Today's companies have made significant progress in reducing their product development cycles. But these advances have typically focused on the production engine within a business, rather than on the innovation engine.
Unfortunately, companies that do recognize the importance of the innovation engine are often unable to improve it because they are constrained by their existing product development processes. Having evolved over decades, these processes are still defined as if their supporting information were physical despite the fact that we have the capability to represent information in digital form today.
Innovation requires change. To facilitate innovation, companies must re-examine the way in which they store and share information, and the development processes that use this information.
Modern companies use computers to store all types of information about the products they build. Product Data Management (PDM) systems provide easy availability of this information, control its access, and manage changes to it. As humans, we have the unique ability to place the information that we obtain from PDM systems within a context that is meaningful to us.
|Various software tools contribute during different portions of the classic product development life cycle.|
|A knowledge-based environment in which multiple disciplines interact to define a product fosters innovation and compresses the development cycle.|
However, the fact that we are human may also result in different interpretations. Often, when stored data is incomplete, we "fill in the gaps." It means converting bits and bytes of information into product and process knowledge, stored as a network of contextual relationships. But what if we could ensure a single context? It would enrich the value of the information being managed, promote the sharing of that information, and facilitate the creation of downstream deliverables. In turn, it would have a significant impact on reducing the cost of defining those deliverables.
Recent software technologies such as CAD, PDM, and ERP have helped reduce development time by automating portions of the development process. But despite their benefits, they do not eliminate the interpretation required by various departments involved in a classical serial development process, nor do they encourage parallel development activities. To maximize compression of the product development life cycle, companies must not only represent product data in a digital format; they must also ensure that multiple departments can easily and unambiguously interpret the information and access that knowledge at any point in the process.
Today, we have the technology to accomplish these objectives. The tool for collecting, storing, organizing, managing, and making accessible product and process knowledge is called PDM II. It is a set of software tools designed to control and electronically simulate a product throughout its life cycle.
Paradigm shift. The core concept behind this new paradigm lies in focusing the product, resource, and process modeling environments in order to foster communication. At the same time, knowledge is defined intuitively and in a manner that naturally supports its direct exploitation and reusability. Rather than taking place in a series fashion, processes will work in parallel with multiple disciplines accessing and using information from this corporate knowledge base.
This knowledge base will contain an entire product definition, including the processes for building the product and plant designs for the factories where the product will be manufactured. Traditional handoffs of data will no longer be necessary, nor will the data conversion and re-interpretation that inevitably accompanies them.
PDM II also facilitates design iterations. Because downstream disciplines can define information before the designs are even complete, engineers can use this information to perform intelligent product simulations. They can understand performance, manufacturing process, and maintainability constraints all of which are relevant to the initial product design. Changes to the design that occur early in the conceptual design environment are orders of magnitude less expensive than those made after the product is released. Moreover, the design is able to reliably mature more quickly, compressing traditional product development processes.
Our PDM II product, ENOVIAVPM, achieves these objectives by delivering the following capabilities:
A data model uniquely tailored to properly model and represent a virtual product definition
Generic configuration management capability, which can co-configure a large cross-section of data, from specs to technological links, dependencies, and manufacturing and maintenance instructions
Action flow mechanism tailored to facilitate communication and control, especially during phases of the product development cycle when change frequently occurs
Maturity management capability, which is better suited to promote controlled data-sharing in a concurrent design and product development environment
Publish and subscribe capability, which enables individuals to pull information passively and subsequently automate responses accordingly
Technical publication applications, which allow granular change, maturity, versioning, configuration management, and generation capabilities to documents at the paragraph level
But as has been repeatedly demonstrated through partially successful PDM implementations, software alone is rarely sufficient to deliver substantial corporate-wide benefits, especially given the paradigm shift required to fully leverage the power of PDM II.
To prepare the organization for effective utilization of these tools, a company must first examine business objectives to ensure that multiple disciplines can interact to simultaneously define and simulate a product. Finally, the proper tool, such as ENOVIAVPM, must be implemented, along with other required complementary products, including network management, load balancing, and backup and archive. All of these tools must be carefully integrated with legacy applications in a manner that does not disrupt normal day-to-day operations.
Taken together, these steps will enable a company to realize the tremendous benefits that can be derived from improving its ability to innovate.