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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
1 million investment in document handling
Keywords GKN Westland Helicopters, Document management
According to GKN Westland Helicopters, its order book currently stands at around £4 billion. It has significant orders for its EH101 and Lynx helicopters and is also building 67 WAH-64 Apache attack helicopters for the British Army under licence from Boeing in the USA. As if this were not enough, it is also in merger negotiation with Agusta of Italy to create the world's second largest helicopter company.
Control of its document management systems has always been a vital element of GKN Westland's design and manufacturing control processes. But with the level of activity now higher than it has ever been in the company's history, maintaining tight control of millions of documents and engineering drawings assumes an even greater importance. The company reports that it has therefore put in place a £1 million investment programme to upgrade its existing document management systems.
Part of this investment is being directed specifically at the business of handling large format engineering drawings. Out of a historical record containing some three million 35mm microfilm aperture cards, it was vital to transfer all current drawings to electronic storage - and even these vast numbers are being added to at the rate of an additional 850 per month.
Currently, the reprographic department produces some 8,500 prints each month for distribution around the company but also to outside suppliers and contractors. The new system currently installed will allow much of this work to be undertaken at the user's desk via their PC whilst digitization of drawings will also allow simple on-screen reference through the company's installed software programmes. The Imtec Group were called in to advise on a suitable system to handle this requirement which included minimising operator errors, high speed scanning, image clean-up and image indexing.
The scanning system offered by Imtec and accepted by GKN Westland Helicopters consisted of two 3400 35mm aperture card ScanStations, each of which is capable of scanning approximately 500 cards per hour without operator intervention. As well as capturing the image, the ScanStation reads the Hollerith code punched on the card which contains the indexing information. Once scanned, the image is passed to a QC station where the Imtec Image QC software automatically rotates the image into the correct orientation for viewing, realigns the image and despeckles with an overall light dusting of less than single pixel noise to improve the appearance of the image without loss of data.
The processed image is then moved to one of three Imtec QC stations where the image will be further cleaned up, if required, and indexed. The QC software allows the operator to zoom in and out, crop out unsightly borders or superfluous information and, most importantly, automatically validate the indexing information contained in the Hollerith code. This posed a major problem for GKN Westland as they receive aperture cards from a variety of sources, all of them indexing information in different formats. Using the Imtec QC software, the information contained in the Hollerith is displayed at the top of the screen and is validated against templates. If the information is incorrect, the relevant fields will be highlighted in red and the operator has the opportunity to change the information or add to it. If the information is correct a green light is shown and the operator has a choice whether to accept or reject the image before it is submitted to the database. The Imtec Image QC software can reportedly increase through-put by up to 300 per cent, invaluable when you have three million cards to scan.
For scanning direct from large engineering drawings, Imtec supplied their 3520 large format scanner which is both designed and manufactured by the company. It has automatic size sensing, two-dimensional adaptive thresholding, and according to Imtec can scan an AO drawing in 12 seconds, whilst having true 400 x 800 optical resolution for difficult drawings. Imtec also claims that because of its ability to produce a perfect scan from a single pass of the document without operator adjustment, many companies have been able to achieve more than 1,000 AO scans per day. Since installation, additional features have been added to the software. Clean-up tools have been added to allow deskew, despeckle and image rotation to be done "on the fly" automatically in seconds.
Details available from: The Imtec Group Ltd. Tel: +44 (0) 181 204 3456; Fax: +44 (0)181 204 9496.