3D model of that KVAL machine. As the customer describes the problem the technicians zoom and pan to 'virtually' see what the customer sees – delays are avoided, conversations are much shorter and correct parts are identified by part number.
"What often used to take us 15-20 minutes is done in seconds – and no mistakes shipping the wrong part – the result is at least 10% higher productivity, savings by selling and shipping the right parts and more satisfied customers", said Jame.
Door Three: between KVAL and Customers in the field
This door is next for KVAL: "our goal is 100% 3D and we want to give our customers, via the KVAL website or an online webex session, the ability to directly view and access a 3D model of their unique machine in order to enable identifying problems and directly ordering spare parts – the customers we've already shown this to are very excited about it." Jame further explained, "we plan to deliver KVAL machines, not with a paper user manual, but with a portable computer loaded with the XVL Player, the 3D XVL files (including disassembly and assembly animations) of the customers machine and webex so that customers and KVAL Field Service staff can readily understand and work on problems together." With Lattice Technology applications a series of components can be shown being put together or taken apart in the correct order of assembly. Just as Lattice Technology is revolutionizing catalog publication by using illustrations directly from engineering CAD parts, XVL models in animation provide a powerful tool for technical and maintenance training manuals. What's more unlike movie or AVI animations XVL animations can be viewed not just from the camera position but from anywhere. If you want to see how it come apart from underneath use you mouse to swing it around while the animation is playing!
In time the lightweight XVL models of KVAL machines will be linked by HTML to other information in the ERP system such as price information and animated assembly models will incorporate the tribal knowledge of KVAL assembly specialists so that it can be equally useful for field repairs. "We have really only just started with what Lattice Technology's applications and XVL format can do for KVAL - yet what it has already done for us in just five months has really exceeded my expectations. XVL has been extremely helpful throughout our entire operation," concluded Jame.
KVAL Inc. is a family-owned company that has been designing and manufacturing heavy industrial woodworking machinery for the door and window industry since 1947. Today, we want to be your source for the lowest possible prices for millwork machinery parts, tooling, supplies, and accessories. Our fast, same-day shipping service means you will be able to confidently take emergencies in stride knowing that we are just an e-mail or phone call away. As soon as we hear from you, we immediately begin processing and packaging your order for shipment by any method you desire. Items presented in our website have been thoroughly tested and we stand behind every one of them. For more information, visit www.kvalinc.com.