Optimize the efficiency of design processes – this was the brief given by E. W. Gohl GmbH to the Steinbeis Rating-Advisory Center in Singen, south-west Germany. E. W. Gohl is a specialist in cooling towers and recooling plants. A medium-sized enterprise also based in Singen, E. W. Gohl had an idea: to automate the process of designing cooling towers as early as the quotation phase, before passing on designs to production.
E. W. Gohl GmbH is one of Europe’s leading serial producers of cooling towers. Its future goal: to design all of its products virtually, without manual involvement – in a variety of formats, including accessories – and to then hand on detailed drawings to engineers. Andreas Hedrich, the project manager for ordering at Gohl, has ambitious aspirations: “Existing technology makes it possible to achieve this. We can’t yet say how close we’ll get to 100% implementation, but we will get over 90%.”
A cost-benefit analysis carried out at the beginning of the project highlighted some expedient ways to generate clear and neutral data, and to identify which products would be suited to Gohl’s needs. Working with the experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center, the company decided to introduce a CAD system called SolidWorks, which came complete with a product data management system (PDM). The project was given the name GohlCAD.
Once the team had selected the software, the project manager and head of product development were given detailed instruction on how to use the system, and a specification was drafted for the new network software. Simultaneously, the team started the 3D design of individual parts. As the company had previously only worked with a 2D system (CADkey), all parts had to be cleared with production and created completely from scratch, adhering to a variety of criteria.
So how does the GohlCAD system work? People in sales and order processing work with software and a configurator (a set of rules). People working on the designs use a CAD system with integrated PDM. Between this, network software feeds commands issued by the configurator directly into the CAD system: the CAD needs a kind of interface to make it possible to initiate CAD commands “from outside”. Modern CAD process technology does this by creating a 3D CAD geometric model as a basis for deriving automated 2D designs. The 2D designs contain standard views, an ISO view, a foundation plan and a loading plan. To keep things clear, text markers are attached to planned components. If needed, neutral files formats such as PDFs are made available. These are saved in offer and order folders for anyone to view. To process orders, two other functions were planned. One: the automatic replication of all sheet metal parts in DXF format. The other: automatic transferal of punch and cutout areas to the sheet metal parts. Elmar Marmann, head of sales and marketing at Gohl, is impressed with the new software: “The SolidWorks data exchange program, eDrawings, allows you to read, view and add comments to SolidWorks files without a CAD license. It will help the sales department clear things with the design department, and is ideal for presenting components to clients and explaining how they work.” Marmann’s co-worker Christian Noack, who heads up product development, can only point to benefits with the new system: “The PDM system makes it much easier for us to find our design data and areas within drawings,” Noack confirms. “With the CAD system, you can also check technical parameters virtually. It’s much easier to judge whether parts or retro-fit components can be integrated into new or existing equipment.”
The introduction of the GohlCAD system has made it possible for the company to preserve resources for actual construction activities. From now on, standard designs and capturing expertise digitally are par for the course. Summing up, the Steinbeis project manager, Andreas Hedrich, says: “This has resulted in the creation of a pool of important components for future developments. As far as I can see, in the future, we’ll save significant time and money at each development stage. The next projects could involve fluid simulation, digital documentation, or both.”