Two-Day Program Slashed to Two Hours with WORKNC

“Accuracy of programming is essential for us. If our CNC programs aren’t accurate, it would be catastrophic.” Those are the words of Stéphane Haoui, Machining Manager at Loiretech, a company specialising in large, complex tools for the commercial aerospace, automotive, defence and energy industries.

The company’s design, manufacturing and production control processes face many issues – which are resolved by seamlessly merging three products – WORKNC, WORKPLAN and WORKXPLORE – from Hexagon’s production software portfolio, to create one integrated solution that connects all their business silos together.

The shopfloor couldn’t function without WORKNC as it’s fully integrated into all stages of manufacturing – analysis, comparison, simulation, verification and machining.”

Stephane Haoui, Machining Manager

Based at Bouguenais in France, Loiretech Ingénierie produces a range of high quality composite and metal tools for forming, thermoforming, moulding and part inspection. The company designs and manufactures, among other things, moulds for the production of reactors, fuselages and structural parts. The space market is also well catered for, in particular through the production of tools for satellite reflectors and rocket fuselage reflectors. They supply the automotive industry with control and automation tools for cutting out entire dashboards.

As well as tooling production, they also directly manufacture blades and propellers for the naval industry. Nine machine tools, which include Zayers, FPTs, Forest Lines, and a Rambaudi, are programmed by Hexagon’s powerful WORKNC CAM software, which Stéphane Haoui says is vital to their operation. “The shopfloor couldn’t function without WORKNC as it’s fully integrated into all stages of manufacturing – analysis, comparison, simulation, verification and machining.”

He says they use materials which can deform on the CNC machines, and their tools must generally be accurate to six or seven hundredths per metre…sometimes even to five hundredths. “But WORKNC’s reliability gives us the power and accuracy we need to ensure those tolerances are met every time.

“We begin by creating the WORKNC range, and prepare for manufacturing by extending the surfaces to accommodate the volume and define the part layout.” After that, they define the raw material, the machine to be used, and the workholding. Then the toolpaths are programmed using WORKNC’s roughing, re-roughing, semi-finishing, finishing and cornering functions. The software automatically displays the stock in real time as the workpiece moves forward throughout the machining process, ensuring high accuracy.

“In order to secure the whole process before starting manufacturing, we simulate the toolpaths to check there are no collisions between the machine, the part, the cutting tool and the tool holder. And to finalise the part we use WORKNC’s 5-axis capability to mark it for routing, and for drilling. It used to take two days to program a part with 300 holes – now it takes less than two hours.”

Loiretech Ingénierie also has a research and innovation department working on European aeronautics and energy projects which can run over several years, in collaboration with universities and research centres.

WORKPLAN keeps track of  all the company’s business. As an example, the Research and Innovations department uses the ERP functionality, to have a precise follow-up of the costs, and to correlate them with the budgets allocated by the various financing.

The company installed the software in 2016, and have kept up to date with each new release. Most departments now use it. New functionalities requested, and now available, have been integrated into the company’s workflow and allow to optimise work capacities. This means the CMMS module is responsible for managing requests and the follow-up of maintenance interventions within the company. Today, most departments use WORKPLAN. The workshop is also equipped with WORKPLAN and has numerous touch screens for employee management, such as staff input/output, business clocking in/out or incident reporting via CMMS.

I.T. Manager Sébastien Fraquet says: “WORKPLAN is the backbone that allows us to structure our services. It can be found at every level of the company. We manage everything with it, from quotation to final invoicing, including purchasing management, non-conformity management and personnel management.” By using all the modules, different departments can know the costs they’re generating and react quickly to preserve and increase the company’s profitability.

“Controlling the purchasing process with the ‘Purchasing and Inventory Management’ module, supplies and materials come out of CATIA, and a Bill Of Materials is created and imported into WORKPLAN allowing us to manage requirements efficiently through the procurement department. Thanks to the real time stock availability and the calculation of net requirements, the orders placed are extremely accurate.

“Another important feature, the ‘Order Status’ module is essential for determining that the production work in progress is sent quarterly to administrative and financial management,” he says. “We need to know how much we’re getting back for everything we have on the shop floor, both in terms of hours spent on the job, and volume of purchases. This allows us to know the value of the company.”

It allows them to issue constant balance sheets and to develop new business using existing information in their data base. “We can use old estimates as a knowledge base, and adapt them to make similar projects profitable, time after time.”

The third Hexagon solution contributing to Loiretech Ingénierie’s Industry 4.0 philosophy, is the powerful high-speed CAD viewer, WORKXPLORE, which allows them to open all types and sizes of CAD files they are working on, and efficiently import and analyse them at high speed.

“The Sales and Projects departments open CATIA and other CAD files with WORKXPLORE in order to analyse and cost projects. In addition, the workshop uses it for assembly and measurements.  Some vital information isn’t visible on 2D plans, but thanks to the workshop having the full 3D file we avoid additional costs caused by assembly non-conformities. The subcontracting department also use WORKXPLORE as some parts of their tooling are machined elsewhere – they send 3D files by email, add annotations to the files and make quick dimensional drawings to ensure the sub-contractor has all the necessary information.”

Loiretech’s use of its three Hexagon products to integrate its former individual business silos, is a perfect example of how the Industry 4.0 philosophy creates data-driven Smart factories  giving a new level of insight and solutions which improve efficiency and quality, while reducing costs, leading to sustainability.