Easy access to all product design information is what MPS Meat Processing systems engineers need each day. The company, which is a global leader in slaughtering systems, meat logistics and industrial water treatment, has chosen Aton™ Product Collaboration solution for the task.
The new global economy is nothing new for Dutch companies, which have been deeply rooted in the world economy since the 15th century. Tulips, cheese, electronics, Europe’s largest ports are one well-known story of the country. Small global giants on their particular business niches are another story – companies like MPS Meat Processing systems (MPS). MPS engineers design world-class meat processing systems near the German border at the city of Lichtenvoorde. As a truly global company MPS has opened a production plant in China and has offices as well in USA, Denmark, Russia as elsewhere in Europe. MPS develops innovative machinery and manufacturing systems for meat processing. To succeed in a rapidly changing global business environment real-time access to all product data is important for all people involved with engineering and projects at MPS. “Due to the impact of on-going projects and the life-cycle of our machines, choosing the right tools for the product data management is of vital importance,” says Marcel Kamps, Manager of Process Redesign and IT at MPS. Ten years ago MPS decided to invest in SolidWorks and Roima ek Aton™ solutions. The challenge was to move its product data management to a new level as its own product engineering was changed to 3D. Aton™, chosen because of its functionality and straight implementation strategy MAP, has been since 1999 key software in company’s information technology infrastructure.
MPS has a corporate structure which consists of four product groups: MPS Red Meat Slaughtering, MPS Meat Logistics, AQUA Industrial Water treatment and MPS Service & Spares. The IT department, where drs. Marcel Kamps works, takes care of both technical and administrative information technology at MPS. “Our business has moved rapidly from a known environment to processes, with keywords like acting global, distributed activities and needs for efficient lifecycle management. Our key personnel must have access to our systems and information all over the world,” explains Kamps. The key changes at MPS’s information systems during the last three years have been the emphasis on the engineering process efficiency. “It improves complete value chains in the company when we provide engineers with the right tools to make better and smarter 3D models. There are less errors in production, less failures in machinery, improved customer service and less administrative work to make part lists in engineering.” Previously Aton was used mainly in product development, but now when SolidWorks is used also in project design tasks, Aton’s role has grown significantly. Instead of just 3D product designs whole manufacturing processes are designed with SolidWorks and Aton. This SolidWorks and Aton centered development has increased Aton’s usage at the company. There are some one hundred Aton users at the time.
Data re-usability gives advantage
Knowledge is a key resource for MPS. Design of the latest production machinery and related systems for the meat processing industry demands a knowledge-driven organization. PDM as a portal is a critical system piece not just for 3D CAD like SolidWorks, but also for management of other critical technical documents, such as product specifications, customer manuals, change management documents, knowledge management to generate variants etc. All kind of product views and different kind of product information are all connected by Aton. Each product is known by its item-id and all related documents can be linked to this item-id in Aton. “With Aton we can structure all relevant product data to a tree-view. When we use product item attributes in a proper way, we find existing product data more easily and can re-use it as we design new products, processes or systems,” Kamps says. “This approach to structure product information, which Aton has made possible, has also speeded our manufacturing process and give huge possibilities to re-use known variants and to automate engineering tasks.”
faster to customers Marcel Kamps sees the PDM system essential to MPS’s operations. The growth of documents, increasing collaboration between departments, locations, specialists, customers, suppliers and finally the growth of complexity in products make it impossible to operate without a modern PDM system. “ERP helps us produce new solutions faster and more efficiently. PDM gives us the possibility to register all our technical information and related documents. In the future there will be more and more focus on PDM. Aton will inform us about our standards, our products, our installed product base at the customers etc.,” Kamps says. “Aton has proved to be flexible. It is based on open architecture, maintenance is well organized and its interface with other software like ERP Link is highly functional,” Kamps says. Complex software like PDM and ERP software demands for professional support and consultancy to make optimal use of these tools. Kamps sees that in some special cases distance and language gap between Finland, the home base of Roima, and Netherlands has caused minor difficulties. Although English is spoken on both ends, some details are difficult to explain if you can’t use your own language to make a distinction.
“However, in most situations the internet meetings, VPN connections, the good response from the helpdesk and good contacts to right specialists at Roima make the distance irrelevant.”
This MPS conveyor belt design is made by using an integration of Aton and SolidWorks. This belt system is generated with software, developed at the IT-department of MPS, called MPS designing tools. This tool is based on programming with Aton APIs, SolidWorks APIs and Simplified models. The strength of this combination makes it possible to generate all needed details (items, part lists and drawings) with info added to this “simple” model without these details in this model. This keeps this process flexible and the models as light as possible. Therefore all Simplified data is connected to the individual detailed models, drawings and items and easily available from Aton database, where all product and process designs are saved.
In the philosophy of MPS you have several different views on a product. Depending on the function an object can be shown as a simplified model for a sales layout, a detailed model for designing purposes, IO-orientated for control automation and as a part list structure for production etc. What is needed are relations (kind of hyperlinks) to the product. In this view a product (as a photo) is linked to several views. All relevant product data and relations are kept in the relational Aton database.
Aton makes daily operations easier
MPS uses Aton to manage SolidWorks parts, assemblies and models, as well as other critical technical documents like generic descriptions. It is also used to export bills of materials automatically and import them to the corporate ERP system. The use of Aton has expanded to cover whole project design processes as well as just single machine parts or machines. The whole product lifecycle is covered within the Aton environment. When people work with SolidWorks, they automatically register and document every new item in the Aton product data management system. Information from Aton is translatable to MPS’s ERP system, which makes every designer also responsible for the quality of the bill of material in ERP.