Foster now uses SolidWorks on all new designs, such as this pizza dough refrigerator. The 3-D CAD and Cosmos software allows 3-D, on-screen prototyping and analysis of parts while PDMWorks allows more than one designer to work on the same design.
Commercial refrigerator maker Foster Refrigeration, based in King’s Lynn, UK, recently cut its product development cycle time in half while cutting prototyping costs by a third. The company credits the implementation of new CAD and design analysis software with the improvements.
Foster’s product offerings include blast chillers and freezers, refrigerated storing cabinets and counters, walk-in cold rooms, prep stations, icemakers, and water coolers. The commercial appliance maker was using nine separate systems for its product development and prototype processes and wanted to consolidate those into one complete engineering process.
“We wanted to simplify what we were doing. We were outdated and wanted to future-proof our system,” Andrew Hodges, senior development engineer for Foster, tells APPLIANCE. “Before we updated, our systems were no longer supported by the vendors and projects were difficult to send to customers.
Foster set out to find a new design tool vendor, and focused on several key objectives. First, the new design tool needed to be 3-D instead of a 2-D system as the company was then using. This would help engineers better visualize and create data for its latest product ideas. Second, the new system needed to provide a manufacturing data program that the old system could easily transfer into, and that could be easily released electronically and automatically to allow engineers to search for parts. Lastly, the program had to enable downstream communication to service, marketing, and other departments.
The company began the process by interviewing four vendors six months in advance of their anticipated implementation date. It was important to Foster that the product was sold through a UK vendor, and the company decided on Solid Solutions Ltd., a U.K. vendor for SolidWorks.
“They tailored the system to how we wanted to operate enginering and IT departments, and made sure it matched our requirements,” Hodges explains. “We wanted to be able to print 3-D drawings from the shop floor by entering the drawing number—they helped us manage that.”
Foster eventually implemented SolidWorks 3-D CAD and Cosmos design analysis software. The software is now used on all its products.
The CosmosXpress design analysis tool is used by Foster to test the load strength of brackets, hinges, and other parts to determine if they can stand up to the wear and tear they’ll experience in the field. The PDMWorks Workgroup product data management application stores all Foster design information, provides version control, and allows more than one engineer or group to work on the same design simultaneously.
Foster says the switch helped the company reduce time-to-market and prototype costs by allowing it to model everything on-screen, and the software has also improved customer communications. “We can now take a model on the screen and talk to customers with increased accuracy. Visually, it looks right,” says Hodges.
More than happy with the SolidWorks product, Foster says their relationship with the software company is ongoing as it provides updates and support. “We didn’t want to build complexity,” Hodges explains. “We are extremely happy with their product. If we want something, they’re there to give it to us.”