Category "PLM Expert Insights"

The Challenge

Often when listening to a CIMdata presentation, their consultant will offer a tongue in cheek remark: “the most widely used PLM tool is Excel”. So, is it true? It is worth examining the issue in more detail.

Before proceeding, a better definition of the title is in order. The more accurate formulation – “Does an Excel spreadsheet contain the master definition of the eBOM during product design in your organization?”

There are two crucial points in this question

  1. Master definition implies that the BOM of record for final design is maintained in a spreadsheet
  2. eBOM is distinct from the mBOM maintained in an ERP system. Organizations generally do not use Excel for this purpose.

The Reality

BOM

So how prevalent is the master Excel BOM? If you are reading this article, you can answer silently for yourself. Aside from that, let us look at two data points:

Tata Technologies has conducted a PLM benchmark assessment at approximately 150 different organizations over the last 4 years. Based on our results, approximately 75% of these organizations use Excel in one form or another to control the eBOM.

Try a Google search on “Bill of Materials” and access the results for “Images”. Count how many of the images show Excel. By my informal count, at least 60% of the images from that search are Excel sheets of one form or another.

So, the prevalence of using Excel for eBOM would seem to be very high. Is that good or bad? Let’s examine that question in following sections.

The Good

Excel is perhaps one of the great inventions of the IT revolution. It is conceptually a simple tool but can be used in sophisticated applications. For generating and specifying a simple eBOM, it has the following merits.

  1. It is flexible and can be formatted in various was to portray an eBOM structure. The inherent layout of rows and columns is convenient for defining a structure
  2. One can add many columns to define and specify the various attributes of Parts in the eBOM
  3. Because Excel can easily perform calculations, the spreadsheet can automatically give aggregate results like total cost, total or sub assembly weights, total selling price, margins etc.
  4. It is a readily available tool across all businesses because of the persuasive nature of MS Office and everybody knows how to use it. Probably most businesses see it as an economical and inexpensive tool; dependent on budgets this may or may not be true
  5. Although it takes a little bit of dedicated formatting, the eBOM can show indented levels and collapsed sub-assemblies
Excel BOM
Excel BOM

The Bad

Of course, Excel may have some strengths, it has some significant weaknesses when it comes to eBOM management:

  1. It is difficult to do a BOM compare in Excel. Such functionality is required when two versions of the BOM need to be compared to see the differences
  2. Change Management in any Product Development environment is always a big challenge. While it may be possible to do revision control on an Excel spreadsheet (e.g. in SharePoint), it is impossible to do change control on individual parts in the eBOM
  3. Excel has no safeguards against anyone inadvertently deleting line items or details out of the eBOM.
  4. Calculations and formulas in Excel must be constantly checked to see they cover the correct ranges as changes will compromise these. Many companies have fallen to the problem of Excel formula mistakes
  5. By their nature, Excel spreadsheets are difficult to control and can proliferate easily, resulting in multiple copies. Which one is then the master?
  6. Excel eBOMs are always entered manually into ERP systems; requiring considerable effort and allowing the possibility of errors

The Ugly

Even if the “Bad” above is manageable, there are some situations where it is impossible to even consider using Excel for eBOM. Here are some of those situations:

  1. Large complex eBOM with part counts in the 200 and above range. No human can reasonably manage this in an Excel worksheet.
  2. Situations were the product has multiple configurations or variants. Because the number of resolved eBOM’s grow exponentially with the number of variants, it becomes impossible very quickly to manage
  3. When multiple downstream users must access the eBOM. This compounds the proliferation problem
  4. When the eBOM changes rapidly – keeping everybody up to date becomes impossible
  5. An eBOM is the very core of Product Development. Why use a half-baked tool?
  6. Excel cannot connect to any digital representation of the Part (3D model, Drawing, Specs etc.). This is a major shortcoming!

The Change

So, are you comfortable driving an automobile knowing that 66% of the eBOM sub-assemblies are managed in Excel?

There is technology that overcomes all the Bad and the Ugly. It exists today and is proven. The change to these systems may be difficult and potentially expensive but given the critical nature of an eBOM to a Product Development organization, it must be embraced!

Watch for the next article.

Tata Technologies is an engineering services company dedicated to engineering a better world. Visit our website at www.tatatechnologies.com

The Problem

Before computers, engineering designs where carried out by armies of draftsmen toiling over drawing boards in vast offices. Some may still express nostalgia for those days, but like all else, change came along. Today sophisticated computer programs allow engineering designs to be created in a full 3D virtual world with great degrees of precision. In the initial phases of the 3D modeling revolution there was a great debate over 2D vs 3D and because software vendors feared rejection over adoption, they included capacity to derive 2D drawings from the 3D model. The CAD programs essentially allowed the production of documents equivalent to what could be produced by a draftsman. But 3D CAD programs have continuing to improve in terms of functionality and capability; so much that all the information (and more) that used to be communicated via a 2D Drawing can be included in the single 3D model. Such an approach is far more efficient.

However, when asked organization after organization will admit to releasing and maintaining 2D Drawings for all sorts of purposes.

So, if technology has moved on beyond the 2D drawing, why are they still widely used in the industry?

The Technology

If you dig into the reasons why 2D Drawings still exist, various technical reasons are commonly offered:

  1. Dimensioning and tolerancing cannot be fully completed on a 3D model
  2. Tabled parts are difficult to create in 3D
  3. Consumers of drawings do not have the capability to view 3D
  4. 3D models cannot be printed out

Current Technology has an answer to all these problems:

  1. CAD software has core modules that can create a fully annotated model in 3D with all information included
  2. Design tables or configurations can achieve this very easily
  3. All major vendors offer viewers for 3D formats; the most basic of these are normally free.
  4. Viewers remove the need for printing; beside printed copies are uncontrolled and can lead to errors

It can easily be demonstrated that any technical objection can be overcome with correct tool deployment.

So, why do 2D drawings still exist?

The Culture

If you dig a bit further, other reasons start emerging from the shadows:

  1. We have always used drawings
  2. It would be difficult to retrain the shop floor
  3. Our suppliers don’t have the capability to use 3D models
  4. It would take years to redesign our processes

Finally, here are the true reasons why 2D drawings still exist and they are all cultural in nature. It is similar to the neighbor who trudges down the driveway in the snow and picks up a hard copy newspaper. Just sit up in bed and pick up a Smartphone!

So, how do you address the cultural issues?

The Change

Here is a high level journey from 2D to 3D

2D to 3D
  1. Technology – Choose the best technology
  2. Best Practices – Figure out how to take information in2D to 3D
  3. Impact – Evaluate impact to downstream processes
  4. Strategy – Design a strategy to replace 2D Drawings
  5. Planning – plan the transition and the OCM (more on that later)
  6. Implement – roll out the transition and goodbye to drawings

Here are some more critical elements of the journey

Best Practices – answer questions like Current information on Drawings? Critical vs Non-Critical? Common standard for GDT information? Company Standards?

Downstream Impact – In a complex organization, there are probably many users of 2D Drawings both within and without the organization. It is important to identify all these users before suddenly removing drawings!

Strategy – the various strategy components that must be considered include how to convert 2D information to 3D; technology purchase; repurpose downstream systems; training courses required; Project Plan; what to do with legacy data

Planning – As noted previously, the biggest obstacle to converting from 2D to 3D is cultural resistance. A well prepared organizational change methodology (OCM) and plan is vital. Considerations include communication, training, support and identifying champions.

Good luck!

Tata Technologies is a global engineering company that helps organizations engineer better products.
Visit www.tatatechnologies.com or contact info.americas@tatatechnologies.com

Does your engineering organization struggle with the following challenges?

  1. Crucial engineering data in several different systems resulting in disconnected information
  2. Manual processes that rely on human intervention
  3. Multi CAD environment requiring translations and inefficient transactions
  4. Lack of visibility of data for downstream consumers

If these challenges are something you face everyday, then you probably have considered a Product Data Management (PDM) system. This will store all your data in a single repository and help with automating workflows. But buying and implementing a PDM system seems costly and time consuming; how are you going to get started?

Teamcenter Rapid Start is the answer to all these questions. It is a preconfigured installation of Teamcenter with the following features:

  1. By using preconfigured templates, the system is simple and fast to deploy
  2. Best in class industry configurations to support engineering processes
  3. Included training allowing users to quickly become familiar with the system
  4. An implementation can be up and running to full productivity in two weeks

Lets have a look at all the components that make up a Teamcenter Rapid Start installation:

Multi-CAD and ECAD data managementFind, reuse and share data across a multi-CAD design chain

Teamcenter Rapid Start Multi-CAD data management capabilities enables you to effectively and efficiently manage, control and share MCAD data across the entire design and supply chain. Regardless of the CAD tools used, this environment provides you with a single view of product data as well as engineering processes and status. Teamcenter visualization extends this into an even more collaborative environment. Teamcenter handles all major CAD systems including NX, Solidworks, CATIA V5 and Autodesk Inventor.

Document management Create and manage documents in conjunction with product development

Teamcenter Rapid Start includes standardized document management features so you can create and manage documents in conjunction with PDM processes and data.

Related documents are associated with products, and you can synchronize the attributes between documents and PDM.

Teamcenter Rapid Start delivers a standard integration with Microsoft Office to extend the scope and coverage to the desktops of numerous professionals and users outside of the Engineering department. This includes the managed creation and update of Technical Publications, process sheets, Customer Requirements, manufacturing set-ups, test specifications, and many other Document Management applications.

Simple process managementPreconfigured processes like design release and change, based on PDM best practices

Teamcenter Rapid Start provides you with basic workflow capabilities to streamline product development by automating and synchronizing processes. You can:

  1. – Review, comment and approve/reject parts and documents
  2. – Capture and audit date and timestamp information
  3. – Manage cross-functional review teams (notifications, quorums, etc.)
  4. – Automate vital business processes and reduce manual intervention

Preconfigured roles and functionalityStart quickly with best practices to automate everyday tasks across the business

Teamcenter Rapid Start offers preconfigured groups and roles with appropriate access permissions to simplify common tasks.

  1. – The standard set of roles support the tasks done every day in an organization
  2. – For example — start a new project, issue an ECO or review a design
  3. – These tasks are easily started using a number of shortcut links in the “I Want to” area of the user interface.

Further, the tasks are automated by ‘Wizards’ to make them smooth and natural, and consistently repeatable in operation for reliable, efficient processes.

Teamcenter Rapid Start can get you up and running with PDM quickly by offering:

  1. A single installation process for server and client results in in a fully configured environment ready to use
  2. Standard organization and roles, preconfigured database, workflows, reports, security model, … so you have the capabilities you need as soon as you complete the installation
  3. Ongoing updates and support are simple, fast and effective

The other huge advantage of Teamcenter Rapid Start is that it offers a seamless path to complete PLM – supported by Teamcenter, the industry leader in PLM systems.

Contact us today to learn more about Teamcenter Rapid Start and get started with improved data management.

In the previous posts regarding PLM ROI ( Part 1, and Part 2, we introduced the hierarchy of strategic objectives, business targets and business costs. Examples were provided of all these categories.

In this post, lets look at some examples of how to calculate business costs and how savings can be derived from these. We will look at two examples: time searching for documents and manufacturing rework. The first example represents an efficiency gain and the second is a cost saving.

Time searching for documents or information

Assumptions:

  • Burden rate for engineer = $70/hr
  • Number of engineers = 120
  • Hours per week = 40
  • Weeks per year = 48
  • Time spent looking for documents (before PLM) = 2 hrs/week
  • Time spent looking for documents (after PLM) = 1.5 hrs/week

Cost:

  • Before PLM – $806,400 (this is obtained by multiplying the first five quantities together)
  • After PLM – $604,800 (this is obtained by multiplying the first four and the last quantities together)

Savings:

$201,600

Manufacturing Rework

Assumptions:

  • Manufacturing Costs = $2,290,000,000
  • Rework as a % of manufacturing costs = 1%
  • % of rework costs resulting from engineering (before PLM) = 25%
  • % of rework costs resulting from engineering (after PLM) = 20%

Cost:

  • Before PLM – $5,725,000
  • After PLM – $4,580,000

Savings:

$1,145,000

A few comments on these example calculations:

  1. The majority of the business costs can be calculated using addition or multiplication
  2. Efficiency gains are normally smaller than cost savings because of the nature of production centered businesses
  3. Calculation of ROI for PLM can easily be handled in a spreadsheet; this can also be used to produce graphs

Of course, anyone looking at these calculations will immediately have two questions: what is the source of the raw data and how do you arrive at the savings?

Here are some suggestions for deriving the data required:

  1. In the case of the time spent looking for documents, one can conduct interviews and ask participants to estimate the quantity
  2. A more efficient way of doing this is by sending out a online survey to selected individuals
  3. It is possible that IT have logs of various systems and can derive data on time spent in these systems
  4. Manufacturing rework is often recorded in the official accounts of the organization and can be derived form this source
  5. Alternatively, rework may be tracked on the shop floor to measure efficiency
  6. In the case of savings, there are industry benchmarks available from research firms who track this information
  7. Often, participants will be able to give ranges of what they think the savings will be
  8. If an organization has an issue or quality tracking system, then this can be a useful source of data

Once all the savings are calculated, it is a matter of spreadsheet manipulation to produce results and graphs. Below is an example of a cash flow projection:

Tata Technologies has a complete suite of tools that can help with ROI calculations. Consult any of your contacts in our organization or email

info.americas@tatatechnology.com

In our previous blog post Does PLM Pay? Part 1, we set the stage for calculating PLM return on investment and defined the hierarchy of Strategic Objectives, Business Targets and Business Costs.

Lets look at an example of this hierarchy:

The strategic objective is reducing time to market. The example shows two ways this can be done:

  1. Improving your bid response process will allow you to get back to potential customers quicker and speed up the overall time of enquiry to delivered product. PLM can certainly help with the bid response process by automating approval workflows, having all documents in one place and producing accurate BOM’s.
  2. Once a customer order is received, the delivery of product will have to be managed by some sort of project management team. PLM can help here by providing a inclusive project management environment that coordinates a large team. Poor project management will result in overruns and increase time to market.

Given these business targets, we need to put actual costs against them. The example gives four savings to which we can attach costs:

  1. Effort to process bids – it takes a time to respond to a bid request or query. In organizations that are dealing with complex products, this effort can be spread across multiple people (engineering, finance, manufacturing etc.) and can take a large amount of cumulative time. A cost can be attached to this. Any reduction in this cost as a result of implementing a PLM system will be a saving. Note this is an example of a efficiency gain (see Part 1).
  2. Profit from additional bids – Assuming that a PLM system allows bids to be turned around more quickly and with greater accuracy, the organization can expect to be more successful with winning business. More bids can translate into additional revenue and profits. Profits can be viewed as negative costs and would contribute to an ROI as a subtraction from costs. Note that this is an example of cost savings (see Part 1).
  3. Effort to manage programs – Often a product producing organization will have a separate function which focuses on managing programs and projects. (office of program management, Director of Programs etc.). If the process of managing programs could be improved by a PLM system, then the potential exists to have less program managers and save personnel costs. Note this is an example of a efficiency gain (see Part 1).
  4. Late Penalties – Product delivered late to a customer can result in contractual late penalties, which are a direct expense to an organization. If we can improve project management by implementing PLM, this can prevent project overruns and late penalties. Note this is an example of a cost savings (see Part 1).

These four examples represent the 43 total business costs that can be impacted by a successful PLM implementation.

In Part 3 we will look at some examples of calculating actual costs.  For more information, email us at Info.Americas@tatatechnologies.com

Here is a scenario familiar to many PLM professionals:- a project is initiated to implement or enhance a PLM system within an organization. All the participants are excited and everybody can clearly see the benefits to processes, collaboration and data security. All the pieces are in place; pricing, implementation schedule, software requirements, training plan – down to the last detail.

The champion starts getting all the signatures required to issue the purchase order. VP of engineering – done. CIO – done. CAD manager – done.

Then the fateful moment arrives and the champion walks into the CFO’s office. The first question out of his mouth is “You want to spend this money! What’s the return on investment?” And there it stops.

So, how do you calculate an ROI for a PLM initiative? The remainder of this post and the follow on articles will give an answer to the question. Here are the various reasons why you would want to calculate an ROI for PLM:

  1.  To justify the project to a Finance department (scenario above)
  2. For presentation to a Board of Directors. If the project is substantial enough, this is a possibility
  3. The object of the CFO is correct – a PLM project should result in real, quantifiable savings
  4. Savings from the investment over a period of time will improve the organization’s competitiveness
  5. Savings will allow for company expansion as improved cash flow can be invested in other areas

The approach relies on breaking down PLM impact areas into categories that align with business targets. Consider the following hierarchy:

The strategic objectives at the top of the pyramid are common to all companies and can be supported by PLM systems in one way or another. Of course, PLM is not the only contributor to these objectives as other business initiatives can help meet these goals. Supporting these strategic initiatives are 22 business targets (more on this in Part 2) which are further divided into 43 business cost (more on this in Part 3).

Before we start describing the targets and costs, a definition of the types of costs used in ROI calculations is needed. There are two categories of costs – referred to as efficiency gains and cost saving. The illustration below gives examples of this division

We will start looking at some specific targets in Part 2.   For more information, email us at Info.Americas@tatatechnologies.com

Do you currently have a problem with migrating data from one system to another? Do you wish that the current manual method could be automated? Do your qualified staff spend time on the mundane activity of transferring data from one system to another?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then Tata Technologies may have a tool available to solve these probelms – i Migrate It.

Picture2

This tool is an on-demand solution for any mannner of migrations and translations. It is configured for a given situation and allows for a user specify on demand what data he needs migrated and in what format.

From a user perspective, a typical workflow would be as follows:

  1. User logs into the tool. Configuration of the tool would determine what that specifc user is allowed to do (examine only, examine and migrate etc.)
  2. The user searches for the data that needs migration. Based on the search result, user chooses the exact data set required and specifies what must be preserved during the migration (full geometrical feature definition, brep only, metadata only etc.)
  3. Once all this is completed, the user would submit the job for processing. At this point, i Migrate It would take over and run the necessary background tasks required to complete the request. Depending on the nature of the systems, the job could take some time to complete (e.g. overnight batch process). The user has access to a dahboard that shows the status of the pending jobs and historical jobs.
  4. If the job fails (for example the requested data has already been migrated), the user is alerted with an error message which can be used to determine a future course of action.

This tool has several advantages for migration and translation problems:

  1. Only data that is really required by the users is migrated. This can reduce the cost of a complete migration.
  2. By providing options, the most efficent process is applied as determined by those who really know.
  3. After a period of time, usage will drop and the tool can be eventually phased out.
  4. Data remains secure during the process.

Consider this option when next you are faced with a migration problem!

In Active Workspace 3.4, Siemens PLM has made some significant improvements to search capabilities. Here are some of the highlights

Numerical Range Filters

Users can now filter and narrow down search results by entering a range of values for numerical properties in the filter panel so that they  get results only in the range of what they’re have specified. For example find bolts with a length between 60 and 100 mm.  They can also use open ended ranges by leaving the lower or upper range value blank.  This is supported for both classification & object properties in both global and in-context search using  integers and real numbers.

Pre-filter for Add Objects 

Active Workspace 3.4 allows application of property based pre-filter for in-context search.  This provides a better control of allowable choices when adding related objects with the ability to retrieve context sensitive search results via configuration.  The configuration is to set a “query type” pre-filter in the XRT definition of the “Add” command, which can be based on any property value. User can always widen the scope by deactivating the filter.

Search for Business Objects based on Form Properties

Users can now search and filter on properties of Master Forms and other Forms attached to any item revision without using compound properties . Master forms are supported OOTB, other forms (including custom forms) require adding a reference to the form storage class . The properties from forms can be configured to display as Form Name.Property or  only Property . This is used in filter panel and search string syntax. This can be also used in conjunction with dynamic compound properties (DCP) to avoid making schema changes to enable search and filters for properties on related forms.

With every release of Active Workspace, Siemens PLM keeps adding more enhanced capabilities for Schedule Manager process execution, Active Workspace 3.4  is no exception.

The most exciting Schedule Manager process execution improvement in Active Workspace 3.4 is the ability to perform a “what-if analysis”.  What-if analysis mode enables project managers to experiment on a live schedule without impacting it . This is like working with the schedule in a “sandbox” environment to perform changes  to the tasks without committing them to the production database.  This helps project managers to determine how various schedule component changes may affect the outcome of the schedule, before actually committing the changes to the schedule. Once they are satisfied with the changes,  they can promote and commit the changes to the schedule. If they are not satisfied with the outcome of the changes, then they can choose to discard the analysis.

There are also enhancements to make the Schedule Manager tool usage easier .  Now users can change the Gantt timescale using the zoom in/out feature. They can add and remove schedule deliverables, assign multiple schedule tasks to one team member using multi-select mode, add multiple tasks quickly and easily by pinning the ‘Add schedule task’ panel and also manually launch workflow on a task. These advances in schedule authoring provide project managers and coordinators greater ease and flexibility in schedule definition and maintenance.

Product Excellence Program helps Siemens PLM Software to understand how customers use their products and assists them in improving the software in future releases .The Product Excellence Program is designed to protect the privacy of the user and the intellectual property created through the use of Siemens PLM Software products. It’s used to collect data about Siemens PLM Active Workspace product usage and associated Teamcenter platform installation. Data collection occurs in the background as software is used and does not affect performance or functionality,  collected data is sent to Siemens PLM Software for analysis. Per Siemens PLM no contact information is contained in the data collected not any information about data created or managed is collected. Data is solely for use by Siemens PLM Software and is never shared with third parties .

Participation in the Product Excellence Program is enabled by default during installation using either TEM or Deployment Center. System administrators can always opt out during install. Post install, participation can be controlled  with the TC_ProductExcellenceProgram site preference.  All data collection is anonymous and includes product usage; Teamcenter server platform (version, platform, architecture), client environment (browser type, version), client page visits and collected data is sent from the client browser.  

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