Superior Tank Boosts Cycle Times by Automating and Expanding Core Design Process 

About Superior Tank Company

Superior Tank Company specializes in the design, fabrication, and construction of bolted steel storage tanks. With more than 40 years of experience, they’ve emerged as a premiere provider of storage solutions for a broad range of applications.

Superior Tank's team of experts works closely with their clients to ensure that each tank is tailored to their specific needs while meeting all regulatory requirements.

Industry: Steel Storage Tanks
Location: Rancho Cucamonga, California

Project Summary/Overview

The team at Superior Tank wanted to boost the performance of their drafting department by reducing drafting times, increasing drafting throughput, and improving accuracy—all while shortening the cycle time to customers. While Superior Tank’s designers had always maintained high drawing standards, they needed a solution to help speed up the process of creating new, from-the-ground-up tank designs to prevent backlogs. KETIV helped Superior Tank cut down on the need for net-new design iterations in their workflow by empowering designers with the ability to expand their library of core designs.

“We are pleased with the results of the tank builder automation project. The solution will help us to significantly reduce drafting times, increase drafting throughput, and improve accuracy. This will allow us to better meet the demands of our customers and improve our bottom line. We are confident that the tank builder automation will become a valuable asset to our company.”

Image courtesy of Superior Tank Company, Inc.

The Challenges

Superior Tank’s typical manual layout process takes about three to four days. Their workflow had mostly kept up with customer demand–until COVID hit. First, the pandemic created staffing challenges. Later, Superior Tank took on a flood of orders while still understaffed, leaving the design team with a backlog of designs to punch out.

Superior Tank prides itself on creating well-detailed drawing packages that are highly regarded by both their manufacturing team and customers. But they wanted to achieve faster design-to- production time while maintaining the same high level of precision. What Superior Tank needed was a system that allowed their designers to extend upon their existing Autodesk Vault Professional library. This library is comprised of thousands of previously drawn and approved designs which are referred to as kits. These kits allow their designers to find and re-use previous tank designs when fulfilling new orders. However, there’s not always a corresponding kit available for every new order.

“We were trying to speed up the process of doing the tank design portion of our product line…it was getting time consuming having to make so many different iterations of a similar product.”

Many orders for new tanks are so similar in size and scope as previous ones, but the slightest deviation means the team is tasked with having to manually draft a new blueprint in the Autodesk Inventor library. In Superior Tank’s instance, each part, every assembly, all accessories-down to the tiniest nuts and bolts in the hardware packs—resides in this library.

They needed an automated solution that was both repeatable and reliable, equally smart and accessible. The good news: the design team, despite their reduced head count, had always worked smart: what they needed was the ability to extend on what they already had.

The Solution

To speed up the process of building a net-new tank, KETIV’s Automation Practice developed a custom configurator Add-In for Superior Tank that makes full use of the designer-driven power of Autodesk Inventor.
The automation project covers their chimed and flat panel tank configurations and allows designers to create these new tanks easily when a new request comes in and their library doesn’t have an existing kit for them to reuse. And because the library is central to their workflow, the tank-building automation solution integrates with their existing Autodesk Vault instance.

The solution offers considerable technical benefits:

  • The tank-builder automation allows the team to speed up the process of tank design and build their kits and related components with greater efficiency.
  • The team has the power to create their own components, allowing them to dynamically expand their own library of “smart parts.”
  • The builder outputs DXF files that provide accurate flat developments and files for accessory openings
  • Designers get more re-use of their rafter designs, rafters, and staves that can be quickly assembled.

Extending the Solution

Superior Tank chose KETIV for a follow-on project to add a tank inlet and overflow generator for tank-piping assemblies. This new tool was developed independent of the tank builder automation, so they can generate a standalone assembly – without the requirement of building an initial tank. This means they can essentially slap these onto tanks generated from the tank builder, or onto a tank that’s being re-used from an existing kit.

The team is excited about a new function that KETIV developed in the Autodesk Inventor UI. The team can now easily find and select common tank accessories and elements from simple dropdowns to inject into the builder. This allows more diversity in their workflows as they are no longer dependent on doing this only on initial builds in the tank automation tool.

“Generally, the goal is to have about two projects per week per drafter. The tank automation has the ability to whittle that down…to a couple of days to do the job.”

Video courtesy of Superior Tank Company, Inc.

Business Outcomes

The team at Superior Tank is realizing some early benefits from their recently launched solutions:
Higher Throughput
The team has boosted the performance of their drafting department through reduced drafting times. Under the right conditions, they can now shave off one to two days on a new tank design.
Doing More with Less
Despite still being understaffed, designers are generating more output than before, while maintaining their high standard of quality tank drawings.
Improved Delivery
The increased throughput and accuracy is reducing delivery time for their customers while offering relief from their post-COVID surge.
Team Control
Designers can now self-serve in templating, extending, controlling, and using their database of smart parts kits and accessories to speed up tank configuration.

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, the tank builder automation has also helped Superior Tank to:

  • Improve efficiency by reducing the need for manual drafting
  • Improve accuracy by reducing the risk of errors
  • Improve quality by ensuring that all tank designs meet company standards
  • Reduce costs by saving time and money on drafting

Customer Innovation Drives Even More Value

KETIV learned that the Superior Tank design team discovered another way to make use of their automation solution. They realized that by running “dummy automations” to place components in designs, they could later return and replace the core tank elements with that of an existing, approved tank from their database. Using these previously-validated and approved tank designs saves them a lot of time over building from the ground up and seeking new approvals for each new case.

What’s Next?

The team is continually populating their database of smart parts and kits, which will drive further optimization in these tank building workflows. Investing in their library will provide more plug-and-play style assembly options for the designers.

As they mature the database and solidify workflows, the Superior Tank design and engineering group plans on expanding the use of the tank builder automation tools in up to five additional locations across the United States and Mexico. The other designers are excited to capitalize on the automations that the team at headquarters are enjoying.

“As we build up the database, I think we should see the rest of the [designers] using it.”

Image courtesy of Superior Tank Company

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