14 September 2010
To provide pool and spa installers with exactly the products they need and stay on the cutting edge of technology, the Procopi group, and in particular its R&D department, relies in large part on the Missler Software solutions: TopSolid’Design in the engineering department, TopSolid’Image for documentation, TopSolid’Castor, TopSolid’Cam and TopSolid’Mold for production, and TopSolid’Pdm for technical data and product life cycle management.
With some thirty years of experience to its name, Procopi designs, manufactures and distributes pool and spa (1) equipment for professional installers serving private residences, hotels or campgrounds. Procopi’s equipment is produced in four production plants, located mainly in Brittany. “In the pool and spa industry, there is a lot of room for innovation over the next ten years, with regard to both the environment and well-being,” says Pierre Le Guilloux, Director of R&D at Procopi. This is why research and original design are so integral to this company. “We come out with 5 to 10 new products a year, out of a total of some fifty projects a year,” adds Pierre Le Guilloux. The design of a new product generally starts with a blank page and culminates in a prototype, pilot lot or production run. Projects are launched either to meet a customer request for a specific product or adaptation of an existing product, or based on proposals from Marketing which identifies emerging needs or new technologies that can, for example, increase productivity. “Marketing is a source of project ideas and information for R&D and production,” affirms Pierre Le Guilloux, who heads the engineering department, test laboratory, and production of specialized multimedia documentation – all of which use CAD, computerized modeling and digital image solutions extensively.
A seamless solution and human-scale partnership
At the Procopi group, in view of acquisitions and mergers of numerous companies since the 1970s, and in particular since 1999 when the R&D department was created, a push emerged to adopt a seamless solution for all the CAD, imaging and production applications. “For CAD, we chose TopSolid because the program corresponded to our need and Missler Software was the right size company for us,” explains Pierre Le Guilloux. “It offers the advantage of geographic proximity with its site in Cesson, and above all, consideration for a mid-size company such as Procopi: we appreciate their availability and that they offer the possibility of developing specific products or lending software on a trial basis, which is something we would not find with a large publisher. Also, we are in direct contact with the Missler Software developers who visit our site once a year.”
TopSolid’Design is used to design Procopi’s entire product range and for the production of liners and automatic covers; TopSolid’Castor, TopSolid’Cam and TopSolid’Mold are used in the plants. “The advantage of TopSolid is also the continuity of the numerical chain. For an automatic cover, for example, TopSolid draws the shape and TopSolid’Design automatically calculates the blades and blade cuts, thanks to a specific development produced for us by Missler Software.”
More recently, Procopi has acquired TopSolid’Image licenses for the preparation, formatting and editing of documents and marketing notices, which can also be previewed in the program. Finally, to coordinate all projects and serve as a knowledge base, the company has chosen the technical data management solution, TopSolid’Pdm. In addition, Procopi owns an open license for TopSolid, which has been used to create Aquasoft, a program provided to customers free of charge to allow them to calculate their own cover estimates.
Technical data management: a necessary step
TopSolid’Pdm is intended to act as a pivot point for all projects, thereby enabling a product to be followed through its entire life cycle – from the drawing table to the validation phase. Presently used by the entire R&D department to centralize technical information, this program serves to follow up on the changes made to a product and to manage configurations. The entire log of past projects will progressively be integrated into this knowledge base. “The former version is saved with all the associated documents. The new version and its documentation are automatically updated, which minimizes the checklist.” In the design of a liner, for example, which is a highly specific product since it must conform perfectly to the contours of the pool, TopSolid’Pdm allows all the standard configurations to be saved. Data are sorted in TopSolid’Pdm, the 2D and 3D data are saved throughout the duration of the project, the information exists in a single place and can be accessed by everyone. Once the project is complete, the concepts are erased, and only the definitive data is saved. “The PDM gives us access to the information in past records, which allows us to find it much more quickly, and there is no longer a risk of losing knowledge with staff turnover,” says Pierre Le Guilloux. Using the program makes project management easier: a project team includes one person who recovers the past data, one person in charge of the product environment and one who handles the actual design process.
Another program being used to a growing extent, TopSolid’Image, allows users to create commercial documentation, to preview a product or view it in a situational setting. It can be used to prepare documentation and sales presentations even before parts have been produced. Increasingly, the images created with this program are taking the place of photographs in technical and commercial documents.
Through the use of these solutions, particularly PDM, Procopi also aims to speed the development of new products. The current time frame for innovative projects is 2 to 3 years from the blank page, and an average of 3 to 6 months for recurrent design projects. “We design products for a minimum of ten years, which implies developing compatibility: when we develop a new product, either the adaptation of an existing product or a compatible product has to be able to replace a former product. TopSolid’Pdm is also used for this aspect,” says Pierre Le Guilloux. “What is important is internal communication, the project concept, and simultaneous engineering. The CAD and PDM tools provide that for us.”
(1) SPA is the acronym for “sanitas per aqua”, which means “health through water"