Category "Product Lifecycle Management"

Everyone knows that a PLM journey can be a long and expensive path, with frustrations at every turn. The question an organization often asks is: is it worth trying to walk that path?

Effective and correctly implemented PLM can significantly impact several business costs, resulting in large organizational savings. Take a look at the list below and consider how your costs look right now – you may be able to answer your own question.

10 Business Costs Directly Impacted by PLM

  1. Factory Rework and Scrap. These costs can be substantial in a manufacturing organization. Not all rework and scrap is caused by insufficient or miscommunicated engineering and design, but a sizeable percentage is traceable back to this root cause. An effective PLM setup will reduce engineering-originated errors by providing timely and accurate information to the factory floor.
  2. Supplier Quality. Getting timely and accurate information to your suppliers can ensure that they deliver quality parts to your production line. PLM correctly configured can make this happen.
  3. Expedited freight costs. How many times does a product get out of your factories late? In order not to incur penalties, the shipping is expedited at a huge premium. Can any of these incidents be traced back to delayed engineering data? Then a PLM system can help.
  4. Effort to process bids. To win business, you need to respond to RFQs by preparing bids. This effort does not directly generate revenue, and so the preparation process must be as streamlined as possible. Are your key people distracted by bids? Automating the process with a PLM system will reduce the effort required.
  5. Time to create reports. Management requires reports that need to be reviewed. Are these created manually from disparate sources? Why not use a PLM system to generate these reports automatically on demand? There are huge time savings to be had from this enhancement.
  6. Time preparing data for downstream users. How much time does your valuable engineering resource spend extracting, converting, and transmitting engineering data to downstream users? Hours per week? This cost can be avoided completely by setting up a PLM system to deliver this data with no effort from the engineers.
  7. Effort to process engineering change. Your company struggles to process engineering change requests and notices. Many are late and require multiple rework cycles. A PLM can fix that by automating the process and ensuring accurate information.
  8. Cost of physical prototypes. Do you spend a lot of money on building and testing physical prototypes as part of your design process? Do you have to build them all or could some be eliminated by better engineering tools and virtual simulation? A leading-edge PLM system can reduce this dramatically.
  9. Your suppliers deliver parts that require rework. You are constantly getting incorrect parts from your suppliers. But do your suppliers have the right information to begin with? PLM technology can bridge this gap
  10. Wasted development effort. Do you spend funds developing products that go nowhere? This problem can be addressed by a PLM system that manages your development portfolio more accurately.

Do you have more than three of these costs that concern your or that are out of control? Then you definitely need to take a serious look at implementing or reworking your PLM system. We can help – just let us know.

My last post outlined how an integrated product lifecycle management (PLM) and service lifecycle management (SLM) tool framework can benefit both Product development organizations (Brand owners) and customers (Asset owners) by  enabling higher quality service at lower cost, resulting in an increased product/asset utilization and productivity. Teamcenter as a leading PLM platform supports this vision. With Teamcenter SLM solutions, the service and support phase of the product lifecycle is included in your overall PLM vision. Teamcenter bridges the gaps between the engineering, logistics, manufacturing, and service communities. OEMs and service providers can drive more efficient service operations with a single source of knowledge for both products and assets

For OEMs, Teamcenter enables them to reuse design and manufacturing data to enhance service content and incorporate service feedback to support Design for Serviceability and other product improvement initiatives. This holistic approach to the full product lifecycle helps the OEM compete successfully in the service market.  Teamcenter unifies SLM with PLM to support bi-directional collaboration between product engineering and service operations. Service teams can capitalize on the re-use of product knowledge from engineering and manufacturing to improve service planning and execution. In return, service teams can provide feedback to engineering to improve product designs for serviceability and reliability.

For the third party service provider, the service data management and applications allow them to efficiently execute service activities in a global marketplace through a single service platform. Using configuration-driven BOM management, Teamcenter delivers a fully linked, full lifecycle BOM environment that includes the EBOM, SBOM (Service BOM), and Asset BOM to configure accurate information to support services. Different service disciplines can share a common understanding of support requirements and  Service teams can coordinate operational activities for greater compliance, faster service, and lower costs.

The highlights of the solution include:

Maximize Service Knowledge Management and Value

With Teamcenter as the core of your SLM strategy, you have one source of service knowledge management. You can perform service activities with a full understanding of physical product /asset configurations, status and service history. You can order the correct parts, ensure that the proper training is done, and access all the appropriate information necessary to manage service operations

Create Effective Service Plans

Service plans are the key to profitable service operations. Teamcenter provides you with the fundamentals to author and publish service documentation as the source of work scope definition. You can drive service operations by providing all the detailed information that teams need to track and understand asset health, such as service requirements, task-by-task procedures, necessary resources and utilization characteristics. Your technicians have a complete understanding of service needs from Teamcenter, so they are prepared to perform reactive, proactive and upgrade service activities

Optimize Service Work with Schedule Visibility

With the detailed service plans in Teamcenter, you can schedule service activities with a complete understanding of the work scope, in order to meet customer expectations for product availability and reliability. Work orders generated from service plans are used to create service schedules. It is the visibility into the schedule and resources provided by Teamcenter that allows you to optimize service events and ensure that the right resources (parts, qualified people and tools) are reserved for the work

Empower Service Technicians with Work Instructions

Service technicians are a limited resource. When you provide them with complete, intelligent work packages, technicians can execute service work efficiently, accurately and compliantly. With Teamcenter, you can deliver service work instructions, safety/hazard notes, and service procedures (text, 2D/3D and animations). You can also include asset configurations and data collection requirements. Technicians can enter data, observations or discrepancies, and digitally sign off on work, which automatically updates the service schedule.

“To specialize or not to specialize, that is the question.”

The question of specializing vs. generalizing has arisen in so many aspects: biology, health, higher education, and of course, software.  When one has to decide between the two ends of the spectrum, the benefits and risks must be weighed.

muskrat_eating_plantAs environments have changed over time, animals have had to make a decision: change or perish. Certain species adapted their biology to survive on plants – herbivores – others, meat 0 carnivores.  When in their preferred environments with ample resources, each can thrive.  However, if conditions in those environments change so that those resources are not as bountiful, they may die out. Then comes the omnivore, whose adaptation has enabled them to survive on either type of resource. With this wider capability of survival, there comes a cost of efficiency. The further you move up through the food chain, the less efficient the transfer of energy becomes.  Plants produce energy, only 10% of which an herbivore derives, and the carnivore that feeds on the herbivore only gets 10% of that 10%; i.e. 1% of the original energy.

Three hundred trout are needed to support one man for a year.
The trout, in turn, must consume 90,000 frogs, that must consume 27 million grasshoppers that live off of 1,000 tons of grass.
— G. Tyler Miller, Jr., American Chemist (1971)

doctor-1149149_640When it comes to deciding on a course of action for a given health problem, people have the option to go to their family doctor, a.k.a. general practitioner, or a specialist. There are “…reams of papers reporting that specialists have the edge when it comes to current knowledge in their area of expertise” (Turner and Laine, “Differences Between Generalists and Specialists“)., whereas the generalist, even if knowledgeable in the field, may lag behind the specialist and prescribe out-of-date – but still generally beneficial – treatments.  This begs the question, what value do we place on the level of expertise?  If you have a life-threatening condition, then a specialist would make sense; however, you wouldn’t see a cardiologist if your heart races after a walk up a flight of stairs – your family doctor could diagnose that you need some more exercise.

graduation-907565_640When it comes to higher education, this choice of specializing or not also exists: to have deep knowledge and experience in few areas, or a shallower understanding in a broad range of applications. Does the computer science major choose to specialize in artificial intelligence or networking? Or none at all? How about the music major?  Specialize in classical or German Polka? When making these decisions, goals should be decided upon first. What is it that drives the person? High salary in a booming market (hint: chances are that’s not German Polka)? Or is the goal pursuing a passion, perhaps at the cost of potential income? Or is it the ability to be valuable to many different types of employers in order to change as the markets do? It’s been shown that specialists may not always command a higher price tag; some employers value candidates that demonstrate they can thrive in a variety of pursuits.

Whether you’re looking to take advantage of specialized design products (for instance, sheet metal or wire harnesses), or gaining the value inherent in a general suite of tools present in a connected PLM platform that can do project management, CAPA, and Bill of Materials management, we have the means. A “Digital Engineering” benchmark can help you decide if specialized tools are right for your company. Likewise, our PLM Analytics benchmark can help you choose the right PLM system or sub-system to implement.

Specialize, or generalize? Which way are you headed and why?

In this era of new levels of globalization, product companies are faced with market pressures from global competition and price deflation. Today they seek alternate sources of profitable revenue growth enabled by value-add service products. Developing a service-based revenue stream and then delivering product service that is both effective and profitable has its own challenges, however. Even mature service organizations are seeking new approaches to reach a significantly higher quality of service delivery.

Today in a typical product company, there is no single application to manage the the data and the decision points required to deliver effective service. Multiple enterprise applications including PLM, ERP, and often a combination of local databases, spreadsheets and stand alone IT systems are involved in service management. This results in fragmented information and knowledge processes around service delivery.

A new approach centered on incorporating service lifecycle management (SLM) as an integral part of product lifecycle management (PLM) is required in order to to achieve significant improvement in service readiness and delivery. First, this approach focuses on making complex products easier and less costly to maintain, and allowing for more effective allocation of service resources. The second key component is managing the complexity of service information that will reduce the cost and time to create and deliver critical service documentation and service records, at the same time improving the quality and efficacy of this information.

With SLM approached as an extended PLM process, design information can be used to bootstrap and enhance service planning, and product changes and updates are directed to modify service work instructions, and field experience provides up-to-date insight into product quality. The bulk of the information required for services such as illustrations, schematics, and work instructions already exists within the engineering organization and can be repurposed with a relatively little effort. 3D CAD models and Bills of Materials can be used to create everything from exploded wireframe views to photorealistic rendering, and to remove and replace animations that help in service execution. Manufacturability and ergonomic simulations can be used to improve the safety and efficiency of repair procedures.

The expanded PLM system needs to act as a centralized repository of the service bill-of-materials (sBoM) along with Engineering & Manufacturing BoM so that service items, which are mostly design and manufacturing items repurposed for service, can be synchronized to reflect the most up-to-date state of information. This synchronization is possible when SLM is part of PLM and shares the same configuration and change management processes

This way, enterprise PLM systems become the digital backbone of the entire product life cycle – including  SLM – and SLM becomes a dynamic process connected with PLM that continues throughout the useful life of the product or asset. This reduces process fragmentation and provides rich end-to end context for better and more profitable service.

The combined PLM and SLM approach, along with new service models based on the latest technologies (such as the Internet of Things), enables brand owners to deliver higher quality service at lower cost, resulting in higher profit margins, enhanced brand image, and greater customer loyalty. Product or asset owners who are the end customers also benefit from increased utilization and productivity due to faster and more reliable service.

What do you think? Is your organization connected?

If you are in the business of designing and engineering product, then you have PLM. This is a statement of fact. The question then becomes: what is the technology underpinning the PLM process that is used to control your designs?

Because of the way that technology changes and matures, most organizations have a collection of software and processes that support their PLM processes. This can be called the Point Solution approach. Consider a hypothetical setup below:

The advantage of this approach is that point solutions can be individually optimized for a given process – so, in the example above, the change management system can be set up to exactly mirror the internal engineering change process.

However, this landscape also has numerous disadvantages:

  1. Data often has to be transferred between different solutions (e.. what is the precise CAD model tied to a specific engineering change?). These integrations are difficult to set up and maintain – sometimes to the point of being manual tasks.
  2. The organization has to deal with multiple vendors.
  3. Multiple PLM systems working together require significant internal support resource from an IT department.
  4. Training and onboarding of new staff is complicated

The alternative to this approach is a PLM Platform. Here, one technology solution includes all necessary PLM functionalities. The scenario is illustrated below:

It is clear that the PLM Platform does away with many of the disadvantages of the Point Solution; there is only one vendor to deal with, integrations are seamless, training is simplified, and support should be easier.

However, the PLM Platform may not provide the best solution for a given function when compared to the corresponding point solution. For example, a dedicated project management software may do a better job at Program Management than the functionality in the PLM Platform; this may require organizational compromise. You are also, to some extent, betting on a single technology vendor and hoping that they remain an industry leader.

Some of the major PLM solution vendors have placed such bets on the platform strategy. For example, Siemens PLM have positioned Teamcenter as a complete platform solution covering all aspects of the PLM process. (refer to my earlier blog post What is Teamcenter? or, Teamcenter Explained). All of the PLM processes that organizations need can be supported by Teamcenter.

Dassault Systèmes have pursued a similar approach with the launch of their 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which also contains all of the functions required for PLM. In addition, both are actively integrating additional functionality with every new release.

So what is your strategy – Point or Platform? This question deserves serious consideration when considering PLM processes in your organization.

So you’re a manager at a manufacturing company. You make things that are useful to your customers and you answer to the executives regarding matters such as budgets, efficiencies, timelines and deliverables. You will have at least heard of PLM; perhaps you have attended a conference or two. But how badly do you need to implement it or retool an existing setup?

Here are 10 indicators:

  1. Your staff is always late meeting deadlines. This results from poorly executed projects, inefficient processes, and lack of clear deliverables. All of these problems can be addressed by a PLM system, starting with the enforcement of common processes and followed up by proper project planning.
  2. Department costs are creeping up. You are held to a tight budget by the organization. You are always close to or exceed your budget and it is difficult to get a handle on why. A PLM system can help this in two ways: more efficient processes leading to greater productivity and by providing better information to managers.
  3. Rework is rampant. A lot of work needs to be repeated or reworked because it was not correct the first time. A PLM system can certainly help with this problem by supporting common working practices and introducing checks at crucial points.
  4. Your department is constantly battling other departments. There is a lot of finger pointing and blame that goes around the organization. No one can pin down who is responsible or when information was provided. PLM can provide automatic notifications, timestamped deliverables, and clear and unequivocal instructions.
  5. There is no accountability in your department. It is difficult to diagnose where mistakes were made and who is responsible. People are always blaming other people. A PLM system can provide objective data that allows the root cause of accountability to be addressed.
  6. Overtime is out of control. Excessive overtime worked in your department is always a concern. A PLM system can help improve productivity and give managers better information regarding where inefficiencies exist.
  7. Your competitors always seem better. Your bosses are always holding you up against your competition and showing how they are better. A PLM system can put you ahead because there’s a good chance the competition do not have a PLM system, or have not made good use of it if they do.
  8. External customers complain that they do not get the information they need. You owe your customers information at various stages during the design cycle and they often don’t receive it in a timely manner. A suitably configured PLM system can improve this dramatically.
  9. Your suppliers provide the wrong information. You are constantly going around in circles with your suppliers regarding information. But do your suppliers have the right capabilities to begin with, and do you have the capability to meet them on the same terms? PLM technology can bridge this gap.
  10. Process adherence is poor. Although you have some level of documented processes, adherence is poor. A correctly configured PLM system can fix this quickly.

Do you have three or more of these issues keeping you up at night? Time to take a serious look at a PLM system.

256px-caught_between_a_rock_and_a_hard_placeThere they were, sailing along their merry way. Toward the horizon, a narrow strait approaches. As the boat gets closer, they notice a couple of strange characteristics; to one side a cliff and the other a whirlpool. Upon arrival, it becomes apparent that this is the cliff where the monster Scylla dwells. Looking to the other side, the monster Charybdis, spewing out huge amounts of water, causing deadly whirlpools. Each monster is close enough that to avoid one means meeting the other. Determined to get through, our intrepid hero Ulysses must make a decision.  The idiom “Between Scylla and Charybdis” comes from this story.  In more modern terms, we would translate this to “the lesser of two evils.”

PLM administrators, engineering managers, and IT teams are often give this same choice with equally deadly – well, unfortunate – outcomes. What is this dilemma? Customize the PLM system (beyond mere configuration) to match company policies and processes, or change the culture to bend to the limitations posed by “out of the box” configurations.

Companies will often say something to the effect of “We need the system to do X.” To which many vendors meekly reply “Well, it can’t exactly do X, but it’s close.” So what is a decisionmaker to do? Trust that their organization can adapt? Risking lost productivity and possibly mutiny? Or respond by asking “What will it take to get it to do X?” incurring the risk of additional cost and implementation time.
source-code-583537_1280

We can further elaborate on the risks of each.  When initially developing the customizations, there is the risk of what I call “vision mismatch.”  To the best ability, X is described with a full understanding of the bigger picture that is missed when the developer writes up the specification.  This leads to multiple revisions of the code and frustrations on both sides of the table.  Then, customizations have the longer-term risk of “locking” into a specific version.  While gaining the benefits of keeping your processes perfectly intact, the system is stuck in time unless the customizations are upgraded in parallel.  Some companies will avoid that by never upgrading…until their hardware, operating systems, or underlying software systems become unsupported and obsolete. Then the whole thing can come to a crashing halt.  Hope the backups work!

office-1209640_1280However, not customizing has its own risks. What if the new PLM system is replacing an older “homegrown” system that automated some processes that the new system cannot? (And a “homegrown” system comes with its own set of risks; original coder leaves the company, never commented code, no specifications, etc.)  For example, raising an issue automatically created an engineering change request while starting a CAPA process. The company has gained a manual process, thus exposing them to human error. Or, perhaps the company has policy that requires change orders go through a “four-eyes” approval process, to which the new system has no mechanism to support such a use case.

Customizing is akin to Charybdis, whom Ulysses avoided, deciding that it is better to knowingly lose a few crew members rather than risk losing the entire ship to the whirlpools. Not customizing  is more like Scylla, where there is lower risk, though a much higher probability to the point of almost certainty.

We’ve been through these straits and lived.  We’ve gone through with many companies, from large multi-nationals to the proverbial “ma and pa” shops.  Let us help you navigate the dangers with our PLM Analytics benchmark.

When we talk with customers that may have a need to enhance their PLM technology or methods, there are commonly two different schools of thought regarding the subject.  Generally companies start the conversation with one of two different focuses: either CAD-focused or process-focused.

CAD-centric companies are the ones who rely heavily on design and engineering work to support their business.  They generate a lot of CAD data, and eventually this CAD data becomes a real pain to manage effectively with manual processes.  Things get lost, data is hard to locate, design reuse is only marginally successful, and the release process has a lower level of confidence.  These companies usually start thinking about PLM because they need to get their CAD data under control.  They usually start PLM with a minimal approach that is just sufficient to tackle the obvious problem of CAD data management.  Sometimes other areas of PLM are discussed, but are “planned” for a later phase, which inevitably turns into a “much later” phase which still hasn’t happened. What they have done is grease the squeaky wheel while ignoring the corroding frame that is potentially a much bigger problem. CAD-centric companies often benefit from taking step back to look at their processes; many times they will find that is where the biggest problems lie.

BOMs are often associated with CAD geometry, but many times this isn't the case.

BOMs are often associated with CAD geometry, but many times this isn’t the case.

Companies that don’t deal with a lot of CAD data can often realize the benefits of PLM from a process improvement perspective. Product introductions, project management, BOM management, customer requirements, change management, and quality management are just some areas that PLM can help improve. Many process-focused companies already have systems in place to address these topics, but they are often not optimized, and usually not connected.  They tend to be their own individual silos of work or information, which slows the overall “get to market” process, and reduces the overall effectiveness of the business.  These companies might not have the obvious “squeaky wheel” of CAD to manage, but they have PLM challenges just the same.  The key to improvement with them is to identify the challenges and actually do something about them.

In either case, Tata Technologies has the people and processes to help identify and quantify your company’s biggest challenges through our PLM Analytics process.  This process was developed specifically to address the challenges companies have in identifying and quantifying areas for PLM improvement.  If you’re interested in better identifying areas of improvement for your company’s PLM process, just let us know.  We’re here to help.

 

ilogic-snipSometimes CAD can be used to start establishing PLM practices. Since PLM systems rely on data to be effective, ensuring consistent and correctly-entered information is paramount. Things like classification with properties and meta-data can rely on CAD very heavily to be effectively used. For example, let’s consider the classification and data for a machined part. If the part is going to require machining, we could assign it a classification of “Machined.” Since the part is going to be machined, we would want to ensure that “Stock Size” is one piece of meta-data to be tracked. Most CAD systems have a way to ensure this “Stock Size” is at least filled out, and some could even be automated to calculate the stock size without any user intervention. Of course a repeatable logic would need to be utilized, but once that is done, time spent completing stock size calculations and potential errors would be eliminated.

 

Case in point: Utilize iLogic in Autodesk Inventor to calculate stock size for machined parts. Once this is done, users can forget about manually checking all the measurements; all they need to do is flag the part as “Machined” and the system does the rest!

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It’s that time of year in the Siemens PLM world.  Siemens NX 11 was released in late August, and new functionality and streamlined tools always gets me excited. This year marks the 10th year I’ve been using Siemens products, which I realize is a short time in our industries, but it does make me feel a bit nostalgic about my introduction to them.design_1

10 years ago, I graduated college with my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and gained my first job as a Project Engineer with a company that produced high-end carbon fiber performance parts.  A friend of mine, with whom I had gone to college, was also starting there at around the same time, and when I asked him which design software we would be using, he informed me it would be a product called NX. At that time, not being overly well-versed on all the options for CAD in the marketplace, I was not familiar with Siemens NX and worried that I was about to become experienced in a piece of software that wasn’t widely used.  As I said, I was not very well aware of the true marketplace!

We started on NX 2, and it would be new software for the company so, as the young engineers, we were to prove out what it was really capable of.  From the very beginning, I took to the software much quicker than I ever had when using PTC or Works while in school. NX offered not only ease of use but powerful design tools I had never had access to before. Since we were a manufacturing shop as well, we picked up NX CAM to program our NC Mills and Lathes to produce fixtures and tooling used to create our parts.  Once again, new software, new capability, but nobody knew it, so it fell again to us to learn another part of the software. Eventually, we also procured Femap to do Static and dynamic load analyses on our composite layups to ensure part strength and durability (we were creating carbon fiber prosthetic ankles at that time that had to cycle through millions of steps over the course of a month to pass quality requirements).  So within a year, I had come to know the CAD, CAM, and CAE side of Siemens applications quite well, and I continued to learn and grow with the software during my years there.

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Fast forward 10 years, a few jobs, and countless projects and experiences with Siemens products, and I still find myself impressed.  I remember when Synchronous Technology was first released, and the impact it had on the industry.  I remember year after year of functionality improvement, GUI improvement, dialog improvement, system stability and capability improvements.  I remember the advancement of freeform tools, and the “wows” as users and prospective users found ways to do their jobs they had never seen before.  The Siemens product line itself has continued to grow and become more diverse over that time, delving into every aspect of modern product design, from industrial styling to noise and vibration analyses. Siemens’ acquisitions of industry-leading software companies, and the integration of those technologies into their flagship products, have positioned them as a world leader in digital engineering, digital manufacturing, and Product Lifecycle Management.

I feel lucky that I have been able to touch so many different aspects of the software over the last 10 years, and I am always amazed at the improvements that come with each and every release.

Siemens PLM continues their long history of creating the most powerful and flexible design software in the world today. And as for NX 11, I covered some of the most exciting new features and functionalities in a webinar we hosted just last month. Missed my presentation the first time around? Click here to watch it on demand.

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