Charlotte, NC--Once, an engineer only had to worry about which CAD package to buy. Then there came product data management (PDM) software. Soon after, enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages arrived on the scene. Now, there's PDM II.
PDM II, Product Development Management II, aims to help companies enhance their entire product development process, says Steve Shoaf, solutions manager for IBM. PDM II calls for creating a new software infrastructure that tightly links a company's computer-aided design (CAD), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and product data management (PDM) packages. "The acronyms are confusing," he says. "But PDM II is a different animal. It is not an extension of PDM software as we know it today."
To create this PDM II infrastructure, IBM and Dassault Systems announced ENOVIA-vpm (virtual product model), a software product already in use by Chrysler in its JEEP program.
"In most complex manufacturing companies, production and innovation should happen simultaneously, but most existing product development processes don't allow it," says Shoaf. PDM II focuses on innovation, coming into play at the beginning of product design.
A company can increase its overall efficiency at new product development by two- or three-fold if it improves the production engine, he says. But if the company looks at the whole process and improves its innovation cycle, the time to market could be improved by orders of magnitude. "It's not about simply installing a better piece of software--it's understanding how to be more competitive by being more innovative," he says.
There is no process for innovation. Creative design engineers think up new products in an ad hoc, unpredictable, chaotic manner, says Shoaf. Whenever PDM has been applied to innovation to track design files, the results haven't been that great, he continues. This is because PDM has a structured work flow and life-cycle management. A structured application applied to an unstructured environment doesn't work well.
Chrysler, for example, wanted to include all departments in JEEP development, says Shoaf. That meant design engineers needed to be aware of design and manufacturing constraints. This required that manufacturing data be attached to design concepts right from the start.
Take for example, the numeric-control tool path. An employee knows he or she will be putting sheet metal in a tool that will cut some geometry. With PDM II, the person responsible has access to the design information and can begin planning the tool path, though he or she won't cut it until the geometry is released.
To keep everyone informed, the ENOVIAvpm software offers Action Flow. Action Flow allows engineers to capture changes in a product well before design release. This way, design knowledge can be captured and used for future products, minimizing re-inventing the wheel, says Shoaf.
Also, designs go through levels of maturity, he says. As a product reaches a certain level of maturity, the company can use ENOVIAvpm to notify an appropriate group so it can begin contributing to the overall design.
ENOVIA PDM II knows who to notify and when through dependent relationship hyperlinks. For example, a company might decide to notify tool path engineers when a design is only at a 10% maturity level. Each time the design changes or reaches the next maturity level, the tool path engineers are informed. At the same time, they can make recommendations that alter the design.
"PDM II creates a design circle that interacts with itself," says Shoaf. "Say I normally get involved at step 7 and have to wait for steps 1 through 6 to finish. Now, I don't have to wait. I'm involved right from the beginning."
"To compete, it's not market share, it's also market size," says Shoaf. With PDM II, the product development is so much faster than before, manufacturers can expand their potential markets because they have more time to develop new products no one else has. "We call this the first-mover advantage. You are always several steps ahead, because competition can't react as fast as you can innovate and bring new products to market. You're expanding the market and thereby gaining market share."
ENOVIAvpm is a CAD neutral system. No major manufacturer uses just one CAD program, says Shoaf. "They usually have one of everything. This is an infrastructure that will work with any CAD system, any PDM system, any ERP system."