Suretank supports new processes and products with PLM

Posted on 1 Jun 2016 by Tim Brown

Regardless of whether your business operates in a complex market with high margins or instead deals in large batches with low margins, ensuring your processes deliver on customer expectations is critical to business success.

Customer satisfaction was always an important mantra for Suretank, an Irish-headquartered manufacturer of tanks and cargo-carrying-units for the oil and gas industry.

However, when the company expanded from a single site start-up in 1995, to a multinational with £100m turnover in under two decades, it had to ensure its processes evolved sufficiently to match the rate of business growth.

“As we were growing, we were finding that our everyday problems were starting to impact on the company,” explains Barry Woods, systems project manager at Suretank.

Want to hear more directly from Barry Woods on Suretank’s PLM journey? Click here to watch a recent webinar recording featuring Barry Woods.

“These problems included having critical information scattered across numerous network drives. Plus, personnel at other sites couldn’t get access to the latest documents and we were manually sharing documents with them, which created issues of revision control.”

With the growth of the company also came an increase in product variation and complexity. This meant that the frequency of document updates increased. With multiple document versions across multiple sites around the world, the result was that updates to one version would not necessarily be applied to another. Eventually this began to impact on manufacturing and customer service.

PLM to the rescue

The management at Suretank quickly recognised the need for a technology solution to help facilitate an improvement in processes.

After an exhaustive search, the company decided to implement the product lifecycle management (PLM) platform, Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle.

“We wanted a global solution that could support remote users for all our sites around the world so that everyone would be looking at the one set of information,” says Woods.

“We also needed our documents to be integrated so that if you updated one document it would automatically update another one.”

On top of the basic requirement for version and revision control, Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle allowed Suretank to deposit intelligence into its documents and create work flows in the system. This facilitated very positive process improvements that ensured that people were adding the correct information at the right time and were alerted when further action, such as approvals, were needed.


Growth and new product lines

Woods says that through its use Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle, the company has definitely been able to hit the objectives it set out to meet. Specifically, when the company chose the PLM solution, it wanted to make sure it was easily configurable so as to support business development.

“Manufacturing is always changing and our processes are always changing and improving,” he notes. “So we wanted a PLM solution that would help us be flexible in all our processes and it wouldn’t be too expensive to configure the system to suit us. So instead of the system telling us what to do, we wanted to be able to tell the system what to do.”

This flexibility has already proven its worth with Suretank recently diversifying its products to include a new offering: modular data centres.

In line with its continued desire for growth, set against the recent turbulence experienced by the oil and gas market, the company has already started shipping the modular data centres, has six currently under construction, and has more orders in the pipeline.

Woods says that the flexibility of the PLM system has allowed them to change workflows and add the new modular data centre products with ease.

This article has detailed only a small number of the improvements that Suretank has been able to make with the assistance its Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle PLM system.

Suretank PLM implementation – Headline Figures

47 workspaces in total

Live since December 2013

  • 31 hours saving ( almost 40% ) from our Technical Specification creation process due to automatically pulling in customer and country preferences,  defining the workflow so the correct people are notified when they have an action to perform, utilising pick lists and using validation scripts to ensure the correct information is added at the correct time.
  • An average of 38.5 hrs saving in resolving customer complaints while also using PLM reporting functionality to identify flaws in our processes that are causing customer complaints. Numerous process improvements have been identified and implemented as a direct result of these reports.
  • Over 1 hour saving per tank when creating leak and hydro tests by automatically pulling information from the technical specification so information doesn’t have to be retyped and by using advance print views to automatically create the reports that previously had to be manually created each time.