Irrigation Equipment Manufacturer, Lindsay Manufacturing, Standardizes its Product Development Process Across Three ContinentsCase Study
With irrigation playing a pivotal role in feeding the population, Lindsay Manufacturing Company (www.lindsaymanufacturing.com) is committed to using technology to improve crop production efficiency and encouraging responsible stewardship of the earth’s natural resources. This commitment is reflected in the company’s mission statement to be the worldwide leader in providing intelligent water and plant nutrient management systems that improve productivity and result in the efficient utilization of natural resources. The product lines that achieve this mission include center pivots, programmable control panels, and soil moisture monitoring equipment.
Agricultural use of fresh water represents approximately 70% of total annual water use worldwide. Additionally, irrigated agriculture is credited with producing approximately 40% of our food supply. The irrigation equipment manufactured by Lindsay Manufacturing Co. uses 35% less water than non-mechanical methods while increasing crop production. Long-term demand drives farmerís need to increase crop yields while conserving water, energy and labor.
Lindsay Manufacturing, named after the town in Nebraska from which it grew, is home to a diversified manufacturing division. Some of its customers include John Deere, Caterpillar and New Holland. This division also manufactures components used in the transportation and aviation industry.
New Market Opportunity
Its flagship product line, Zimmatic Irrigation Systems, is targeted toward irrigating farms in the range of 60 to 640 acres. Farmers place the Zimmatic systems in the center of their fields, allowing the system to rotate or pivot in a complete circle.Three years ago, Lindsay saw an opportunity for a new market and revenue stream. Addressing the need to serve customers with acreages less than 60 acres, Lindsay developed the new Greenfield Irrigation Systems. This line of equipment features smaller pivots and hose reels that can be installed on these farms. Some systems are even finding a niche in irrigating golf courses. Since these pivots are smaller in stature, the design challenge was to develop stronger joints within the limited space to support a water weight of 400-450 pounds per span.
Engineering Challenges Resulting from International Acquisitions
During this period, Lindsay was also acquiring companies in Europe and South America to serve local markets. Creating a new product line is a challenge in itself. Trying to do it amidst these acquisitions made it even more difficult. Responding to these challenges, Lindsay found it necessary to standardize processes, streamline product development, and ensure the accuracy of product designs.
According to Chris LaFrancis, Engineering Software Technician at Lindsay Manufacturing, “With product development efforts spanning three sites-Nebraska, La Chapelle d’Aligne, France, and Sao Paulo, Brazil-it was essential that all engineers and designers adhere to the same processes and be on the same system.”
Accurate, rapid communication was made even more important by management procedures that required acknowledgement from the Nebraska office before the European and South American offices were able to change documents. Using email for collaboration and to exchange files had proven to be an inefficient way to track versions and manage documents. Lindsay’s challenge was to find a software program offering the Internet capabilities and document control necessary to manage design changes and approvals among remote offices.
Taking Productivity to the Next Level
According to LaFrancis, when Lindsay moved from manual to computer-aided design almost nine years ago, a drawing change that once took three hours by hand is now completed in ten minutes with AutoCAD. Five years ago, Lindsay integrated AutoCAD drawings into Synergis Software’s original NFM file management system. While this greatly improved the company’s productivity and ability to control documents in Nebraska, it needed to address the new challenge of working across three continents. LaFrancis decided to upgrade to the company’s latest version of Adept document management & workflow.
The move to Adept was straightforward. Moving more than 35,000 documents into Adept, they are now able to manage documents across geographically separate offices. “With five minutes of training time, the move to Adept was painless,” said LaFrancis. “We have 20 concurrent licenses and 60 users set up to access drawings in the database. The entire company is using Adept.”
Product Development Process Across Three Continents
Despite its acquisitions, the new process for product development at Lindsay is much more efficient with Adept. New product designs are created in AutoCAD and SolidWorks software in Lindsay’s Nebraska office. They are then signed in to the Adept database for review and approval by the team of engineers. Rather than the Nebraska-based engineers sending designs via email to overseas offices, the European and South American engineering teams can access the drawings from within Adept any time. With 24/7 access, the time delay that typically arises when conducting work across disparate time zones is eliminated. As a result, productivity continues around the clock and around the world. The international offices can redline the drawings to communicate changes needed for local markets-many of which are a direct result of local compliance regulations that require modifications to the drawings. The Nebraska office receives an automatic email notification and can make the required changes and return the document to the Adept database. Final approval on all drawings comes from the document control manager in Nebraska. Managing documents electronically with Adept ensures that the correct version moves through the system accurately and efficiently.
Reducing engineering hours translates into great cost savings for the company. Lindsay has managed to accomplish this while increasing the quality of product it delivers its customers. “Accuracy is also a key factor in the success of any project, and Adept has been enhancing our project accuracy every step of the way,” said LaFrancis. “Constant revisions demand constant approval and the signing in and signing out of documents. Adept simplified a time-intensive process. I’d estimate a 20-hour per month time saving for the document control manager alone. Paperwork is no longer lost and because drawings don’t go out with errors, product quality has improved,” added LaFrancis.
Leveraging Design Data Across the Enterprise
“Adept brings both power and simplicity to our product development process,” said LaFrancis. “Being able to search for drawings, view them, and sign them in and out is pretty painless. Adept is so user-friendly that the entire company, both technical and non-technical departments, is using the system to obtain the information they need to carry out their jobs.”
“Purchasing uses it to order the correct materials for part manufacture. The employees in the Warehouse can pull up a drawing to make sure they are looking at the right part so they donít misplace it or give it a wrong part number. Shipping uses Adept as a reference to make sure they ship the right part. In a matter of minutes, Marketing can print drawings to send to dealers or customers.”
According to LaFrancis, “Adept ensures customer satisfaction because of the accuracy it provides. We are able to deliver to customers a reliable product with a life span of approximately 30 years.” Today, Lindsay’s product development and design expertise is resulting in solid on-going demand for its irrigation equipment on fields of any size.