As its name implies, Giant KONE Elevator Co., Ltd., is big in the elevator industry. Founded in 1910 in Finland, the company has become one of the world’s largest elevator and escalator manufacturers. KONE first entered the Chinese market in 1996. KONE entered into a joint venture agreement with Zhejiang Giant Elevator Co., Ltd., the leading Chinese elevator manufacturer.
The company’s product line includes escalators, moving sidewalks, passenger elevators, sightseeing elevators, and freight elevators. These are produced on some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment in China, including a Salvagnini fully automatic flexible sheet metal production line. Major projects in China include the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Capital Airport and the National Stadium (the Bird’s Nest).
Elevators are electromechanical systems that must fit perfectly into the customer’s building; they are shipped as bulk components and installed at the customer’s site. Thus, most projects are one-off. Management set a goal of standardizing portions of the design process as a way of boosting productivity.
Another factor that previously hampered productivity was the use of multiple CAD programs that could not communicate with each other. “Giant KONE boasts a large number of designers of different ages and different levels of expertise, and their design software varied widely,” says Li Yong of the company’s Information Management department. “Problems were often encountered in upstream and downstream communications and as drawings were modified.” The company also lacked a comprehensive digital solution for managing its operations and product data.
Giant KONE’s original CAD software was 2D, which was adequate when the company had fewer orders, but as the workload grew, the drawbacks became evident. “Sometimes, a design had to be started again from scratch, just to make a simple 5-millimeter change in the dimension of a part,” says Yong. When designing new parts, designers made physical models first, then made drawings based on the models, made a round of physical prototypes from the drawings, and then verified the prototypes.
The chance to make a significant change to the design process came during a project done in conjunction with the National High Technology Research and Development Program 863. Called “Study of the Configuration Management Technology of Large Batch Customized Products and Its Application in the Elevator Industry,” this project was Giant KONE’s impetus to upgrade the design process from 2D to 3D. After investigating and testing a number of 3D solutions, Giant KONE chose Solid Edge software with synchronous technology from Siemens PLM Software. It hired United Digital Systems, Co. (UDS), a Siemens PLM Software platinum partner, to handle the implementation.
“Since implementing Solid Edge, Giant KONE has witnessed remarkable improvements in efficiency,” says Yong. With more than 90% of all products and components now modeled in 3D, it is possible to simulate the assembly of an elevator in Solid Edge prior to manufacturing. Only 2 physical prototypes are now required, down from 5 or 6 in the past. Engineering drawings are more accurate, and they are quickly created from the solid geometry. The average research and development (R&D) cycle for a new product has dropped from a year to 9 to 11 months.
“In working with a variety of parts, components and assemblies during the R&D of a high-rise escalator, Solid Edge with synchronous technology enabled our designers to easily locate problem areas and quickly modify them.” says Yong. “Synchronous technology enables our designers to significantly increase their modeling efficiency.” He explains, “In the past, we got all parts and components ready before assembly. Now, using synchronous technology, we work in a top-down way – first concept design, then accurate design and finally standardization.”
According to Yong, Solid Edge saves the company significant money. Solid Edge Simulation enables the company to improve its design verification process. Yong explains, “We’ve essentially eliminated physical prototypes. We now use Solid Edge for virtual assembly, dimensional simulation and interference checking, thus minimizing material waste and substantially reducing costs. Ultimately, using Solid Edge, we’ve saved ¥3 million.”
Yong adds, “The integration of Giant KONE’s Solid Edge design system with other applications has allowed the company to optimize our product design and manufacturing processes. Barriers between departments have been eliminated; information is immediately shared; and what you see is what you get in a design.”