The changing face of PDM

DN Staff

February 7, 2000

17 Min Read
The changing face of PDM
  • Internet-based.

  • Extended enterprise.

  • Collaboration tool.

  • Built to order.

  • Product lifetime maintenance.

Users can access SmarTeam within CAD programs such as Solid Edge from Unigraphics and SolidWorks from Dassault to perform PDM operations without leaving the CAD environment.

These are some of the terms and benefits you are likely to hear if you venture out to purchase a product data management system (PDM) today. And of these five, the key word here is the Internet.

"The web doesn't change everything. It keeps changing everything," Stacey Lawson, senior vice president of marketing, told attendees at Parametric Technology Corp.'s (PTC, Waltham, MA) invitation-only analysts meeting in Boston. "It is a wave that keeps washing over us, making winners of losers and losers of winners. It is a lifestyle that impacts businesses."

Andrew Rodger, vice president of the Americas for SmarTeam Inc. (Beverly, MA) says, "The web is growing up. The Internet is now for adults, offering business-centered solutions. Millions of dollars of business transactions will soon take place on the Web, including purchasing and bidding."

PDM companies are taking advantage of this shift by emphasizing the web-capabilities of each of their products and how they can help businesses adapt to this e-based economy.

MatrixOne doesn't use the acronym PDM to describe its products at all. "We are a supplier of Internet collaboration software," says Paul Gilmartin, vice president of product management for the company. "PDM is a subset of what we do, but we really supply the backbone for businesses to set up and participate in e-commerce." This involves products that will allow enterprise-wide collaboration on design and design-for-manufacturing.

But while the focus and marketing may have changed, the technology hasn't changed all that much, says Peter Bilello, senior consultant for CIMdata, a PDM analysis and consulting company. He says, "The Internet has just caused people to market their products differently."

"I believe it is a change in focus rather than a change in technology," Bilello says. The traditional mainstay of PDM--its ability to manage data throughout a company and its suppliers--is still there. However, vendors are taking advantage of industry's awareness of the Internet and repositioning PDM from CAD-centric to more supply-chain and design-chain-centric."

One way vendors are doing this is to offer specific PDM applications.

IBM, for example, is touting ENOVIA's ability to help companies with innovation. "Innovation isn't just coming up with an idea," says Steve Shoaf of IBM. "It is knowing if an idea can be created, that it can be manufactured at a certain cost." Today's new software tools must answer the question: "Is the idea doable?" he says. ENOVIA does this by establishing relationships between the proposed product, manufacturing processes, and available resources. Program simulations walk engineers through potential design and manufacturing scenarios to determine the most efficient and cost effective situation. Portfolio combines ENOVIAvpm and ENOVIApm digital enterprise solutions to help small and large manufacturers create, manage, communicate, and digitally simulate all aspects of the product life cycle, regardless of existing CAD or ERP systems.

Collaborative Product Commerce. PTC has completely reshaped the company to accommodate this new focus. "The PTC of today is nothing like the PTC of two years ago," says Steve Walske, chairman and CEO. "Mechanical CAD in general is moving to what the Gartner Group coins 'Collaborative Product Commerce.'" And PTC is using the Internet to enable what it calls "flexible engineering."

The cornerstone product of its new initiative is Windchill, the company's enterprise-wide software that captures and shares information regardless of source or location.

The Internet gives consumers more power than ever, Walske says. "Today, Internet commerce involves commodities or products that already exist. But the next step will be web-based collaboration for complex products and services."

This means "a shift from mass production to mass customization," says Thomas Sears, director of product marketing for PTC. Customers are no longer satisfied with off-the-shelf products, he says. The product and engineering environment must become more flexible as customers will expect to order exactly what they need directly from the web.

And this changes the marching orders of engineers. "The traditional days of hand-off designing and reviews are gone," says Sears. These have been replaced with highly interactive collaboration and daily communications. CAD models will not just be used by engineers or people on the shop floor for manufacturing purposes. They will become part and parcel of the process, accessed by design partners, sales people, and consumers alike.

The Windchill Factor! e-Series, PTC's web-based interenterprise management software, will help engineers do this, he says. PTC recently released several new "Factors," or add-on solutions, to specifically address these needs. The Product Planning Factor! offers a solution where a generic design of a product such as a turbine or transformer resides. The customer inputs his or her requirements into a web-based portal modifying the "generic product" with their personalized information. The Windchill Product Planning Factor! then automatically updates CAD designs to meet customer requirements and initiates workflows to engineers and suppliers to begin the customization process.

Next year, PTC plans to add a service solution to connect customers directly to on-line technical help. "Service manuals will be a thing of the past," says Sears. Instead, suppliers, manufacturers, and users will be able to communicate problems and glitches over the web for immediate support of a product throughout its lifetime.

PDM for the masses. SDRC claims to be reinventing PDM. One way they are doing this is to bring PDM to the masses--to small- and mid-sized companies as well as larger businesses by offering Metaphase Team, which will be generally available sometime this Spring.

"Companies of all sizes participate in a single web-enabled global supply chain, the context of e-business," says Doug Ingraham, director, product management for Metaphase. "So PDM vendors must provide solutions that are flexible and scalable to address the needs of companies of all sizes." Comprising two main products, Metaphase Team and Metaphase Enterprise, e-PDM leverages the Internet to help companies communicate, transact e-business, maximize intellectual capital, and, of course, manage documents.

With Metaphase Team, SDRC says, customers can be up and running in less than 90 days. "Our new PDM product will share applications with Meta- phase Enterprise, but on a different level because mid-level companies do not need the same information as larger businesses," says William Carrelli, vice president of corporate marketing for SDRC. Team, a more "out-of-the-box" offering, targets customers who have as few as 50 or as many as 2,000 PDM users. Metaphase Enterprise will target those with more than 2,000.

SDRC will also launch a series of templates to prepackage functionality appropriate for mid-size manufacturers. And to help customers with changes, SDRC defined a change management product, MetaChange. Released with Metaphase 3.2, MetaChange allows customers to reduce their cycle times for product changes such as change requests and change notices, the company says.

Founded in 1881, OKI Electric Industry Co., Ltd. has a long history as Japan's first telecommunications company. The company's Takasaki Works near Tokyo, a modern design and manufacturing complex, specializes in automatic teller machines and other specialized financial hardware and software systems, as well as ticket issue terminals, a huge business in Japan.

As in other industries, competition and customer demands have pushed down prices for such devices and compelled manufacturers to get products to market at a much faster pace.

To stay competitive, Takasaki decided to implement a comprehensive, web-based product data management (PDM) system that could be fully integrated with ERP to streamline the design and engineering processes. They hoped the PDM system would improve time-to-market, control costs, and reduce information request backlog.

According to Hiroshi Nojiri, general manager of CIM Systems in the Engineering Division System, selecting a PDM system was a fairly easy call. Since the ability to tailor the system to its own needs was high on the list of OKI's priorities, Metaphase stood out for its advanced architecture, which promised a high capability for system flexibility and scalability. Metaphase also had more of the features OKI needed.

As a result of its leading-edge deployment, OKI developed a fully functional PDM/ERP system at Takasaki that integrates Metaphase, Baan, a workflow system developed by OKI, several CAD systems including Pro/ENGINEER from PTC, a 2D application developed by OKI, an electronic parts acquisition database, and several other applications.

Currently, OKI is using Metaphase to manage product data, the product development process, and configuration data for Takasaki ATM products, financial terminals and other products, including printed circuit boards and buses. The PDM system is being used by 700 of Takasaki's 1,000 employees, including 500 to 600 mechanical and electronic embedded software designers.

Measuring the full effects of the integrated PDM/ERP system on operations at Takasaki is still in the early stages. Since the system is designed to be so comprehensive, it hasn't had a lot of time to prove itself. On the product data management front, however, the new system is an unqualified success, says Nojiri. OKI has seen a sharp drop in the design return process where designs need further changes or modifications, an increase in design reusability, a better use of common parts, and a reduction in drawing search and acquisition time by as much as 90%. The effects of this last one are especially pronounced at satellite plants, where acquisition time has dropped from several days to a few minutes. Similarly, when designers need drawings, it now takes a few minutes versus a half-day or more.

Emphasis on ease-of-use. Despite all the changes in how people do business, there is still a need for PDM systems to be affordable and easy to use, says SmarTeam's Rodger. "These are qualities many systems sorely lacked in the past," he adds.

Originally, PDM was a complex and arcane solution, says Rodger. "We were the first to change that in 1996 by offering a product with a Windows and web format at an affordable price." One can purchase one seat of SmarTeam for under $1,000. "One customer called us 'a digestible investment,'" he laughs.

Engineers at Swagelok (Solon, OH) would certainly agree with that statement. A leading manufacturer of precision valves, fittings, and other fluid-system components since 1947, Swagelok possesses multiple product lines with thousands of different models, sizes, and separate parts. Design changes come fast and furious. Research, instrumentation, biotech, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, semiconductor, and other industries rely on the company's products.

Until recently, Swagelok engineers designed and produced components in separate business units where each operated autonomously with its own sets of engineering drawings, product specifications, and other paper-based documents. These were cumbersome to update, track, and transmit throughout the rest of the organization.

In an effort to integrate these groups and operate more efficiently, Swagelok underwent a corporate restructuring. The company began building an enterprise-wide design database using Windows and web-based product data management (PDM) and workflow technology. The objective: shorten time to market and lower costs with innovative products, while maintaining quality.

Swagelok chose software from SmarTeam Inc. as the PDM standard at its major design centers. According to William Gurley, engineering project manager at Swagelok, affordability, ease of use, and capability to run with the SolidWorks 3D modeling software were primary considerations.

Because SmarTeam is based on Microsoft Windows, it uses drag-and-drop, cut-and-paste, and intuitive menus. Standard Windows features enable users to be productive in days rather than months, says Gurley.

Designers at Swagelok access SmarTeam from within SolidWorks. Clicking on a menu tab built into the CAD toolbar calls up a SmarTeam data manager tree showing assembly parts, their relation to one another, and any appropriate context data. So while CAD is running, users can perform PDM operations such as tracking revisions.

According to Gurley, a common design database saves considerable time through the instantaneous exchange of data compared to the days involved with checking out drawings, making copies, obtaining transmittal approval, and mailing documents. Using PDM to archive files also reduces part counts and associated costs by facilitating design standardization procedures that uncover slight variations in multiple components where a single configuration would suffice.

Jim Hanson, vice president of engineering and technology at Swagelok, sees PDM as a critical part of the company's long-term strategy. "Implementing PDM is absolutely essential for us to remain competitive in the global market by shortening cycle times and reducing costs," he says. "There just isn't any better way for us to efficiently manage the huge volumes of data associated with multiple product families, each having thousands of models, sizes, and individual components."

They can also share operating instructions, assembly instructions, and production plans with outside sources such as manufacturing. "And at some point, customers may be able to access information for integrating our products into theirs," Hanson says. "In this respect, PDM puts us square in the middle of a technology revolution that companies absolutely must utilize to remain competitive in the global market."

Changing to a design-led company

When Rolls-Royce wanted to move from a development-led company where engineers improved upon the best design on the market, to a more design-led company, they found this "new" product-oriented emphasis invaluable.

Rolls-Royce lost much of its design skills when the United Kingdom recession hit in 1991 and the company was forced to cut its workforce in half. The engineering department completely disappeared as an entity. When the recession was over in 1995, the automaker looked at how it could set up an effective product development process. The company was in the early stages of developing the Rolls-Royce Seraph and Bentley Arnage, the first all new models for 18 years and was acting as project manager, relying on various sub-contract agencies and major design houses. For instance, BMW provided the engine and some associated components and Mayflower Vehicle Systems provided body panels. "A lot of computer-aided design (CAD) work was happening off site and we had no equipment in Crewe to enable us to view it," says Derek Harrison, Systems Principal for Systems and Processes at Rolls-Royce. "The project manager had to travel 70 miles to view a CAD model being developed."

Integration was particularly important to Rolls-Royce as it wanted to create an engineering view of the product. With such a complex and diverse product, the company had concentrated on creating a Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) environment in manufacturing in order to control materials flows. Engineering components were spread across the Bill of Materials, whereas the Product information Pipeline System (PIPS) would present an engineering view of the data using ENOVIA's Virtual Product Modeler.

The PIPS project has created a vision for the future consisting of a series of elements that support product development. Implementation is necessarily determined by the company's product plan, as it cannot be implemented retroactively as a 'big bang.' manner. It is only the Seraph and Arnage and subsequent projects that have CAD information available. Instead it is being implemented gradually across a number of vehicle projects as they commence, so the company has yet to take a whole vehicle through the PIPS process into production.

"PIPS wasn't just a technical project, but a cultural one as well," explains Harrison. "We decided to concentrate on being a design-led organization, so alongside the PIPS development we completely overhauled the engineering function to recreate an Engineering Department. PIPS supported us in building multi-disciplined co-located project teams with project groups within the overall team."

A major issue that PIPS had to support was that a new vehicle project actually changes its whole focus in mid project. A new vehicle project starts with a small group of people working on a concept derived from a marketing proposal. This looks at the 25 different engineering systems needed to deliver the required features, such as the braking system. The project structure is later completely changed to focus on work by vehicle zones, such as front and rear, which both include the braking system. This required creating a matrix organization that also embraced niche specialization and Rolls-Royce traditional craft skills.

"With the old system you had to work on a particular feature, without the ability to work through the Catia system," says Harrison. "Catia VPM allows sharing of information viewing one part of the design in relationship with other aspects, allowing more scope for the engineer."

The ability of the Catia system to display a digital mock-up of the design is key to a number of benefits. Firstly it gives screen-based confirmation of designs that can also be projected onto a wall screen during design review meetings.

"The ability to simulate design through analytical means allows us to portray a design for design review," says Oldaker. "All the interested parties can view the projected image of the design and use the navigator to 'fly' through it. This reduces the number of prototypes we have to build, which is a big financial saving for a company this size. We also know that the car can be actually put together before we actually build it."

Closely associated with this is another big benefit in space validation and clash detection. The basic engineering information in PIPS is intelligent, in that it understands the geometry of the car. As a designer develops a particular component they can easily access the scenery round which they are working to see if it conflicts with any other components in the vehicle.

"With PIPS there is an opportunity to reduce vehicle product development times by about 25%," says Harrison.

Another benefit is the ease with which the company can change the specification of individual cars. "Although we consider ourselves a mainstream car manufacturer, no two cars are the same," says Harrison. "A large proportion of our orders are from customers who want different levels of customization or personalization, which is something we do much more than anybody else. With our PIPS environment we can be more cost effective in this than our competitors."

One of the key benefits the company was seeking from PIPS was to reduce the cost of components from suppliers. "We knew that suppliers were building in a factor to cover the number of change iterations," says Harrison. "They were bidding on the basis that they expected a significant amount of late changes. By using digital mock-up to get the design right early, we will meet our target to reduce the cost by 30 per cent on components that have gone through the whole cycle. This is because the suppliers no longer have to build in that reiteration factor."

"Working with suppliers during the design phase gives us the opportunity to utilize their knowledge of their particular component," says Harrison. "We used to provide them with a full design and they had to manipulate their product to meet our requirements. Working together has meant that we have integrated our product development and they are no longer customizing a part purely for us."

The company not only has integration with its suppliers, but also with Volkswagen and its suppliers. "With access to all engineering information, we can share it to bring further benefits through common usage," says Oldaker. "Working to a common database improves the communication between companies enormously. In so doing, the confusion is immediately reduced and will be eradicated in the longer term, which brings us business efficiency."

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