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What works (and what doesn’t) in the product development process

Arvin Industries (www.arvin.com) had a major corporate mission. It wanted to reposition itself as a supplier to OEMs of entire automobile systems, rather than of individual components. For example, it wanted to furnish whole exhaust systems, rather than just manifolds or mufflers or tailpipes or catalytic converters.

The company realized that to make that transition was no small matter.

“To do that, we needed to manage intellectual processes throughout the design and production process,” said John Grace, VP for Systems and Technology with Arvin. “That requires us to integrate design and engineering while meeting several business goals.”

Those business goals, according to Grace, included slashing product development cycle times by two-thirds; increasing product reliability; controlling warranty costs; driving costs down; improving cost management tracking in all phases of design, development and production; and making information accessible to everyone in the design-to-manufacturing process on a global enterprise basis.

“Creating complex systems requires us to consider more component interactions than are usually involved with components themselves,” Grace explained. “Also, emissions factors associated with the high temperature portion of exhaust systems cause the interactions to become more complex. We know that by paying close attention to warranty costs and product liability, we will be able to reposition our products from components to systems.”

The manufacturer also realized that improved cost management tracking would drive costs down, and that information had to become more accessible to everyone involved in the entire process.

To reach its lofty goals, Arvin turned to product data management technology. But the company was not be satisfied with a PDM implementation that merely automated a few repetitive engineering tasks.

“Instead it is to be the infrastructure of our entire product engineering chain,” said Grace.

With PDM software from Metaphase Technology (www.metaphasetech.com), the company manages the archives of engineering and manufacturing information pertaining to entire automotive exhaust systems, and is expanding that capability to Europe.

“Previously we managed data solely for individual parts and in a non-integrated way,” Grace said. “To remain in sync with our large OEM customers, we needed to shift our emphasis. In the future, we plan to use Metaphase to manage ride control systems as well.”

Said Alan Brittingham, VP for Advanced Engineering for Arvin Exhaust, “Design iterations can be devoted to improvements that raise the value of our products to customers, lower our costs and reduce our time to market. At a high level, PDM gives our engineers the tools to find out if a design change pushes costs up or down, and to what extent manufacturing is impacted so they can make better decisions.”

The product’s structured implementation process, Grace said, enables Arvin to remain focused on business and return-on-investment goals, and to make mid-course enhancements to PDM management.

“We’ve turned over a lot of rocks,” added Grace, “and have been able to take a good look at what works and what doesn’t in our product development process.”

Web-enabling the manufacturer

Prior to its implementation of product development management software, Kollsman (www.kollsman.com), a manufacturer of avionics and defense electronics instruments, had no practical system in place to control its Pro/Engineer 3-D hierarchical data. The data was controlled through a cumbersome system of read-only directories for each project.

“The Achilles heel to that,” said Gregg Wilder, manager of mechanical design at Kollsman, “was sharing similar models/drawings across multiple projects. Numerous copies of the same model file was the result; revisions would inevitably get lost. We envisioned an online file system of a central vault, with a gatekeeper appointed to oversee newly created files and review any changes.”

Kollsman chose Workgroup CMS from Workgroup Technology Corporation (WTC, www.workgroup.com) because it needed a PDM system built for an engineering development environment. Also, its medical division, KMC, had already purchased the system, and had spare licenses and knowledge to share.

Before Kollsman implemented the solution, it could not search drawings by description or title. That new capability has improved Kollsman’s design standardization.

“The ability to search/view/print drawings of the latest revision from a desktop has dramatically increased productivity within our engineering department,” Wilder added.

Kollsman recently expanded its PDM use with WTC’s Web-enabled product, WebLink. That expansion allows multiple, geographically dispersed departments within Kollsman to leverage the Web to increase efficiency, design confidence and access to critical information.

The company plans to use WebLink for both customer and internal workflow tasks (engineering changes, etc.).

“I would say at this point we are satisfied with the system,” Wilder said. “A few more bugs are currently being worked on, which will bring total satisfaction. We have launched WebLink, which has simplified client interface to CMS.

“The system has certainly secured the integrity of our Pro/Engineer data and has helped to solidify us as a state-of-the-art mechanical design house.”

Other manufacturing applications

Prior to implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Owens Corning (www.owenscorning.com) had multiple supplier relationships and used more than 200 fragmented systems around the world to support its many customer documents and business processes. That resulted in little or no administrative and maintenance control over documents and information. For example, statements and bills looked different from division to division, country to country and region to region.

Owens Corning examined the way it conducted business, especially with its global customers, and discovered that it needed to better integrate global business processes. After deciding to migrate from legacy, standalone systems, Owens Corning turned to Xerox (www.xerox.com) for help with a new ERP system.

The implementation, based on SAP (www.sap.com), has streamlined the way the company conducts business globally. It provides the ability to search and retrieve customer and financial transaction documents via the Web, to manage business transaction outputs and to create digital archives and repositories for business documents.

Now, if a customer calls a customer support rep (CSR) in Brussels with an inquiry on his or her account, the CSR can pull up related documents by accessing a digital repository located in Toledo, OH. The CSR receives the information within two to four seconds and be able to resolve any issue immediate--a process that used to take three or four days.

Manufacturing company Schneider Automation has developed competitive advantage through a multilingual extranet based on Lotus’ (www.lotus.com) Domino Global WorkBench technology. A maker of programmable industrial electronic controls, Schneider markets its logic controllers in 130 countries. With the Lotus product, the manufacturer now offers its trading partners an extranet site that can alternate languages at the click of a button. Native language translation and support makes it possible for Schneider to collaborate globally with efficiency and ease.

Quaker State’s Lubricants Division recently integrated its SAP R/3 system with a FileNet (www.filenet.com) document repository to improve its cash flow operations. The use of paper documents, canceled checks and odd-sized paper invoices was causing the division to be two to three weeks behind. A study indicated that if manual processes continued to be used, the 10-member receivables staff would need an additional 44 full-time employees to stay current.

Affiliated Computer Services (www.acs-inc.com), a FileNet ValueNet partner, worked with Quaker State to streamline its business processes by combining the accounts receivable, credit and customer service functions into one customer account management unit, eliminating overlapping processes.

"The result is that Quaker State has been able to remain current on cash application, with no additions to the existing staff," said Suresh Mathews, Quaker State senior VP and chief information officer. "By having our credit files digitized and available from a common repository, our staff can more quickly reference relevant credit information and improve the quality and speed of service to our customers."

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