Seco Tools Carves a Path Toward Reliable Automation with HULFT

Seco Tools is one of the world’s largest providers of comprehensive metal-cutting solutions for milling, stationary tools, hole-making, and tooling systems. They offer a range of tools, from micro-milling for medical manufacturing to equipment needed in automotive and aerospace development. Their customer base includes global automobile manufacturers, several worldwide distributors, and hundreds of smaller companies. With an annual revenue of USD 1B, Seco Tools is present in over 75 countries and employs over 4,000 people.

Disparate systems and manual processes meant team projects could take up to 8 months.

Seco Tools manufactures custom tooling for computer numerical control (CNC) machines for thousands of distributors worldwide. The company had over 150,000 different tools identified in the online catalog, and at the start of the project, over 150,000 part files were stored as XML and 30,000 Excel sheets. Each part file contains a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing, the geometry, and technical features of the part. The actual CAD drawing was kept in a different file referenced with a URL field in the original XML.

These systems did not operate in sync and required time-consuming human interaction to complete the bill of materials (BOMs). The online catalog drives the creation of bill of materials for new customers, which involves technical features, geometry comparisons, and other complex measurements for precision in pricing and subsequent production. Without a database that allowed accurate comparisons, creating a bill of materials meant the Seco Process Engineering team had to reference the online catalog and perform all the calculations manually. When complex and more extensive jobs comprise hundreds of part-files, it could take up to three weeks to create a bill of material and provide budget estimates. A project this size would often be passed over due to time constraints in getting the information to the customer.

“As a company, we needed an automated and faster way to handle parts and part files and document how parts fit together. Creating and maintaining a single-source database became our top priority,” said Bob Tennant, process engineering manager at Seco Tools.

High-speed data migration: Original plan, three years. With HULFT Integrate, under six months.

Transferring part files from all the different sources into one database was projected to be a three-year, manually intense project. In the end, Seco Tools decided to utilize HULFT Integrate to automate this process and complete the project within six months. HULFT Integrate could read, merge, cleanse, rotate, and tessellate the data, allowing the department specialist to finally create a database, the tools data management (TDM) system required to automate processes.

The original part data was stored in Azure as XML, and the CAD drawings were kept in a different file referenced with a URL field in the original XML. These must be downloaded, cleansed, and uploaded to the new TDM. Through this process, HULFT Integrate read all 150,000 part files and discarded 80,000 legacy parts that were no longer used. The remaining 73,000 current part files were then grouped by how they would be utilized and installed with all pertinent fields in the system.

No developers? No problem. Saison Technology offsets software development time.

HULFT Integrate’s drag-and-drop data integration architecture allowed the lead machinist at Seco Tools to complete all the engineering work. Saison Technology’s integration team worked closely with the machinist—who had no background in software development—during the initial phase to provide domain expertise, training, and guidance. In the end, the ease of use of HULFT Integrate empowered Seco Tool’s non-development teams to refine and enrich the Saison Technology experience according to specific requirements.

Once the database and process were in place and active, tracking part files became very easy and automated. For all future changes, over 150,000 tools, over 150,000 XML documents, and approximately 30,000 Excel spreadsheets can be transformed and inserted into the new system in under 10 hours. The solution scans the website for changes and updates the database without human intervention. Updates can be kicked off overnight to track changes and allow coordinated tracking and understanding of custom part files, achieving much higher productivity.

Looking into the future with Saison Technology

Seco Tools has identified several additional business areas where Saison Technology solutions can be utilized, including HULFT Data Capture, which transforms flat data formats to digital for purchase orders, check processing, and reporting purposes.

Moving forward, Seco Tools intends to connect several of its disparate software solutions, such as an IOT plant floor metrics solution, to track machine data and provide the manufacturing unit customers with a deeper understanding of what’s happening with their tools in real-time.

“The bottom line is that our systems must evolve with the changing workforce requirements. When companies reduce complexity and provide tools that eliminate tedious work, our people will use them. Saison Technology is helping us reduce the time it takes to access the information we need, ultimately making us smarter and more agile to stay competitive,” said Tennant.

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