Hard to ignore

Posted on 18 Apr 2008 by The Manufacturer

Product lifecycle management can make the difference between success and failure for new product development. Brian Davis discovers that it is just as valuable for the small company and you ignore it at your peril

Faced with ever faster time to market, demand for innovation and the threat of product recall if things go awry, optimising new product introduction is a priority. Bestof- class manufacturers see PLM as a key to success – bringing strategic people and supply chain partners into the picture from its original concept, through manufacture, to marketing and supply, understanding that this will deliver a competitive advantage. “
The goal is to remove the barriers between all disciplines that contribute to a new product release, from idea creation to market release and service,” maintains Stefan Sack, pre-sales director of Agile PLM, which now comes under the Oracle banner.
Definitions of PLM run all the way from designcentric 3D models which are shared throughout the enterprise, to seamless document and data management, knowledge sharing, and related safety and regulatory information access. The main players with a design and manufacture focus include Siemens PLM (which recently acquired UGS), Dassault Systèmes and Pro/ Engineer, and Oracle, which emphasises that nearly any kind of manufacturing business can benefit, from aerospace and automotive to food and pharmaceuticals.
The desire to optimise data sharing has never been greater. Consultant AMR reckons “85 per cent of new product introductions miss their target in terms of time to market or expected revenue or margin.” PLM aims to give industry a better shot at hitting the target.
Siemens has gone a step further by practising what it preaches, as well as acquiring UGS recently to create a powerful PLM portfolio. “PLM is one of three key process strands for all our operations,” says Craig Marshall, PLM director of engineering at Siemens Magnet Technology in Eynsham, Oxford. The 600-strong company designs and manufactures superconducting magnets for medical scanners, and has doubled production in the last three years.
“Our strapline is: improving today, designing tomorrow and developing the future,” says Marshall. This means running a resource planning process which balances development of today’s products with future demands in mind. The firm’s PLM infrastructure combines proprietary magnet design software, finite element and stress analysis, and SDRC I-DEAS. Designs are shared with the Siemens MR plant in Bavaria using a common library of 3D models.
Furthermore, a common system of documentation covers ‘requirement keys’. During the validation stage, a V model is used to set out system requirements for sub-assembly, components, test and validation, to ensure that each component is fit-for-purpose, and is the kernel of the quality management system.
Effective PLM requires seamless information sharing across local and global enterprises, using an electronic data management system which must be broadly accessible, with high visibility on a ‘need to know’ basis. At Siemens, requirement keys are constantly updated, and validation information is shared throughout the development cycle.
New product introduction is also central to development of tomorrow’s products. “Though there is less definition, our focus is to develop the base technologies which can be deployed in future development,” says Marshall. Here again, good data sharing is tied into Siemens AG corporate values, which call for being ‘responsible, excellent and innovative’. “All three values carry equal weight in terms of PLM and the new product lifecycle,” remarks Marshall.
Siemens has focused on PLM since the turn of the millennium. Many are just starting the journey. BAE Systems has a major PLM deployment underway, centred on Siemens PLM (ex-UG) Teamcenter 2007 and due to go live in July 2009. The PLM system will be the backbone of development of the Typhoon Eurofighter and Nimrod programmes.
“Teamcenter will be used to manage the product lifecycle from concept to disposal, as the engineering management backbone,” explains Graham Malley, PLM programme manager. “We’re bringing together all the engineering disciplines, procurement and manufacturing.” So data from the build programme at the Salmesbury and Wharton sites can also be used at the customer operating bases in Coningsby and later at Leuchars in Scotland.
Effective PLM should be able to handle ongoing service and maintenance requirements. Often, this is easier said than done, as few suppliers outside the aerospace and automotive sector have systems that easily integrate with PLM for full visibility and version control. Some simply don’t want to give customers that kind of access. But major players like Nissan insist that supply chain companies must offer full visibility online for data management, product and operational system quality.
PLM systems come in a variety of forms. Interestingly, the design data management backbone is not always the same as the CADCAM package used. For example, BAE Systems uses Teamcenter in conjunction with Catia for 3D geometry. “Traditionally, our systems were focused on nonrecurring design and development. Now we are looking for through life capability, including the manufacturing build; definition of how the product will be supported; service; and in service manufacture of the product in accordance with BAE system rules. PLM will help ensure that our design intentions are reflected in the build.”
Previously, BAE used manual-based system and manual reconciliation to confirm that the aircraft build was designed to meet design intent, requiring regular manual intervention as problems occurred. “Now our intention is to reconcile automatically using the PLM tool to keep all the data and version control in one place.”
Malley is also excited about the potential for improvement in the maintenance and service cycle using PLM. “We are looking to take on more in-life product support work.” PLM will also accelerate the design to production cycle, build better customer relationships, and improve response to threat requirements.
However, you don’t have to be a vast multinational to benefit from PLM. Window hardware manufacturer Securistyle introduced Catia V5 and Smarteam PLM from the Applied Group at the end of 2001, and has seen 40 per cent boost in design productivity. “Smarteam fosters better lifecycle documentation from design to quality, manufacturing and sales,” says senior project engineer Steve Hall.
Securistyle is a small firm with six design engineers, a customer service engineer and two production engineers. But the firm wanted more cohesion and better collaboration for improved new product development. Keeping costs down was a major factor.
“Implementing Smarteam can cost an arm and a leg if you’re not careful,” reflects Hall. “Consequently, we integrated it with our MFG Pro MRP system and subcontractors developed a front-end to pre-set data in a useable form, which can be accessed by all departments and key external users.”
Version control is now far better. Users simply enter a part code and can see the latest drawing and 3D model. “This guarantees everybody has access to the latest version, and eliminates a lot of the previous rework,” says Hall. PLM has also cut development costs by up to 60 per cent.
“PLM helps us meet customer requirements right first time,” says Hall. Furthermore, the firm has achieved 65 per cent time saving in design change management (27,000), and 80 per cent cost reduction at the manufacturing stage (115,000) by error elimination. The number of prototypes has also been cut dramatically, from three prototypes to one, with direct savings of€29,000 per year.
Undoubtedly, the most long and taxing product development regimes are found in the pharmaceutical sector. Investment in a new drug typically takes 10 to 15 years and costs around £400 million, while only a fraction of the compounds in preclinical testing actually make it to clinical trials and are approved for patient use.
PLM promises to accelerate new product development, introduction and commercialisation, while managing collaboration with external supply, service and regulator networks. Ultimately, PLM can provide a closed loop corrective and preventative action system for reducing direct material and operating costs, linking enterprise data records from concept, design and development, to launch, production, service and support, phase-out and disposal.
It’s an ambitious picture promising to link ERP with CRM, HCM and SCM. Frankly, nobody’s got it all in place yet. ERP vendor Oracle reckons it’s closer than most to filling in the jigsaw since acquiring Agile’s PLM solutions. Oracle’s Stack reckons: “PLM helps an organisation become more proactive, to take the right approach and remove design, manufacture or supply chain issues as soon as possible.” Design-centric PLM systems often have problems integrating with ERP at the top level, whereas Oracle comes at the problem from a different perspective.
The main value proposition for pharmaceuticals comes from reducing product development timescales in a highly regulated and highly capital intensive environment. “The last thing you want to do is miss the market because of packaging issues,” comments Oracle sales consultant Bertrand Godillot. “Eighty per cent of recalls in the pharmaceutical industry are due to packaging issues.”
PLM adoption is still niche in the pharmaceutical market. But the pharmaceutical industry is under pressure due to the introduction of generic products and increasing outsourcing. PLM is now gaining ground for information management in marketing, supply chain, regulatory affairs, manufacturing, production and the packaging supply chain.
Whatever the size of the business, PLM is likely to be impossible to ignore given demand for ever faster time to market, and increasing quality and regulatory requirements worldwide. Access to good up-to-date design, production and marketing data improves the chance of new launch success by an order of magnitude, particularly as more and more production is outsourced.