Product Development Process and the Importance of PLM Systems

By Emre Durusut, Market Development Specialist, Informatik A.S. Manufacturers are constantly pressured to design new products faster

Issue 10

Optimizing Product Development Process is Crucial

Everyday, the design engineers waste most of their valuable time trying to communicate with other engineers, their supervisors, other departments in the company, vendors and sometimes customers instead of actually “designing”. They also have difficulty searching for the latest version of their data, and making sure that manufacturing department uses the up-to-date versions of the designed product. On the other hand, manufacturing engineers are faced with the challenge of ensuring that their process plans, manufacturing bill of materials (mBOMs) & work instructions accurately reflect the current engineering design. Typically, this has not been easy because the various processes, systems and databases used by engineering and manufacturing are dissimilar, disconnected or even non-existent.
There are some very important areas where organizations can typically improve their Product Development Process.

- Define the manufacturing processes during the product design phase. Typically, engineering “just finishes the design and throws it” to manufacturing. However, if manufacturing had access to the models and changes coming from engineering earlier, they could define manufacturing processes according to the product design. Moreover, manufacturing engineers also need to be able to directly reuse engineering data, including parts, classification, 3D mockups, and manufacturing requirements.

- Eliminate manual or inefficient processes. Today, most process plans are defined using paper or an office program, and work instructions are created using a word processor. Use of manual and office software tools leads to inefficiencies, data duplication and inaccuracy, and chaos whenever a design change occurs.

- Improve enterprise collaboration. A product development process usually involves not only design and manufacturing departments, but also procurement, sales, marketing and other departments. These departments require some product data and need to be in touch with engineering frequently. Better knowledge management would enable enterprise-wide process consistency.

The Solution – Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

To truly enable manufacturing and design engineers to work concurrently with each other and the rest of the organization, a PLM system is required. This involves:

a) Integral product, process, and resource data management. The product data, process data and the documents associated with the process must be managed together in a single system with a single database, eliminating data duplication. A centralized vault of data provides easy access and search of the related data and documents, requirements, CAD models, marketing plans, process plans, PDFs; and also provides easy revision/version controls. The same system should also be used to manage manufacturing resources. Once the data is accurately created, the solution must be able to fully manage these manufacturing configurations with revision control, lifecycle management, effectivity, and access control.

b) Integral change and configuration management processes. True concurrent engineering is impossible without a singular change and configuration management processes utilized by both design engineering and manufacturing engineering.

c) Easy yet secure. A PLM system must be easy-to-use, web based and designed for employees involved in the Product Development Process, not highly skilled specialists. Using a 3D environment makes it easy for engineers to completely define operations with parts, resources, standard procedures, documents, and time breakdowns. It must also be easy to manage resources in libraries and to reuse existing product data. Also, the system should have a robust structure, should handle the data in a way that eliminates risk of compromise and should allow the management of access rights.

d) Global access. For the PLM solution to have a pure Internet architecture for both internal and external users helps easy participation in key processes using a single source of information. Such a system allows the companies to have a “Design anywhere, build anywhere” approach while cutting travel costs and fastening the process.

e) Low total cost of ownership. Most available PLM solutions are expensive and the implementation process is very complex. Yet what is needed is a solution affordable enough to put in the hands of every engineer and person involved in the process while being quickly deployable.

f) ERP/MRP Integration. It must be possible to dynamically generate work instructions for a specific configuration of a process plan. Routings and mBOMs should be electronically delivered to ERP when process plans are approved.
Today, it is possible to get ahead of the competition and create a working environment where concurrent work is mostly eliminated and a truly efficient Product Development System is realized. This can only be fully realized by a PLM system that is flexible and can be shaped to fit the organization’s needs. A PLM system reduces product cost and shrinks time-to-market by enabling organization-wide share of knowledge.