DTE helps Nifco adapt to evolving automotive sector

Using extensive surface & modelling capabilities of CATIA

Nifco UK specialises in the design, manufacture and supply of precision injection moulded functional plastic parts for the automotive industry, working with companies such as Nissan, Honda, Ford and Toyota.

Its product range varies from fasteners, dampers, buckles and interior trim items, right through to highly complex powertrain engine components including oil separators and thermostat housings.

Based in Stockton-on-Tees, it has been part of the Japanese parent company Nifco Inc. since 1990.

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Nifco

Although small in size, Nifco fasteners have made a major contribution to the automotive and home electronics markets and caused a “Fastening Revolution” in Japan. Almost everything manufactured in the world today is made up of many discrete parts. Some, like cars, are assembled using a massive number of parts. However, the parts alone do not make a finished product. They must be joined together, and fasteners such as string, nails, nuts, and bolts are what complete the product. Nifco was the first company in Japan to adopt a never-before-used material —plastic— for use as fasteners. The company has since developed numerous innovative fasteners such as plastic rivets, screw grommets and weather strip clips.

Expanding During Recessionary Times

The story of Nifco is one of success which is why it is expected to grow its sales from £32.5 million in 2011 to £60 million in 2015 following a record new business year in 2012. Nearly 40% of all inquiries in 2012 were converted into purchase orders and the firm resoundingly exceeded its Japanese parent company’s targets, despite it being another tough year for the automotive industry. In April 2012, Nifco moved two miles down the road to a new state-of-the-art facility.

Commenting on the growth, Mike Matthews, managing director at Nifco UK, said:

“During 2011 the company exceeded parent company targets, despite another extremely challenging year in respect to material price increases, further increases in utilities costs and costs associated with our other new factory build project.”

 

“The company has seen the dimensions of the business increase for a second year as we see the benefits of sustained highly focused sales activity, which has been achieved against a background of good operational customer service results.”

 

Reviewing Supplier Relations

The growth of Nifco resulted in it reviewing its relationship with suppliers, one of which was Desktop Engineering (DTE). The changing demands of some its key clients in the automotive sector, culminated in the need to re-evaluate its Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) strategy as it required greater sophistication and a more collaborative working environment. Nifco had first engaged with Desktop Engineering in 1995, but in 2010 the relationship blossomed as DTE provided counsel on the PLM market and what solution would best fit Nifco’s desire to enhance its customer service.

Paul Chapman, design and R&D manager at Nifco, said:

“We were looking to engage with a supplier who fully understood the automotive arena and would be able to act as a true partner in terms of understanding our requirement and recommending a relevant PLM solution. Following in-depth conversations, DTE pointed us in the direction of CATIA PLM Express; a solution that would work hand-in-hand with our growth strategy.”

 

Finding the Right PLM Solution

Prior to entering into a dialogue with DTE, Nifco were using CATIA V5 for its 3D design requirements. Through CATIA PLM Express, Nifco engineers were provided with a collaborative and completely CATIA-integrated environment to create the innovative parts that many OEMs were looking to design.

Using the extensive surface and modelling capabilities of CATIA, Nifco engineers were able to design mechanical shapes based on a combination of wireframe and multiple surface features. The software provides an extensive set of tools for creating and modifying surfaces used in the design of complex shapes or hybrid parts. Moreover, it captures design intent as the design is built via a combination of interactive shape design and styling functions along with the solution paradigm of embedded knowledgeware. This provides the power of explicit rules that define product behaviour. As a result, CATIA acts as an expert advisor to guide designers through tasks, warning them of rule violations and conflicts to achieve automated design generation and reduced risk.

Chapman continues:

“One stand out aspect of CATIA PLM Express is its ability to control surfaces. It enabled us to manipulate free-form surfaces and robustly morph shapes without altering their quality at any time during the design process. In addition, the functionality within the package enabled us to be more responsive in relation to any design modifications.”

 

Looking to the Future

Nothing stands still at Nifco. In 2013, the company intends to open up a new R&D facility which will enable it to design more products and extend its service offering. This will result in even greater collaboration with DTE as Nifco looks to increase its analysis capability and utilise more of the CATIA PLM Express functionality.

Chapman concluded:

“In the last two years we have seen exceptional growth at Nifco and we expect this to continue. We pride ourselves on excellence and expect our suppliers to match the very high standards we set. Desktop Engineering certainly meets our criteria. The service we have received has always been on-time and conveys industry knowledge that many alternative suppliers cannot replicate.”

 

CATIA PLM Express Overview

  • A collaborative solution to leverage teamwork design;
  • A smart configurator solution tailored specifically for industrial processes;
  • A quick-start package for a smooth deployment in less than 10 days;
  • A fast path to rapidly ramp up to a complete PLM solution;
  • A working Windows® and Office® environment designers are familiar with.

 

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