Two years ago, General Motors began to implement i-Man from UGS. Today, 14,000 GM workers use the PDM system, and "we're currently seeing 15-18% productivity improvement," says Kirk Gutmann, Global Development Product information officer for GM.
The PDM waters have been roiled in recent weeks by EDS' acquisition of UGS and SDRC (including both i-Man and Metaphase), but all signs are that GM will stick with a solution that works. Gutmann declined to comment on any potential changes to i-Man that may arise from the acquisition.
Over the last seven years, GM has deployed five different PDM systems. But none of them really caught fire. "Until starting with i-Man, we never had more than 1,500 seats in use," Gutmann says. GM started the current deployment by collecting math data from 9,000 to 10,000 users, and currently uses that information on the engineering and manufacturing sides of the business "to drive cost out of development" through re-use of designs, tooling, and information. Over time, the company expects to increase product development workflow by about 70% with a collaborative B2B system built around i-Man.
The growing use of outsourced work in manufacturing and engineering led to the new focus, and Gutmann believes that PDM is the logical driver of this workflow. For example, GM performs what it terms "repeatable digital validation," or RDV, using model information, geometric information, and configuration variations that describe how particular parts and assemblies are used in different configurations of vehicles. It used to take four to six weeks just to stage data for RDV. Now PDM helps them do it in three to four days—and they plan to lower that time to a single day. "The PDM system contains the data to show how particular parts can be used in particular configurations," Gutmann says. "Once we complete that to our satisfaction, it will help us move to the next stage of design technique—design in context."
Because the data is always available where people know what it is and how to get it, PDM data will enable configuration management, and allow users to rotate alternative model configurations. "For example, we can start with a two-wheel drive vehicle and change it to four-wheel drive by annotating the assemblies with instructions to do this or do that with the same parts," he says.
Soon, everyone involved in vehicle design within GM and through its supply chain will use the system—including those who use the Covisint website to source parts and collaborate on design and manufacturing.
Collaboration will be assisted by what Gutmann calls "light math"—that is, use of .jt files stored in i-Man so that collaborating engineers can see designs and make decisions. "When talking about manufacturing a particular part or assembly, you can't get away from CAD, but for many engineering discussions and collaboration, the light files work very well."
GM plans to expand its use of i-Man into managing CAE modeling and to feed information to ERP.
For more information about i-Man software from UGS: Enter 537