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conTeyor implements three new packages with the aid of cards PLM Solutions


ConTeyor’s reusable textile packaging systems are used by virtually all tier one suppliers in the European automotive industry. The Belgian niche player is now also targeting assembly companies in other sectors. ‘The new CAD and PLM system and the product configurator form the cornerstones of our growth strategy. Implementing them was a massive endeavour, including for our partner cards PLM Solutions. But I would definitely do it again.’

ConTeyor (250 employees, turnover 35 million euro, head office in Merelbeke (B)) is the market leader with its textile-based ‘logistical carriers’. A ‘conTeyor’ – it’s no coincidence that the name resembles ‘conveyor’ – is a smart array of textile compartments (cells / pockets) which is hung in a shipping container, explains CTO Bart Vermeulen. This ensures that space in the handling unit is optimally utilised and more cargo will fit in a unit or truck. And because textile is somewhat flexible, minor product modifications are no problem. There are also other benefits: the - partly patented - system limits transport damage, can be folded (to be returned), lasts for years and prevents the wastage of cardboard, fill chips and other packaging material. In other words, it reduces costs and environmental impact. With the caveat that the goods to be transported cannot be exceptionally heavy. Vermeulen: ‘Interior components for the automobile industry are our main market: door panels, dashboards, bumpers etc. Or washing machine doors. Lighter components, not heavy engine parts.’

All conTeyor systems are tailor-made. ‘Every customer has specific wishes and every application is different, for instance because the dimensions and weight of the goods or the size of the handling unit differs. Our core approach is to use the textile type that is most suitable for the specific application, we develop those in conjunction with our textile suppliers. We produce the designs in-house, and the rolls of textile are CNC cut and tailored to size with special stitching in our factory in southern Poland. We also design the hanging fixtures such as rail systems ourselves and have them manufactured by others.’

‘Textile is a wide field,’ says Bart Vermeulen. ‘Woven, non-woven or knitted; made of natural materials or polyethylene, polyester etc. We can furnish it with extra layers, including a protection and wear-resistant layer.’ Although the process is very difficult to copy, it is gradually happening more and more. ‘In order to remain ahead of the competition, we are working hard to speed up the entire process, from the initial customer contact through to delivery.’ In between there are stages such as engineering, prototyping and (series) production. ‘An excellent product on its own is no longer enough. You must also be able to respond rapidly and effectively: quick response manufacturing. With as the next step - because we make customer-specific products - quick response development.’

That requires close collaboration between engineering and others: downstream (with sales, purchasing), upstream (with prototype building, production) and cross (within engineering). And an IT infrastructure which helps ensure that all parties have access to all the latest information and can contribute information in real time. ‘So that engineering is no longer marooned on an island with its CAD system, but can share what it’s doing - in 3D. A further step is for our sales people in the various countries to be able to participate in the 3D process. Then we can really speed up.’ ConTeyor had not adequately mastered that, says Vermeulen. ‘We had to make progress there for the sake of our growth plan. Our CAD system had not been updated for a long time and was file-based; in its place, we wanted a safe system in which you can handle data more securely. A PLM package with its many extra possibilities soon became desirable.’ As if that wasn’t enough, a new product configurator was also high on the wish list, particularly in order to facilitate sales in that new (3D) role. ‘By the end our configurator was producing a list of 2000 parameters: unworkable, it was bursting at the seams. It was high time for a state-of-the-art replacement; one that enables us to switch between configuring and engineering.’

That switching is essential, emphasises Bart Vermeulen. ‘Because we produce tailor-made designs, we can configure say eighty percent. We engineer the rest - in order then to configure and engineer again, sometimes more than once. Adjusting a configuration that was produced at the start at the last minute is no rarity, for example because the customer decides that they want a different container size after all. So we cannot simply switch from configuring to engineering - there needs to be an interaction.’
After exploring the market, conTeyor opted for Siemens: NX (CAD), Teamcenter (PDM) en Rulestream (configurator), choosing as their implementation partner PLM Solutions in Best (and with offices in Genk (B) and Stuttgart (D)). ‘Siemens had a matching offer, and that combination with Rulestream made it particularly interesting. That deals with 80% of the design choices.’
ConTeyor already knew cards PLM Solutions - Platinum Partner for the Benelux for Siemens PLM Software – through some OEM-ers who had both companies as customers. Vermeulen: ‘Siemens partners with small and medium-sized companies through distributors. I think that’s a good idea: they’re closer to our type of business. It was also good that Siemens joined in the discussions right from day one.’ Koen Valkenburg, account manager at cards PLM Solutions (responsible for Belgium from the Genk office): ‘We really developed a three-way partnership between conTeyor, Siemens and cards PLM Solutions.’

The implementation process started over two years ago. The first part of engineering (development of handling units) went live with NX and Teamcenter in March 2015, reports Vermeulen: ‘They recently had the switch-off. I think that’s an important milestone; there’s no way back then, and everyone has to use it.’ The ‘go live’ for textile development followed start of this year. ‘That was pretty complex - it was well-embedded. The unplug moment is still to come there, but eighty percent of the textile design work is now being done on the new system.’ He describes it as ‘a massive endeavour, for us and for cards PLM Solutions’. ‘We are very ambitious, and sometimes pretty stubborn in order to make sure things are done just right. I’m sure they must sometimes have wondered at cards PLM Solutions: how are we going to tame that beast?’ Valkenburg praises conTeyor for that drive. ‘They have a clear vision of where they want to go and were brave enough not to choose the easy route. That made them an interesting, fun client to deal with.’ Bart Vermeulen: ‘Doing the three processes at the same time was not an option. You have to do it in stages, take the time and expect the occasional unavoidable dip. With hindsight I would say that it only really started working when we fully released people internally 100% from other tasks. But I’d certainly do it again.’

Source: Link, April 2016