SEM Fire and Rescue is aiming to double the capacity of its manufacturing facility for its emergency services vehicles with the assistance of SolidWorks computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software and training and technical support services from Intercad.

Intercad is the leading authorised reseller of SolidWorks 3D CAD/CAM technology in Australia and New Zealand.  The company has more than 20 years’ experience in the design, engineering and manufacturing industries in both countries.

Based in Ballarat, in central Victoria, SEM Fire and Rescue designs and manufactures emergency service vehicles, including pumpers, tankers and hazardous materials support vehicles, for the fire and rescue industry.  The company also works with customers around the country to develop bomb response vans, prisoner transport vehicles and mobile office units, as well as working on other projects like roadside assistance vehicles and tankers for Australia’s defence operations.

Ernest Martino, Design Manager, SEM Fire and Rescue, says using solid modelling for design and manufacture is a trend within the industry and investing in technology from Intercad has helped the company continue to foster innovation, something its customers say sets it apart from the crowd.

“Presenting solid models and moving parts to our customers allows them to visualise the finished product,” says Martino.  “When you use 2D it’s simply a bunch of lines, there’s no link between how parts work together, and this is how errors occur.

“Being able to create a virtual model, as you would actually build and assemble a prototype, saves us time and money by reducing downstream manufacturing errors.  It also allows for faster customer approval of designs because we can prove the design, and agree on any variables upfront, before we cut a piece of steel, not when we have 10 vehicles on the production line.”

Fire and Rescue has optimised its design work to reduce processes in the assembly of its G4S prisoner transport vehicles.By doing more design work upfront SEM Fire and Rescue is aiming to halve the time taken to assemble its vehicles, assuring its future competitiveness and workforce retention.  Martino says spending that time designing and engineering upfront significantly reduces procurement and assembly issues on production commencement and reduces non-value adding processes in the assembly stage – which ultimately saves customers money.

“For example, we can allow in the design for matching holes in our sheet metal parts to be laser cut, which eliminates a set-up and drilling process on the assembly line.  The benefits of this are three fold – we can reduce vehicle production costs, speed up throughput and allow for more effective supportability.”

SEM Fire and Rescue is passing these savings onto its customers in the price its vehicles.  The introduction of the software from Intercad has also allowed the company to be more competitive – the savings are being included in quotes and being used to win tenders.

Martino says SEM Fire and Rescue wouldn’t realise the full benefits of the software if the company hadn’t invested in Intercad’s training and technical support services.

“Training is essential to ensure our designers don’t fall into bad habits and that they are using the software to its fullest potential,” says Martino.  “Often designers don’t use all the relevant features a software package offers, or work in the most efficient way possible, and if you don’t do training you aren’t going to get the full value out of your investment.

“Using technical support is another way to get the most out of the software and Intercad’s service is fantastic.  We have had minor software issues which Intercad was able to fix very quickly so our downtime was minimised, but we are very happy with the regional support and training that is on offer which means the cost of training and accommodation, that is typically outside of some companies budgets, becomes more affordable.”

While technical support is only a phone call away, being based in a regional area has sometimes been prohibitive for SEM Fire and Rescue to complete training courses.  Intercad is addressing this by providing regional training courses in areas more accessible for its rural customers.

“Our training is essential to ensure designers, engineers and manufacturers are working efficiently with SolidWorks,” says Max Piper, CEO, Intercad.  “The manufacturing sector has done it tough throughout the global financial crisis, and while sentiment is now picking up, efficiencies learned during tough times, like putting in more grunt work upfront to make sure designs are right the first time, will ensure Australian companies can continue to compete with overseas producers.

“SEM Fire and Rescue’s use of design to reduce processes in the assembly line is a great example of how Australian manufacturers can set themselves apart by working smarter, not harder.  SEM has proved the concept when working with one of its customers, G4S, on the design of a new Prisoner Transport Vehicle,” says Piper.

“The G4S project was delivered on time and ran very smoothly,” says Martino.  “The design of the Prisoner Transport Vehicle was a different project to what we usually complete – there were no pumps or lockers as with our usual emergency vehicles, so we had to work closely with the customer to ensure the designs would meet their needs.  We were able to get everything signed off without having to go through the usual production prototyping process, and the prototype vehicle became production vehicle number one, but without the high costs usually associated with prototypes.”