Monaco Coach Corporation incorporates sophisticated, cutting-edge technology geared toward improving the design and manufacture of its products, while reducing costs for the company “” and the consumer.
By Lazelle Jones
NX2, a product development software system created by UGS Corporation, has revolutionized the way companies in the aerospace, automotive, and other high-tech industries do business. This three-dimensional design, engineering, and machining “product suite” is said to reduce the number of man-hours it takes to bring a new concept to market. It was only a matter of time before an RV manufacturer would begin using such software to help in the design and production of its recreation vehicles. Of course, when man-hours are saved, the unit cost of a product goes down. NX2 software also has been touted as making product designs more robust, thereby improving quality and reliability.
However, making this monumental changeover requires a manufacturer to have sufficient resources and the foresight necessary to recognize the rewards that eventually can be realized.
Monaco Coach Corporation, C2111, which manufactures some 50 different motorized and towable RV products, signed on with UGS in late 2003. In doing so, Monaco made a substantial commitment to new computer hardware and software throughout the company. Training at all levels and across all departments would be required. And, most importantly, the deployment of NX2 would need to be conducted so that it would not interrupt the current design and production systems that Monaco has successfully used for years. Furthermore, training would have to follow for those who interface with the company, such as suppliers, service providers, and even individual dealers.
This entire changeover process is expected to take Monaco approximately three years to complete. Ultimately, the motive behind this effort is to take coach design to the next level, with the goal of improved product quality and greater customer satisfaction.
So why is this new software so important? The explanation is manifold. The NX2 software package Monaco has chosen includes several different software modules that fit the company’s operational needs. (Each manufacturer within an industry chooses which modules are applicable to its manufacturing business.) For example, Monaco selected such modules as Advanced Designer, Mechanical Free Form, Shape Studio, Photo Realistic Rendering, Advanced Assembly, FEA, Sheet Metal, CAM, and Drafting, just to name a few.
Since the end of 2003, designers and engineers at Monaco have been inputting large amounts of design data into a database so that the NX2 modules can take advantage of the information. At the same time, an intensive training program is being conducted at the company. A transition team that includes experts from UGS who are intimately familiar with how the system works and what it can do in this application has been put in place to help bridge the gap from “old” to “new.”
Based upon the three-dimensional model data that is entered, the engineers and designers can use the NX2 software to perform numerous operations. They can ask it to generate accurate drawings; identify potential interferences; find potential problem areas; run engineering calculations (making sure it has been designed correctly); and even produce a precise rendering of a finished product months before the first unit is built.
An example of how effectively NX2 has already worked for Monaco can be found in the design and construction of the 2006 Beaver Marquis. An all-new front cap was created using NX2’s Mechanical Free Form tools. Prior to using NX2, renderings had to be created; design calculations run; research and development prototypes mocked up; and changes incorporated in the design drawings. After those steps were completed (involving many man-hours), a full-scale model had to be hand-built. But each time a revision to the front cap was made before the design was finalized for production, much of the foregoing process would have to be repeated. Even the full-scale model would have to be reworked, manipulated, and rebuilt by the pattern makers. Each time this would occur, the front cap would once again be put out for review and approval.
When NX2 was incorporated into this process, the software’s accuracy was illustrated with the very first attempt to create the Marquis’ redesigned windshield. Electronic model data and specification files were transmitted halfway around the world to the windshield manufacturer. The supplier produced the windshield using the specs provided, delivered it to Monaco “” and it fit perfectly in the newly designed Beaver Marquis front-end cap. The design files were then transmitted to Monaco’s Oregon facility where the headlights, running lights, driving lights, windshield wiper system, mirror mounts, generator door, and even the gasket material that would surround the windshield were precisely designed in place. This was done virtually before any of the manufacturing processes were ever started.
For the engineers and designers who continually consider new designs for Monaco’s different product lines, using NX2 yields yet another clear advantage. Instantaneous reconfigurations and style changes can be generated for review by those in product development. They don’t have to wait for a paper drawing to be revised and printed, or for a hand-built model to be created.
For example, if it’s determined that the exact features and floor plans found in a particular 45-foot motorhome are also in demand in a 40-foot coach, an engineer can predict and constrain the NX2 model data to automatically generate a 40-foot coach design with similar features and floor plan layout. NX2 will show what the 40-foot model looks like in a three-dimensional rendering and can identify all defined interferences as well as create a complete print pack (a pack of design prints created for each floor plan and model) ready to pass along to the production floor. NX2 then can be used to generate the bill of material “” a list of every item, component, piece of steel, bolt, etc. that needs to be ordered or fabricated to build the unit.
In the case of a new floor plan where, for example, a galley with countertop and cabinets needs to be designed to fit a specific space, the NX2 software first tells the designer the exact dimensions of every piece of wood, solid-surface counter material, etc. that needs to be cut for the cabinets and countertop. It lets the designer look at a three-dimensional image of the design. If he or she doesn’t like how it looks, a few taps on a computer keyboard is all that’s needed to change the face of the cabinet so it’s more visually appealing. The designer can do this over and over again and never have to create a hand-sketched rendering or drawing.
In the future, NX2 ultimately will control the robotics and machines that cut and tool each individual component that goes into the galley’s countertop and cabinets. Furthermore, whatever the component or structure may be (cabinet, chassis, cockpit interior, L-shaped sofa, etc.), the software can precisely create photo-realistic renderings and images that can be used in product brochures. As has been proven in other companies that use NX2, the design and construction of a Monaco product will likely become more robust and free of human error, because it’s computer-based and controlled. As a result, service and warranty issues and after-sales fix-it orders are expected to drop, and warranty costs should go down, along with the cost per unit. Furthermore, with warranty issues whittled down, the designers and engineers will spend fewer hours resolving deficiencies that may have caused a problem in the first place, enabling them to focus more attention on developing new products.
Improved product quality and reliability go hand in hand with customer satisfaction. And a happy customer is often a repeat customer. As Monaco’s UGS project evolves, it is anticipated that virtually everyone involved in the process will benefit: designers, engineers, production managers, technicians, accountants, purchasers, salespeople, dealers, and ultimately, the one that counts most “” the RV consumer.