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December 06, 2012

The Office of the Future Needs a Green Change



Today, business settings are a part of an ever-evolving landscape. By understanding trends and anticipating future needs, Teknion, an international designer and manufacturer of office systems and furniture products, has made this change a key part of the company’s global culture of innovation.

The company’s goal to develop products that exceed market demands requires flexibility and creativity in product development, which is why Teknion has adopted SolidWorks’ 3D CAD software to design and monitor their products’ environmental lifecycle and gain visibility into how their decisions affect air acidification, carbon footprint, total energy consumed and water eutrophication.

“We needed to handle an increasing volume of configurations—modeling a huge range of options, heights, and widths—while improving accuracy and streamlining manufacturing,” said Product Engineering Manager Claudio Perfetti, in a statement.

In evaluating 3D design systems, Teknion considered all of the characteristics such as ease of use, design configuration capabilities and enhanced visualization tools. After evaluating the Pro/ENGINEER, Solid Edge and SolidWorks CAD packages, Teknion standardized on SolidWorks Professional design software, acquiring 105 licenses. It added 50 licenses of the SolidWorks Enterprise PDM product data management system to manage design data across its locations.

“SolidWorks has helped us expand our product offering because it enables us to design more quickly, cost-effectively, and innovatively,” Perfetti said.

The company also began using SolidWorks Sustainability software to include environmental impact factors in its design decisions. Since the implementation, Teknion has increased its productivity and quadrupled the North American product lines it offers—from six to 24.

 “The potential that we have as the company that makes the software that many people use to design their products, the potential opportunity we have is to be able to reveal the lifecycle environmental impacts of those design decisions that our customers make,” Asheen Phansey, sustainability product manager at SolidWorks, told TMCnet in an exclusive interview.

Before moving to SolidWorks, Teknion built prototypes of designs to avoid the manufacturing rework when working in 2D. Using SolidWorks design visualization, interference-checking and photorealistic rendering tools, then it is less dependent on physical prototyping because designers can visualize designs in a virtual environment.

As Teknion’s product development effort grew, so did its product data management challenges. It exceeded the capabilities of SolidWorks Workgroup PDM software and upgraded to the SolidWorks Enterprise PDM system, which Teknion uses to connect facilities in its Toronto corporate headquarters. Perfetti said, “Although furniture designs can differ  among the design and engineering groups, it’s important to have everyone on the same platform, for quality control and collaborative work.”

Over the past several years, sustainability has become a big part of Teknion’s operations. According to Director of Sustainable Development Programs Doug Hietkamp, Teknion began looking into sustainable design and manufacturing processes in 1998. 

Image via Shutterstock

Although some work was done on sustainability from 1998 to 2001 as part of ISO 14001 certification, back then, sustainability was viewed as something we should do rather than as a critical imperative. “In 2002, some customers started looking more closely at our environmental programs,” said Hietkamp.

Initially, Teknion’s sustainability program focused on manufacturing impacts. Through recycling, it doubled the amount of materials it diverted from disposal, from 45 to 90 percent, and reduced waste sent to landfill by 80 percent. “The economic value of reducing manufacturing waste is significant. It costs money when you produce garbage,” he explained.

The company became one of the first major manufacturers to have its products become GREENGUARD-certified by UL AQS (Underwriters Laboratories (News - Alert) Air Quality Sciences), meeting standards for off-gassing. Additionally, Teknion switched from oil- to water-based stains and finishes.

The next step in the progression is sustainable design, and that is where SolidWorks Sustainability software came in. Teknion added this software to its SolidWorks solution set so its designers have access to environmental impact information to guide design decisions. The software allows designers to estimate the carbon burden, energy consumption, air emissions and liquid discharges associated with design.  With SolidWorks Sustainability software, Teknion can provide customers with comparisons regarding material choices, so they can consider environmental factors when selecting materials.

With SolidWorks solutions, Teknion progressed from designing products efficiently to managing global design data more effectively to considering the environmental ramifications of its products. Perfetti said, “It’s clear that we chose the right partner to support our long-term product development goals.”

“If you consider 150,000+ companies designing so many millions of physical objects, there’s a much greater opportunity to impact and reduce the carbon footprint of the world by educating our designers and engineers about how their decisions affect the environmental impact of their products,” said Phansey.

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Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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