Release date: 7th September 2005
RADAN KEEPS PACE WITH CHANGING NEEDS
Meeting the demands of customers in the fast moving world of merchandising calls for creativity, innovation and know-how if you’re going to keep one step ahead of the competition. These have certainly been the keys to success for Kessler International as it has transformed itself from a producer of walking sticks and umbrella handles to Europe’s leading manufacturer of point of purchase display and merchandising equipment.
Kessler’s 75 year track record of success owes much to its readiness to embrace latest technology as a means of reducing costs, improving flexibility and increasing throughput.
No surprise then that the company’s should also rely on Radan manufacturing software to keep pace with changing requirements at the heart of its sheet metal working capabilities.
Based in a modern, purpose-built 11,000 metre2 manufacturing plant at Stratford in East London, Kessler International has become a market leader in the field of merchandising; supplying custom designed and engineered units to major brands and retailers such as Boots, Christian Dior, Mars and Swatch. Its operations encompass concept design, engineering design and manufacture, a combination that enables it to gain far more benefit from CAD/CAM technology than companies applying it solely to machine programming. Indeed, according to Warwick University, Kesslers is among the top 1% of CAD/CAM users in the UK, and represents a shining example of best practice.
The company’s integrated design and manufacturing facilities cover the full range of materials, from sheet metal and wire to MDF, plastic extrusions and mouldings. However, sheet metal fabrication has been a core element of the company’s operations for many years, with a wide variety of Trumpf, Amada, Edwards and Salvagnini machines employed on site.
Some 25 years ago, the company decided that the best way to survive as a manufacturer was to invest heavily in both CAD and CAM – at a time when the normal method of transferring data between programming systems and CNC turret presses was by paper tape. Back then, it was normal to rely on manufacturers’ proprietary programming systems, which were rarely linked to the CAD systems.
“The disadvantage of proprietary programming systems became obvious as we continued to upgrade our production equipment,” says Group Deputy Chairman, George Kessler CBE. “It was clear that we not only needed a first rate system for handling and optimising our machining data, but also one that was independent of machine manufacturer; so the data itself could be used with any future machinery purchase. There was also a requirement for a system that provided new software releases as they were developed.”
“When we came to evaluate our requirements, Radan was simply recognised as the best package around for sheet metal programming,” says Technical & Purchasing Director, Alec McAndrew.
Kesslers earliest Radan implementation was UNIX based. But in the last few years, the system has been migrated to its current Windows-based format, in line with the company’s move from workstations to a networked PC product development environment.
According to Technical Support Engineer, Alan Swallow, who is responsible for all sheet metal and woodshop CNC programming: “The Radan system is not only very easy to use, but also very fast in operation; an important factor when you consider the volume of parts we process.”
“Through our maintenance agreement with Radan, we enjoy first rate support. Furthermore, the system’s proven technologies are regularly updated with enhancements that reflect users’ latest requirements,” he adds.
Radan’s adaptability has been further underlined through the updating of Kessler’s SDRC CAD system to a latest generation Unigraphics NX3 design and TeamCenter product lifetime management (PLM) environment.
“Today, we design virtually all our products as assemblies in 3D,” continues McAndrew. “This enables us to streamline many of our downstream operations. For example, TeamCenter automatically generates part numbers and Bills of Materials, which interface directly with our MRP system, and we no longer need to create dimensioned drawings for the shop-floor.”
Manufacturing operations for sheet metal parts could not be simpler. The Unigraphics system uses company-standard bend allowances to generate 2D developments of components extracted from 3D assembly models. These are then transferred into the Radan system for programming.
Standard turret tooling and sheet sizes - in line with the company’s Kanban system - are employed to create the finished punching programmes, which are downloaded by DNC link directly to the required production machine.
“Typically, batch sizes are small. 1000 off units represents a relatively long run for us,” adds McAndrew. “We produce approximately 150 new sheet metal programmes a week. As a result, they need to be right-first-time and available quickly in order to maintain throughput. At Kesslers, the speed of translation from a solid model to a completed programme is nothing short of vital. Currently, we are achieving an average of seven minutes per programme.”
Among Kessler’s most recent machine tool investments is a Trumpf Trumatic laser cutter. Again, the required 2D part profiles are imported into the Radan system, where they are converted into symbols’. These are effectively individual cutting path definitions, which are subsequently assembled onto the sheet to produce the final CNC programme.
“We recently added Radan’s nesting module to our system,” says Swallow. “It automatically takes account of clamps and orientates the parts for maximum yield, enabling us to regularly achieve 90% material utilisation.”
“It has increased metal sheet utilisation by approximately 14%,” adds McAndrew. “With rising sheet metal prices, that equates to a saving of £75,000 per year for us.”
Today, Radan is also supporting Kessler’s operation in other ways. At production operator level, it enables users to view set up sheets and other relevant manufacturing information. Equally, it can also be used to compute cycle times, which in turn, feed back into Kessler’s costing and estimating systems.
And for the future? Well, it seems that plans are already in hand to link the Radan system to the company’s Oracle database, so that automatic product revision level checks can be carried out before jobs are released for manufacture.
“We’re also looking to add Radbend to our list of software applications. This will improve the productivity of our Amada and Edwards Pearson CNC press brakes, which are currently programmed on the shop-floor,” says McAndrew.
“During the past two years, Kesslers has won IMechE Manufacturing Excellence Awards - in both the innovation’ and customer focus’ categories - against competition such as Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace. Radan’s product and support have matched our own CAD/CAM/CAE development requirements for more than ten years and I’m confident that they will continue to do so for a long time to come in the future.”
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