Rotary seals may have been around since the 19th century, but 21st century needs demand changes in the design process as well as the finished product itself. There are rotary seals in almost every piece of equipment where parts revolve around an axis. From tiny rotary seals in dentist’s drills to giant ones on tunnel boring machines, rotary seals are nearly everywhere helping our world go round. Rotary seals are critical components in many vital applications and the seal industry continually strives to enhance designs to meet changing market needs.
One of the most basic roadblocks nearly every global company faces is keeping everybody on the same page. It is quite common, especially with large companies, to find yourself stuck in a sort of knowledge-sharing logistics quagmire. So how do you ensure everyone’s bright ideas are shared company wide?
“In other companies, we see too many examples of departments or divisions working autonomously and not sharing knowledge or resources. Design collaboration between global resources is not fundamental to their development process, so they end up working on projects independently or regionally. To a greater or lesser extent, we also see this in many of our global customers and their component and service providers,” said Bill Bishop, rotary segment manager for Trelleborg Sealing Solutions.
For Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, the answer was creating a virtual department within the company they call The Rotary Center of Excellence (RCoE). This department, or virtual think tank, helps streamline communication paths between all of its departments around the world.
For example, a group working on a rotary initiative or customer’s project could at any time consist of people from engineering, product development, logistics, testing, marketing or sales teams, as well as representatives from the customer or third-party suppliers. With this much brain-power spread throughout 20 manufacturing facilities, nine R&D centers and more than 50 local marketing companies, each with their own engineering teams, Trelleborg had its work cut out.
Especially for larger projects, time can also play a huge part in organizing goals, progress and new developments. A project may last for a matter of months or for as long as a few years. As your project moves through developments, the initial team may disband, depending on the needs at the time. Then another group is assembled and brought in to address the next phase of the project. The RCoE has helped the people at Trelleborg to reassign members of an initial team to new rotary projects as needs arise. This flexibility lets them manage numerous projects at one time and leads to faster, smarter and more efficient solutions.
“Through methods and processes based on our intranet and virtual collaboration, all our operations throughout the world are able to work together, as required, to bring about outside-the-box thinking and design approaches that have produced some brilliant results. We even find that we can help support our customers and third-party suppliers to implement this approach,” said Bishop.
When beginning the design process on their CSL1500 cassette seal, the RCoE was a crucial component in the process. Conventional wisdom held that you could not have a spring-loaded rotating lip, and that you needed to machine the metal surface on which the lip rides.
By granting quick access to decades of company knowledge and collaboratively analyzing all of their previous design standards, Trelleborg’s team was able to prove otherwise. They found that you could have a rotating spring-loaded lip under certain circumstances, and that it was not always necessary to machine the metal riding surface. They also found a way to hold the seal together without the need to crimp the assembly.
A desire to Increase the speed and ease of use for your internal communication strategy seems like a no-brainer. We all want this, no? Time is money and money helps your bottom line. But for Bishop, the value of bringing the RCoE to the company goes beyond cost.
“You cannot really put a price on the value that our customers can receive from this deeper level of thinking. It solves design complexities in ways that have brought about increased performance and higher quality products. This can also translate into increased profitability for the customer, because many times, the enhanced design can be a key product differentiator for them, and ultimately lead to increased market share.”
Trelleborg Sealing Solutions