Founded in Japan in 1967, Toshiba Elevator designs, develops, manufactures, installs, and maintains elevators, escalators, and moving walkways. The company has a vast client base that extends throughout Asia—supplying people movers to health care facilities, hotels, public transport stations, and residential and commercial buildings of all heights. The firm’s elevators in the Taiwanese 508-meter Taipei 101 building move at speeds of up to 1,010 meters per minute, the third-fastest elevators in the world. To strengthen and develop its cyber-physical systems (CPS)—and find the ideal solution for optimized manufacturing—Toshiba Elevator relies on the Forge platform.
Japan has long been a major player in all things technology, but the digitization of its manufacturing industry is generally considered to be insufficient, posing a major challenge. As Toshiba Elevator’s products are by nature unfinished when shipped to structures in the field, it’s vital to digitize and constantly monitor the ongoing state of the job site to ensure optimal construction and installation of systems that transport thousands of people daily. To achieve the necessary degree of context, Toshiba team members had to physically travel to job sites that were often based in other countries. This led to inefficient workflows, costly (and risky) travel, and suboptimal data flows.
In a push to improve digitization, Toshiba is developing cyber-physical systems (CPS), achieving digitization and re-creation of physical job sites in virtual environments, and interconnecting elevators’ lifecycles and recurring business models with masses of digitally obtained information. This empowers the company to optimize installation, maintenance, and operations while reducing team members’ travel.
However, while Toshiba was improving the internal workflows, the systems were missing the ability to coordinate efficiently with customers. The Forge platform and its powerful APIs were the key to resolving this challenge.
How Toshiba Elevator solved it with Forge.
Like other elevator manufacturers, Toshiba Elevator’s systems and workflows had been designed and built for internal use, with the focus remaining solely on the elevators. But elevator designs must be coordinated with the building data that houses them, and Toshiba’s internal systems didn’t take into account workflow between these systems’ siloed data.
This lack of efficient external-facing systems meant the company seldom collaborated with customers online. Communication was fragmented through email and phone calls, which can cause delays and misunderstandings. Team members had to travel to job sites and physically hand drawings over to customers, who would finally gain an understanding of the envisioned end product and take the drawings to partners for further review. Once again, Toshiba saw that this unnecessary travel could be reduced and the workflow needed to be streamlined.
Building on the concept of centrally managing data for internal use, Toshiba employs the Forge platform to share and synchronize design information with customers over the internet. The company stores all project data in Forge and synchronizes data between a sales configurator, used to define specifications, and the design systems that house the CAD tools (Revit, AutoCAD, and Inventor). The various systems, departments, and customers are all connected through Forge.
Toshiba uses the Forge Design Automation API to automate the creation of 3D models from the specifications laid out in the configurator. This enables the firm to batch process the creation step in the background, saving significant time. Plus, any changes to the specifications are automatically reflected in the design models and drawings in Revit building design software by way of Forge. The Forge Viewer is used to visualize design details and RaaS for a high-quality render.
Customers can access data online and make requests that can be implemented immediately in Toshiba’s internal workflow with the results of the request being returned seamlessly. This online digital environment not only enables clear, real-time collaboration and reduces team member travel, it also creates a new value for the firm: on-demand customization.
Toshiba’s next step is to link the accumulated design data to the firm’s currently fragmented manufacturing workflow. The firm believes that centrally and digitally managing data according to a building’s lifecycle—data that extends from inquiry to sales, design, manufacture, and maintenance—expands data’s effectiveness and improves efficiency.
Forge highlights include the following:
- Automates background creation of 3D models, saving time
- Stores project data in a single place, enabling digital collaboration and reducing travel
- Creates new value: on-demand customization
“Forge has helped us to offer our customers a new value—on-demand customization.” - Kazuhiro Hatano, Managing Director, Toshiba Elevator and Building Systems Corporation