One of the remarkable features of the Internet is that it doesn't matter what computer platform engineers work on. Whether they use a Macintosh, UNIX workstation, or PC, engineers can send electronic files to colleagues or customers anywhere around the globe. This has opened a new world of possibilities for product design, and a more productive world at that. As designs become more complex, as collaborators become more scattered geographically, and as engineers are more pressured to get products to market faster without sacrificing quality, product data management (PDM) becomes increasingly critical. The following examples show how PDM, with help from the Internet, is allowing companies to get closer to both their customers and suppliers, resulting in products that are designed in a truly collaborative manner.
SKF chooses PTC's Windchill
"PTC Receives U.S. $3.4 Million Follow-on Order for Windchill from SKF Group."-April 2000
When SKF implemented Pro/ENGINEER(R)as its CAD solution in 1996, the rolling bearings, elastomeric seals, and special steels manufacturer queried PTC about a Product Data Management (PDM) system to address its information management needs. Headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden, with manufacturing facilities at more than 80 locations in 20 countries, and employing some 46,000 people, SKF faced real challenges with its enterprise product information strategy.
"SKF is organized into approximately 30 different business segments," explains Group Project Manager Jacques van Zijp. "As a global company, we must be able to share information among business units across broad geographical locations."
Beyond the company's in-house challenges with regard to information sharing, van Zijp adds that responsiveness to specific customer requirements was another area that SKF wished to improve with successful PDM. One example, he notes, was SKF's Customer Specific Development Process (CSDP), designed to reduce lead times of customer-specified products.
Discussions with PTC targeted that company's Windchill product as the enabling technology for achieving these goals. Unlike stand-alone PDM products built around databases for CAD file management, Windchill's web-centered design focuses on all phases of a product's life cycle-from concept and definition to production, service, and maintenance. Windchill advances the goals of collaborative product commerce (CPC) by allowing manufacturers to collaborate over the Internet with their customers, partners, and suppliers throughout the product development and delivery process.
Windchill's CPC solution, for example, not only supports major PDM and CAD/CAM/CAE products, but complementary systems such as component and supplier management (CSM); computer-assisted process engineering (CAPE); maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO); and enterprise resource planning (ERP). A single bill-of-information serves as the basis for all downstream activities associated with getting the product to market quickly.
Consequently, Windchill "unites" all SKF's CSDP sub-processes under the umbrella of one large process. CSDP throughput is much faster because serial tasks are handled in parallel and all information and documents related to the process are gathered in a very visible and well-organized manner. Further, the technology maintains continuity between the various CSDP phases, providing global access to the related documents where necessary.
The system integrates into the existing SKF intranet, and existing SKF HTML pages allow access to Windchill functionality, says van Zijp. Windchill therefore appears as a seamless extension of the existing SKF information network. Because the CSDP project also required integration with Lotus Notes, van Zijp adds that users can access Lotus Notes Technical Development Manuals from the Windchill Web environment.
"There is a profound benefit to Web-based technology," states van Zijp. "The ability to manage business information available via a Web browser greatly reduces the total cost of ownership. Not only does Windchill facilitate the efficient delivery of bearing- related information throughout the entire CSDP process, but access to that information is very secure. With Web-based technology, the risk of company-sensitive information reaching the wrong people is low."
SKF's success with the initial implementation of Windchill led to the $3.4 million order earlier this year. With that announcement, the company's global deployment of Windchill will expand to more than 5,000 users in its extended enterprise over the next three years.
Nidec communicates via Core's OpenPDM
Surging demand for its small high-precision motors has led Kyoto-based Nidec Corp. to build manufacturing facilities throughout the world. And that created a challenge in coordinating design drawings and technical specifications for the firm's made-to-order motors. The solution was introducing OpenPDM project data management software from Tokyo-based Core Corp.
OpenPDM is one of the few PDM software packages developed entirely in Japan. Core got its start as a software localization company, taking software produced overseas and customizing it for the Japanese market. Kiyoyasu Kitagawa, sales manager for OpenPDM, says this experience localizing software made Core acutely aware of the importance of multilingual capabilities in software intended to help global companies with manufacturing operations in Asia.
"One of the key features of OpenPDM is that it is fully operable in English, Japanese, and Chinese," Kitagawa says. He explains that CAD drawings remain in the original language. But notes on product revisions, specifications, and explanatory material can all be entered, linked, accessed, and searched in any of the three languages.
Other strong points of OpenPDM include the ease of interfacing with a wide range of CAD software and such other management programs as Lotus Notes. It also has full-text search capabilities.
SDRC's Metaphase supports PDM at Renault
In the last five years, Renault has implemented a PDM system that now has more than 3,500 users at 21 sites throughout the world. The system manages the geometric data, 3D models, part locations, DMU structures, drawings, the company norms-in short, most of engineering data in the product/process development of all the company's vehicles.
Called GDG (Gestion des Donnees Geometriques, or Geometric Data Management), the program was developed at Renault, using SDRC's Metaphase as a base, and is fully connected to Renault's proprietary nomenclature program SIGNE and process applications. GDG has interfaces for all the CAD programs used in Renault, giving transparent access to the PDM system from any CAD seat. The system also includes visualization tools used for digital mock-up and design review.
"One of the reasons why we chose Metaphase for the basis of the system was because it was modular," says Philippe Pineau, manager of the PDM competency center at Renault. "It allowed us to develop exactly the type of system we wanted. GDG is customized software that is the upper layer of the system, which allows us to have a very tight connection into the nomenclature system."
Of course, implementing such a system also meant changing the way the company works. One of the first benefits was the workflow, giving everyone involved in the vehicle development a clear validation process. The second benefit was the ability for everyone in the company to be able to access complete, accurate data.
The "Check-in/Check-out" function of the system is the centerpiece. It encodes the enterprise rules that drive modification of the parts and their representation. When an engineer enters data ("Checks-in") into GDG, the program records what stage of the workflow it is in, (draft/approved/validated), and ensures that the data is connected with any associated information. When anyone accesses data to perform modifications, ("Check-out"), the system ensures that all related documents are connected to it.
"With GDG, the work done on any part is traceable, associated documents are included, and the position of the part is given," says Pineau. "GDG manages the part in the context of each vehicle it is used in."
In addition to helping Renault in the reuse of parts and analysis, GDG also gives valuable information to other departments at Renault via the BOM system (SIGNE). For example, the purchasing department accesses all the technical documents on a part's specifications needed by suppliers.
With each new version of GDG, Renault evaluates the latest capabilities of Metaphase, in a effort to shift functionality to Metaphase and keep the GDG program as lightweight as possible. The company is currently evaluating software to add to the GDG system, which would bring the GDG system benefits to the tooling and manufacturing.
For more information
Windchill software, including the latest version 5.0, visit PTC's website at www.
ptc.com, or: Enter 553
Core Corp.'s OpenPDM software, visit www.core.co.jp, or: Enter 554
SDRC Metaphase, visit www.sdrc.com, or: Enter 555
Beyond CAD file management
Traditional PDM solutions deploy databases that focus on CAD file management. Mainly used by designers, engineers, and manufacturers, they provide rigid processes for vaulting and change management functions. PTC's collaborative product commerce (CPC) solution, known as Windchill, extends beyond the engineering department by focusing on the interactions between the manufacturer, customer, and suppliers. Windchill PDM, for example, is a member of the Windchill Product Management Factor!, which offers complete configuration management and change management throughout the product lifecycle. Windchill Product Management Factor!, furthermore, is part of the Windchill Factor! e-Series(TM), a comprehensive suite of e-business solutions for CPC. Because it is a Web-centric product, Windchill allows secure access by customers and suppliers alike.
Metaphase is comprised of a series of modules that can be configured to meet specific company needs. The Metaphase Foundation module is the entry-level PDM program, for data management/ control, product definition, workflow, and search/navigation. Additional modules include MetaChange for change management, MetaCatalog for component and supplier management, configuration management, MetaVPDM for collaboration, and SLATE/MetaSLATE for systems engineering and requirements management.
SDRC's Metaphase has been named in the leader's quadrant for PDM products by the GartnerGroup for the last two years, and the company is now developing Metaphase Project Dashboard in collaboration with Microsoft. The Project Dashboard is designed specifically for automotive product development teams to give a centralized, customizable view of each member's work, as an aid in collaboration.