Bluestar PLM: Aftersales Reconfiguration & Remanufacturing Module
Engineer to order for heavy industry is special engineering. Every product is different, and the highest quality must be guaranteed for each one. When equipment is nearing its end of life cycle, a second type of engineering comes into play with service. This is because the refurbishment of such parts and assemblies requires very specific experience of what needs to be replaced in a specific case and what can be repaired well.
Now Bluestar PLM, based on close cooperation with Xtek, provides the Aftersales Reconfiguration & Remanufacturing Module for this type of engineering, which is currently unrivaled.
Xtek in Cincinnati, OH, USA, supplies customer-specific designed and manufactured parts and assemblies for heavy industry worldwide. The focus is on gearboxes, couplings, industrial gearing, and crane wheels, especially for the steel and aluminum industry, for mining, shipyards and power generation. Founded in 1909, Xtek has been employee owned since 2000. Since the end of 2021, Xtek has now been a user of Bluestar PLM from the Danish provider PDM Technology Group.
According to Mohamad Daher, Director of Engineering, when the switch from the ERP system AX 2009 to Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&SCM/AX was on the agenda, a suitable solution for managing the engineering data had to be found at the same time. As fully embedded software, Bluestar PLM was the obvious choice.
With the help of PDM Technology Group’s support, all legacy data from AX 2009 and from the CAD solutions AutoCAD and SolidWorks, which had been in use for many years, were migrated and placed under the shared PLM umbrella. The great advantage of PLM quickly became apparent: every part has a unique number and designation. Searching for a part or an assembly within the PLM system can be done with a single entry, knowing that each part has been going through revision and is released.
“The query function of Bluestar PLM is really easy to use,” says Aaron D’amico, Industrial Engineering Manager at Xtek. “And now the same data is available to all engineering disciplines, as well as to the quality department, at the touch of a button. And it’s also linked to the ERP data.”
Mohamad Daher, Director of Engineering, Xtek (Photo Mohamad Daher)
Mohamad Daher adds: “That wasn’t the case before. There was no connection at all between the old ERP system and the engineering data. So, the quality engineers, for example, had to keep searching and asking for the right models and drawings in their processes. A very time-consuming job.”
It was also mission-critical work, because many Xtek products have to be certified and provide proof of correct manufacture and the materials used. With Bluestar PLM, all of this is now stored under a single number, the Object ID, and can be called up at any time. Even for employees who are not directly involved in engineering. From Mohamad Daher: “All data for certification now comes from Bluestar PLM.”
The production parts list is no longer just information within the ERP system. It is generated in Bluestar and delivered from there to the ERP and is always and directly linked to all associated engineering data. Also, production employees now have access and can easily find data of a comparable product and its manufacturing processes, for example.
However, Xtek wanted to achieve more with PLM than just support for product development and production. This is because an area that is becoming increasingly important for the company, the refurbishment of products, needs and has its own parts lists and its own processes.
Mohamad Daher says: “For every service order, we used to rethink things. What needs to be repaired, what needs to be replaced? And Bluestar has worked with us to create a solution that now even automates this.”
The resulting Aftersales Module is now available as standard software for all customers. It allows the automatic generation of a service BOM out of SolidWorks, by creating parts and assemblies and storing them in Bluestar PLM enhancing overall efficiency. It is also possible to create a service BOM within Bluestar PLM without initially having a drawing or CAD model.
At a glance, now it is clear to the service staff what is required for the individual service order: the parts that need to be manufactured to replace the old and no longer functional ones, which parts need to be repaired, and which parts can be reused. All of this can be found in the special service BOM which is either created initially in Bluestar or automated from SolidWorks. Other CAD systems are also supported.
Kenny Gannon, Service Engineering Manager at Xtek, describes the big difference using Bluestar PLM has made to him and his entire team: “Developing the service side of Bluestar has really helped to synchronize the way my different product groups work in service. Each product group previously had its own way of doing things. Now everyone is accessing the same data and following the same processes.”
Before, Kenny Gannon explains, someone could access a drawing or a 3D model and, for example, change a dimension as needed for the repair. Now there is the version history in Bluestar PLM, but above all, every design now goes through its revision process. And once released, no one can change this version.
This easy but clearly structured way of access to existing, valid engineering data is extremely important, as every modernization project is different. However, a lot of engineering data already exists and is needed in exactly the same form as in another project. By having this data available, repetitive work has been eliminated.
Clutch assembly (Photo Xtek)
Mohamad Daher describes the journey Xtek has taken from its first implementation to the present day: “In the beginning, we used the system out-of-the-box. Then, together with Bluestar, we thought about the possible special functions for service and quality assurance. And the result was a solution that is now even available to other customers as standard.”
All data is now in PLM, every design has its revision, and everything is in the cloud, because like Microsoft Dynamics, Bluestar PLM is of course also cloud software. For Mohamad Daher, however, this solves another problem that Xtek used to have: “For a company with different sites in the long run everybody is doing the same thing and the same process. So, even if you move engineers from one site to the other it is not a huge issue and it becomes much easier in terms of training plus everybody is looking at the same thing. Bringing the engineering portion of the business under one roof Bluestar has helped a lot.”