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In The News

Bühler AG

Automating Process Equipment Configuration

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EqC user interface and dynamic view of Hopper Scale MSDL in AutoCAD

Every day, billions of people come into contact with Bühler technologies to cover their basic need for food. As a leading industrial process and technologies provider for the food and feed manufacturing industries, Bühler contributes significantly to feeding the world's population with a focus on food security and safety. Global producers and processors of wheat, corn, rice, pasta, cereals, cocoa, and coffee rely heavily on Bühler.

Bühler invests up to 5% of its revenue every year in research and development. In 2017, Bühler's 11,000 employees in over 140 countries generated a turnover of CHF 2.7 billion. As a globally active Swiss family-owned company, Bühler is particularly committed to sustainability.

The breadth and depth of Bühler's technology has produced the many hundreds of machine types that can be delivered to meet the needs of Bühler customers. Each machine type has many inter-dependent options that need to be represented in a logical configuration and as a set of 3D design elements in CAD to produce a design for a customer.

Bühler saw a way to create efficiencies that would have significant customer impact and selected Design Power's Design++® technology to take machine standardization beyond paper questionnaires and 2D drawings to an integrated configuration system that would speed design creation and improve accuracy. The resulting Bühler Equipment Configurator provides consistent value by

Equipment Configurator

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Disposition drawing of trough chain conveyor MNKA

Bühler Equipment Configurator (EqC) is a multi-function software system that supports 3D design and configuration for machines and systems of machines as well as the gravity piping that connects machines, and even the buildings that will contain them. Design engineers quickly describe machines based on a combination of choices and numeric properties with constraints managed by EqC, and the results appear as 3D objects in an AutoCAD® drawing with other machines that have been previously specified for the project. For many machines, EqC can provide automatic ordering through Bühler's ERP system. For other specialized machines such as conveyors and elevators, EqC can create annotated and dimensioned drawings.

Equipment Configurator's (EqC) design intelligence is built on Design Power's Design++, a knowledge-based engineering platform that supports configuration, engineering calculations, and 3D geometry for large-scale systems. Today EqC's rule bases configure over 500 machine types, such as the Hopper Scale MSDL pictured above and the trough chain conveyor MNKA shown in the EqC-generated disposition drawing to the right. EqC also configures 8 different system level designs and buildings, including the flour bagging system and sample mill building shown below.

Standardization at Bühler

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Flour bagging system

Engineering Tools and Data Management group holds an important role in standardizing Bühler's machine design processes. Mitja Sostaric has been a corporate champion for Equipment Configurator from the beginning and now heads the group.

"With the introduction of Equipment Configurator, the standardization of the machines has been advanced and the whole process from configuration to ordering has been significantly improved. Another positive effect is that users are guided by the tool, which has massively improved the speed and the quality."

- Mitja Sostaric, Head of Engineering Tools and Data Management Group

Foundation in Design++

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Sample mill building configured by EqC

Design++ provides a robust foundation for Equipment Configurator, supporting tens of thousands of machine and system rules. Design++ has also a very open architecture, supporting Equipment Configurator in communications with AutoCAD, databases, .NET user interfaces, and other custom applications.

"Design++ provides flexible change management that enables dynamic machine and system configuration. Even the interactive creation of the rule bases is managed dynamically, providing for rapid development of new machines and easy extension of existing machines."

- Dr. H. Craig Howard, Software Architect for Equipment Configurator

Continued Expansion

Equipment Configurator's knowledge base continues to expand with weekly releases to Bühler's design engineers worldwide. The great value of an enter-once, reuse-many design repository continues to find new uses within the Bühler design organization.