Is your company pursuing PLM in order to reduce time-to-market or increase profitability? Does it look like PLM is going to be a long and expensive initiative? Or worse yet, are you seeing signs that it’s already doomed to fail?
Analysts are saying that companies that do not “implement PLM” within the next few years will fall behind the competition and eventually go out of business. With this kind of pressure, executives are not likely give up on PLM anytime soon. Does this mean that PLM is going to be a long, expensive and painful process? Not necessarily.
There are two schools of thought on implementing PLM. Either it’s done top-down and involves a lot of executives, vendors, new tools and sweeping process changes. Or it’s done bottom-up. Most of the success stories you hear about are from the first method. That makes sense—the results can be pretty dramatic. But so can the risk, investment and timeframe. For that reason, many companies will never get the opportunity to do it this way.
The other option for PLM is to approach it from the bottom up. The good news is that the results can be just as impressive. Another benefit to this approach the risk can be mitigated and the major part of the investment can be delayed until after the initial paybacks. How is this possible? Because most companies already own enough tools to create a solid foundation for their PLM environment - they just haven’t utilized them to their fullest potential. For example, studies have shown that the majority of companies use less than 50% of the functionality of their CAD tools. Some of this unused functionality can reduce the cycle time of various tasks by 75% or more.
So where do you start? We have found the biggest bang for the buck is in Engineering. The first thing you should look at is how well Engineering has developed and enforced optimized standards. This includes standard materials, standard hardware, common parts, a standard tools library, CAD file templates, and drawing templates (including intelligent notes and formats).
Most companies have already developed some of these standards, but rarely have they developed all of them. We also find they are often difficult to access and use, and rarely are they optimized for maximum cost and development time savings.
Let’s look at just the standard materials. An effective way to leverage them is to make the material selection for the CAD model easy, required and consistent. So with little effort, all models will contain the correct information across structural analysis, weight analysis, drawing development, BOM development, purchasing and other PLM activities. Material selection can be strategically based off a Material Database, then selected and applied to the CAD file through simple scripts and web-forms to make selections easy and consistent. The contents of the database can be controlled with input from Purchasing, Engineering, IT and others involved with minimizing material costs and maximizing development productivity.
The advantages of just this simple tool are many. First of all, it saves time. The engineer does not have to look up the details in the material reference book each time, nor type everything in manually. It will ensure the CAD file gets the information that it needs and is not left empty. Now that the material information is contained in the CAD file, it will not have to be entered manually anywhere else. The material call-outs on the drawing can all refer to this information and automatically populate. It can also be used to populate the BOM in your ERP/MRP system.
Besides saving time, it will also reduce ECO’s, scrap, downstream personnel time and product cost. How? There will be no spelling errors or varying abbreviations that make it look like new material to the ERP systems. The engineer will use a preferred standard material unless there has to be a variation—this will save time in ordering and inspecting. It also reduces material cost as it increases the purchase volume of standard material. And, because the material selection is controlled, there will be no errors in the detailed material specifications.
Payback from this simple foundational step is dramatic. In a recent case we documented an 89% reduction in drawing errors from a company that had calculated that 23% of their ECO’s were from typos and material callout errors. In this case we calculated annual savings of $234,000 in labor costs (design and ECO processing) and a projected savings of $16,900 in scrap. Those results are quite significant when you consider that they were from automating something very simple that had always been done manually. This does not take into account the faster time-to-market as a result of savings in development time. Also, remember that standard materials was just one of six types of standards that should be developed and enabled. Each of the others can have a similar impact as well. With automation and increased consistency, faster development time is a natural result.
So are these types of improvements readily available with PLM? Absolutely.
Developing and enabling standards is an important foundation for any PLM initiative. It is clearly an approach that leverages existing tools, can expand to meet future applications, and returns immediate and significant payback with very little investment or risk.
That is why we say it’s time to demand immediate results from your PLM initiatives!
David W. Paulson