SIEMENS Solid Edge software to design factories "turnkey"


Case Study

Green Box Industrial chiller specialist adopts Solid Edge to design turnkey plants

"With Siemens PLM Software’s virtual prototype, Green Box has improved design-to-manufacturing integration"

Right-sizing to customer requirements

When a company needs a chiller or a temperature controller, the final decision should never be a tradeoff between the products available from a manufacturer and the customer’s needs. As a matter of fact, this approach would translate into an oversized plant, with excessive costs and consumption. Since the company’s foundation in 1991, Green Box has been working to provide each customer with the most suitable solution in terms of power and dimensions, performance and consumption, developing a portfolio that covers a wide spectrum of applications and capacities.

Temperature under control

Based in Piove di Sacco, near Padua, Italy, Green Box designs, manufactures, sells and supports a full range of machines for the cooling and temperature control of industrial process fluids. “Our machines are auxiliary to primary production plants,” says owner Caterina Spiandorello. “Our core business is the plastic industry, with additional applications in mechanical engineering, laser processing, biogas production and any area where controlled temperature fluids are required.”

With 70 employees and approximately €16 million in annual revenues, Green Box ships about 1,000 machines every year, starting from existing product families that are customized for each customer. “In the plastic industry, each company has very specific requirements, and Green Box’s differentiator is the capacity to adjust our products to the specific needs of each customer,” Spiandorello says. “With this approach we can effectively face competition in an industry dominated by Italian manufacturers.”

Supported by a team of sales engineers that travel all around the world, a sales department with 15 people and a global distributor network, Green Box has achieved an 85 percent export share. “We were only marginally affected by the 2008-2009 financial crisis and were back to growth in 2010,” notes Spiandorello.

Constant development with extensive expertise

Maintaining a strong focus on the introduction of new technology and the evolution of regulations and standards, Green Box constantly develops new products, driven by customers who pay more and more attention to the environmental impact of their business and consequently look for energy-efficient solutions. The company responds with advanced expertise in the management of complete plants and projects: not only standalone products, but also packaged solutions designed for energy efficiency. From a simple flowchart through the 3D design of piping, Green Box engineers can deliver complete turnkey solutions, including all materials for onsite installation. “In regions like Africa, for example, no materials can be sourced from the local market, so we have to provide an all-inclusive supply,” says Maurizio Zambonin, technical manager, Green Box.

After receiving customer specifications, the sales engineering department identifies the most suitable chiller or temperature controller within the Green Box portfolio and dimensions the machine to customer-specific application and installation conditions (indoors or outdoors, for example). When the order is finalized, it is the responsibility of the engineering department, guided by Zambonin, to check manufacturability and the availability of all documentation for production and user manuals.

For products created from scratch, the technical department prepares all the necessary documentation, from 3D models to assembly instructions and assembly drawings for instruction manuals.

From pictures to models

Until 2002, the designers used conventional 2D computer-aided design (CAD) software and digital pictures with dimensions and annotations. The transition to 3D was a natural step for a company that develops product families rather than single machines, starting from a base design or platform, and then creating variations in several product families with a modular and scalable approach. “When designing in 3D we get a full view of the machine from the early development stages,” Zambonin says. “Today all Green Box designs are created in 3D, and because we have a massive installed fleet with machines dating back to the early years of our business, we also need to recover our design heritage, for restyling or optimization purposes.”

Following a software selection process in 2002, the company implemented Solid Edge® software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software, combined with the XpresRoute CAD-integrated piping module. For residual 2D drafting (for example, flowcharts) and to recover data from older projects, Green Box also adopted Solid Edge 2D Drafting, Siemens PLM Software’s free package that provides for a smooth transition from AutoCAD.

“All new products are designed in 3D with Solid Edge,” says Marco Vianello, thermodynamic design engineer at Green Box. “We design all mechanical constructions with Siemens PLM Software’s package and we have built libraries to collect STEP files for outsourced components such as compressors, valves and heat exchangers.”

With synchronous technology, Solid Edge provides essential support for importing 3D models from external suppliers or customers. “With Solid Edge’s synchronous capabilities, we can modify and simplify the models coming from external sources,” Vianello says. “We use synchronous technology to recover the historical collection of 3D designs with a non-structured construction. Rather than working on features, it is much faster and more efficient to reset the model history and switch to synchronous design.“

Perfect routing

The Green Box plants incorporate a lot of piping to connect the chiller to other units such as tanks, pumps or coolers. Based on the facility layout provided by the customer, designers define the positioning of all units and the piping routes, submitting a complete solution to the customer.

Internal piping is handled using Solid Edge XpresRoute, an add-on application with specific features for pipe modeling and routing. “We want to outsource the production of copper pipes, and to do that we need to provide subcontractors with accurate models,” Zambonin says. “With Solid Edge XpresRoute we can handle production peaks more efficiently, relying on external suppliers with an industrial approach to production. The 3D model of piping supports the repeatability, standardization and modularity of components, with clear rules for everyone.”

Green Box has populated Solid Edge with a massive database of assemblies, which helps the company to quickly and easily identify the machine that best matches customer specifications. Solid Edge thus contributes to the re-use of legacy designs, while in the past the company had to rely on the experience and memory of individual designers.

Virtual prototyping

Besides checking the feasibility of a new product, the use of Solid Edge enables Green Box to create very detailed manufacturing instructions. “We are focusing on design-to-manufacturing integration,” Zambonin says. “Our experience with Solid Edge proves that anticipating and checking solutions and errors on the virtual 3D model cuts costs by 50 percent compared to downstream corrections in the workshop, working by trial-and-error on physical prototypes.”

The virtual prototyping made possible by the use of Solid Edge offers several benefits to the Green Box staff. “We can respond more accurately and quickly to customers,” Vianello says, “and we have also reduced lead time in design and manufacturing. The gap from the legacy design cycle is mostly evident when we have to manage orders including product families that were not industrialized with Solid Edge.“

Green Box has implemented six Solid Edge licenses for as many operators, relying on a solid and transparent relationship with the Siemens PLM Software channel partner CCS Team. “CCS Team is a real partner – a consultant, not just a supplier,” Spiandorello says. “We always get accurate and immediate feedback from the CCS Team staff, who are ready to support us with great competence.” Besides training and updating courses for Green Box employees, CCS Team is also supporting the company in process management and work organization, and specifically with a project to integrate Solid Edge, electrical CAD and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

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