For the underground mining division of Joy Global Inc., producing color brochures and training manuals for the company’s mining equipment is much more complex than simply showing up on site with a Canon SLR to shoot pictures and video. The sheer size of some of the machinery — such as the 152-ton longwall shearer burrowed deep underground at a coal mining operation in China, or a 570-foot long flexible conveyor train (FCT) system — makes still photography either cost prohibitive or virtually impossible. And when photo or video shoots are scheduled, which can cost thousands of dollars, the picture-taking time can actually delay the delivery of a piece of equipment to a waiting customer.
To produce its safety training and marketing collateral, Joy Global, a longtime SAP customer, had previously been using images taken from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) drawings created by the company’s design and engineering departments. This process, however, had its limitations. Video files created from CAD drawings were rudimentary, too large to email, and not meant to be digested by a non-technical audience such as mining personnel learning how to use a certain piece of machinery.
“We were looking for a way to leverage the 3D content that was being created in the engineering department downstream into the service world,” says Dan Armour, Joy Global’s Conveyor Systems Engineering Manager.
“A CAD tool is designed with the goal of making manufacturing drawings meant for engineers or drafters,” he says. “We needed a solution with an interface designed for a different end user that would allow someone with a non-technical background to take a technical item and add creativity to it.”
To reach these target end users and improve its training and marketing materials while keeping safety a top concern, Joy Global turned to the SAP Visual Enterprise portfolio (formerly Right Hemisphere). By using SAP Visual Enterprise Author, SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer, and SAP Visual Enterprise Generator to create new and improved 3D animations, Joy Global hoped to improve business processes in the areas of safety training, marketing materials, technical manuals, design, maintenance, and parts requisition.
Joy Global successfully implemented SAP Visual Enterprise applications, and when the portfolio’s contract came up for renewal a few years later, Armour and his team were anxious to renew. They developed a business case that included the expected benefits, such as reduced costs for photo and video production, as well as more unexpected benefits like a shortened redesign process and minimized language barriers in foreign operations.
“In the past, it was a real chore to go underground to see our equipment in action for photo and video shoots,” Armour says. “Now, instead of getting live footage, the very first thing people think to do is create a visualization, whether it’s a still picture or a 3D video. It has changed from being 100% live photo or video to 80% of the imagery coming from visual animations.”
Moving to a Clearer View of 3D
To ensure optimal mine safety, Joy Global has always ascribed the utmost importance to its training materials. Technical training manuals, whether produced for customers or field service technicians, must address a seemingly infinite number of safety concerns that arise with equipment in the field. Learning how to safely operate a 1500 HP longwall shearer, for example, isn’t as simple as referring to an owner’s manual in the glove box.
Some of the company’s safety and technical publications processes had always required graphic artists to review detailed images recreated from the CAD drawings, but this recreation process was cumbersome and did not allow for much reuse in the technical training or marketing area.
“We were creating 2D line art off of the 3D CAD drawing,” Armour says. “We knew that it could be done better and that we ought to be using more 3D.” (See image below.)
After about 10 years of experience with 3D CAD drawings, Joy Global was ready to streamline its process of converting CAD drawings for non-engineering use. So began the company’s journey with SAP Visual Enterprise applications.
For an implementation strategy, Joy Global targeted SAP Visual Enterprise Author first to give its marketing team the ability to create high-definition imagery and 3D animations. The SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer application enables marketing to package 3D animations in a variety of formats, and enables end users to toggle between multiple animations. Joy Global uses the SAP Visual Enterprise Generator tool, which translates 3D CAD files into lightweight file formats, as a back-end tool for information storage. Once marketing was using the suite, Joy Global quickly rolled it out to the technical publications and training teams.
Within three years, the implementation produced measurable results including a dramatic reduction in graphic creation time, traceable cost savings, and increased training revenue.
“Training and marketing people can now do things very quickly and at a lower cost, which allows us to provide better solutions for our customers.” Armour explains. “And the more we apply these tools, the more opportunities we will find to repurpose 3D animations to help make our products the safest and most productive in the mining industry.”
“Training and marketing people can now do things very quickly at a lower cost, which allows us to provide better solutions for our customers. And the more we apply these tools, the more opportunities we find to repurpose 3D animations to help make our products the safest and most productive in the mining industry.”
— Dan Armour, Conveyor Systems Engineering Manager, Joy Global
More recently, Joy Global has used the SAP Visual Enterprise suite to enhance the Technical Information Portal Service (TIPS), which is an online hub for all of the company’s 3D training animations and other content created in part by the visual applications. This includes technical service manuals, safety bulletins, and, essentially, any technical information that needs to be communicated to customers. With the creation of TIPS, Joy Global improved access to training materials while tightening its grip on content distribution.
Until now, attendees at on-site training sessions had been accustomed to only receiving hard copies of highly animated training programs. Often the trainers were faced with requests to use USB flash drives to download presentation material, potentially compromising intellectual property. Instead, with TIPS, Joy Global can offer refreshers or Just-In-Time (JIT) training while controlling what information is disseminated.
“By integrating all of this information, we’ve also been able to customize our customers’ experiences. When a customer looks at a particular training manual, we can refer that client to a safety bulletin that addresses the same topic,” says Armour. “Up until TIPS, there hadn’t been a site that could do that.”
Changing the Culture
A major task for Joy Global was to reset expectations for trainers and engineers alike concerning the new capabilities of the applications. Soon after implementing all three of the SAP Visual Enterprise applications, Joy Global received an order from an Australian mining company for the most sophisticated and complex piece of mobile machinery the company had ever designed. While engineers struggled to produce enormous and complex 3D CAD drawings saved as massive design files, Armour and his team created a full 3D animation of the equipment and video files using the SAP Visual Enterprise Author and SAP Visual Enterprise Generator tools — all in one afternoon. The team emailed the file to trainers in Australia, who could then open it in SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer.
From that one assignment, the engineers were convinced of the tool’s benefits. The trainers, after looking at the animation in SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer, could understand its value as well. They just needed more experience with the tool to advance beyond their former, familiar work habits.
“Trainers used the SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer to manipulate the images to take snapshots and drop them into their Microsoft PowerPoint presentations because that was their standard practice,” Armour says.
To properly train the Australian miners how to safely operate the equipment, the trainers still felt they needed to break equipment down into different views. So Armour and his team went back to the SAP Visual Enterprise Author tool to create 3D animations of different parts of the equipment. For those first training sessions of the Australia machinery, the trainers were given links to the animations to show as an add-on to their standard PowerPoint presentations.
“The animations not only had all these steps, but they showed every single component and part in that machine. The trainers could address everything about that machine visually, and they could go deeper and explain the context that a photograph can’t provide. They saw that using SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer in the way it was intended could answer every one of the questions they might get,” Armour says.
Joy Global’s intention is to come full circle with the SAP Visual Enterprise applications and move into the design realm, which has been the exclusive domain of the 3D CAD drawings. Because each mine requires different specs, Joy Global builds equipment to order. With equipment so massive, customers don’t always identify specific changes to design models until manufacturing begins.
“What we can do with SAP Visual Enterprise applications is anticipate a lot of the redesign earlier in the process,” Armour says. “Once we do the initial design, we can go back to the customer with a 3D model that shows exactly how it will work, and the customer can start asking questions. When you have the customer involved with that engineering conversation earlier in the timeframe, you get the spec nailed down where it’s going to be a true solution for the customer.”