21st Century Harvesting, Great Plains and PTC Creo

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Ideas are your product team's most valuable asset. Unleashing those ideas into real products that set your company apart is where PTC Creo comes in. As the world's most scalable and easy-to-use suite of design software, PTC Creo maximizes every aspect of the design process. From creativity to productivity, teamwork to efficiency.

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In the 17th century, wooden plows were some of the most sophisticated tools available to farmers. Today, farmers grow record crops through innovative farming systems and the use of cutting-edge technology.

New high-tech farming equipment enables farmers to precisely place seed and fertilizer – even when fields have variable soil conditions and contours. The result is increased yields, improved soil conservation, and more reliable outcomes.

In a world with expanding populations and increasing needs for food, farmers rely on technology innovation from companies like Great Plains Manufacturing. Great Plains develops agricultural equipment for seedbed preparation, nutrient application, and seeding placement.

And local Kansas farmer, Wayne Miller, with 8,000 acres confirms the productivity gains with the new equipment. “The new Great Plains seeder (3S-5000) plants 120-130 acres more per day than my 30-footer (3S-3000)…the reason why we bought it is to get more done and be more efficient.”

The Mission

The 3S-5000 Grain Drill
The 3S-5000 Grain Drill

Employees at Great Plains Manufacturing will tell you their goal is to design and build farming equipment that helps to feed the world by increasing crop yields, while promoting environmental sustainability. They are one of the largest privately held manufacturers of farm equipment and have been bringing agricultural innovations to market for nearly 40 years. Headquartered in Salina, Kansas, the company is constantly innovating to stay ahead of global competitors – often much larger than they are.

The company’s largest grain drill, the 3S-5000 is 50 feet wide and includes over 4,000 individual components. This machine is used for seeding and can also distribute dry fertilizer.

Creativity

The 3S-5000 in action
The 3S-5000 in action

For Great Plains, product innovation starts at the design stage. “We innovate to stay ahead, because it's a very competitive business” states Greg Arnett, Engineering Manager at Great Plains. “We invest heavily in engineering, because we know how important it is to deliver great products for our customers. If innovation and quality are not built at the engineering stage, there is nothing our manufacturing process can do to make that better” states Linda Salem, Chief Operating Officer.

One example was pioneering the concept of vertical tillage. “When you have a field, you have different levels in the compacted soil and roots cannot reach moisture so the root spreads sideways. The crop can’t reach its full yield potential. And the plant does not become drought-tolerant and as nutrients are applied they run off” stated Linda Salem. Great Plains solved this problem with PTC Creo and developed several vertical tillage products. “Vertical tillage works the ground vertically rather than horizontally while breaking up and shattering layers in the soil giving the plants root system a better chance of success in dry times or in good times. The growing plant can also then use more of the soil nutrients” states Salem.

Productivity

Great Plains design engineers are located in the United States and the United Kingdom. Design teams work on the complete machine, taking it from concept to production. The team can fully test the equipment with PTC Creo, including reliability and strength during operation, to simulating the equipment being prepared for transport. “PTC Creo saves us three times the amount of time to design a new piece of farming equipment compared to our previous approach” says Tanner McClure, Product Engineer “so we are getting products to market significantly faster.”

Teamwork

The tight integration between PTC Creo and PTC Windchill allows Great Plains design teams to increase productivity and more quickly design products across disparate design locations. “With PTC Windchill, so collaboration is easy” states 29 year Great Plains veteran Randy Jones, System Administrator. “An engineer based in England can work on one part while an engineer in Kansas can work on a different part in the same assembly. The engineer in England can save the design, and the engineer in Kansas receives an update and can see the latest changes. This facilitates real concurrent engineering and greater productivity.”

Designs can also be shared as lightweight viewables across the company, with manufacturing, sales, marketing, and customers.

Efficiency

PTC Creo helps the Great Plains team complete work faster with the ability to visualize and share designs with stakeholders around the world. Randy Jones, points out “We are designing products nowadays that we couldn’t have dreamed of designing before PTC Creo.” With PTC Creo, a precise 3D model is shared with the sales and marketing departments, and they can instantly see the complete design and provide feedback earlier. Most importantly, customers can fully visualize the product to get a real feel for its capabilities.

Results

The results are impressive:

  • The 3S-5000, the company’s biggest seeder to date, went from concept to production just 18 months, a three-fold decrease in design time compared to previous approaches.
  • The companies latest engineering innovations, including vertical tillage, dramatic improvement in nutrient application, highest accuracy seed placing at 35% higher speeds than most competitors, and twin row spacing creating plants with bigger stalks and larger root mass.
  • By using the whole PTC Creo suite, the design team was able to create equipment that fulfills demanding customer requirements at 40% less weight than traditional concepts.
  • Second year sales of the seeder have increased ten-fold, beating the companies best forecast.

Check out Great Plains Manufacturing, the 3S-5000 seeder and see how great products come to life with PTC Creo.