PLM and Mechatronics

DN Staff

December 7, 2010

3 Min Read
PLM and Mechatronics

Mechatronicsis a design philosophy that emphasizes multidisciplinary, model-basedcommunication, collaboration and integration from the start. Sustainability hasfurther challenged mechatronics to transform itself into a closed-loop,cradle-to-cradle design approach. Product lifecycle management (PLM) is aprocess of managing the entire engineering lifecycle of a product, along withthe software tools to synchronize information. Just as in mechatronics, thislifecycle is now viewed as one that stretches from conception, through designand manufacture, to service, disposal and recycling. Just as a key element inmechatronics is human-centered design, PLM is becoming more human-centered, inaddition to being information-centered.

Recently, I was invited to talk aboutMechatronics and Innovation at the Product Lifecycle Management 2010 Conferencein Detroit. PLM is certainly not new, having been introduced 25 years ago, butit was my first real exposure to the world of PLM and major companies from manyindustries were there. With the need to manage increasingly complex designs,along with the imperatives for energy-efficient, sustainable andenvironmentally responsible design, PLM is clearly a subject of great interestworldwide.

So how are Mechatronics and PLM related?Does PLM take over when the Mechatronics effort ends or are they becomingintegrated so that both are enhanced? a euro STo better understand
the world of PLM today and in the future, I spent considerable time with JohnBayless, the director of strategy and program management for Mercury Marine andthe practice director for Mercury Marine PLM Services, a product lifecyclemanagement consulting business within Mercury Marine. Bayless is an Annapolisgraduate who served as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot. He holds an MBA from theUniversity of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

In Bayless' view, the link between amechatronics approach and PLM is the need for collaboration during the productdevelopment process. A mechatronics approach calls for a cross-functional teamto come together in a way that encourages specialists to make mutual designadjustments such that the final design is optimized. Execution of amechatronics approach creates a need for PLM.

Part of the mechatronics need for PLM stems from the difficultyspecialists, often in disparate locations, have coming together with the latestdesign information early and often enough to collaborate. A PLM system makescollaboration easier by connecting engineers and cross-functional team members(such as manufacturing, procurement, marketing, etc.) almost in real time. Forexample, by creating one database which serves as the "single source of truth,"PLM reduces re-work caused by confusion over erstwhile data from multipledatabases. When used to the fullest, PLM saves time - time put to better usecreating innovations for new products.

From my discussion with Bayless, I learnedthe scope of PLM implementation varies by company. For example, some MercuryPLM Services clients are considering their first investment in PLM and arelooking for reliable information. Other clients use PLM only to store CAD databut are interested in deploying the tools in more value-added ways across theenterprise. Mercury PLM Services provides best practices which bring PLM benefitsto the full organization, not just one discipline, which makes it ideal formechatronics.

Communication, collaboration andintegration are the key attributes of the mechatronic design process that leadto innovation. PLM - managing all the information from the start of the designprocess to the eventual disassembling and recycling of the product - canfacilitate that process. But the mechatronic design process must first bedefined for the organization and widely embraced. Ownership of the process, notjust a consensus, by each individual is essential to reap the full benefits ofPLM.

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