Product Spotlight: Arena PLM Suite - A Bridge Between Technical and Business Software
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Product Spotlight: Arena PLM Suite - A Bridge Between Technical and Business Software

Product Spotlight

Arena PLM Suite - A Bridge Between Technical and Business Software

Arena PLM , developed by Arena Solutions, is a comprehensive Web-based suite that has a lot of out-of-the-box capabilities and acts as a bridge between technical software packages such as CAD and EDA, and business software packages such as ERP. Because Arena PLM is Web-based, there is no hardware or software to install; you just need an Internet connection and browser to access and use it.

Arena Solutions has divided its functionality into a suite of three groups of modules that provide a comprehensive set of products and services for working with the diverse types of people, processes, and software applications that are employed at various stages of a product's life.

The three groups of modules (called "Arenas") include:
  • Product Arena - Contains modules for managing product definition and change management, including workflow for engineering change requests and engineering change orders.
  • Sourcing and Costing Arena - Contains a vendor management module with support for direct and indirect sourcing relationships, product costing rollup, and quote and purchase order management.
  • Integration Arena - Contains modules for integrating and exchanging product data with business (ERP) and technical (MCAD, EDA) software applications.
Arena PLM also employs a concept called Worlds that are general types of objects used to organize product information, such as Items (parts, processes, and documents) found in a bill of material (BOM), Change Requests, Suppliers and Supplier Items, and Files.

For this brief review, I'll concentrate on aspects of Arena PLM's Product Definition, Manufacturer Management, and Vendor Management modules.

Setting up an account by logging into the Arena PLM Web site is the first step in using the application. Once you're logged in, the Arena PLM Dashboard is displayed that contains everything you're likely to need to begin working with the application, including an Inbox, and supplier and product viewing information. This is the master control panel for Arena PLM. The user interface is easy to navigate and contains everything you're likely to need for given tasks, with little guesswork as to where you are and where you need to go next. In the beginning, though, don't be overwhelmed by all the information that is displayed. Take the time to really see what's there and you'll soon make sense of it. Since the application is Web-based there are very few menus per se; most commands and other functions are performed by clicking on buttons and hyperlinks.

Any organization that implements Arena PLM will have product information that it will want to import into the system. When importing data you have to be mindful to prepare the data for import (a comma-separated value (.csv) must be the data source) and resolve data errors that might occur during the import process.

Once the product data is imported, all items that now reside in the active workspace are displayed, and the application automatically switches to the Items view. In the Items view you can search for specific parts and assemblies using different criteria and you can look at detailed information about any listed part or assembly. All in all, a relatively easy procedure with a very useful result. For complex datasets, Arena Solutions offers custom imports and professional services.

With Arena PLM, you can add new items to a workspace or create a product structure by grouping items into a BOM hierarchy. But the most useful aspect of the application is in creating relationships between data, such as managing various part numbers, manufacturers, vendors, costs, and files of any kind that might be associated with an item or change order.

As a test, I created a sample machine part by generating a part number and name. I then associated a Word document and CAD drawing with the part. Next, I added a couple of suppliers to the part, entered their costs and lead times, and began to see how informative it was to have all interrelated product data in one place.

Once all of your product data is centralized in Arena PLM, you can analyze it to optimize business processes. For example, you can collect vendors' prototype and production costs. You can roll-up these cost across a multilevel BOM and instantly see what the product will cost at any time in its development. You can also print and share costing and other reports.

Arena PLM is a big step in the right direction because it has many critical PLM capabilities out-of-the-box and can be upgraded with additional modules as needs arise, yet it is easy to learn, easy to use, and can be accessed from virtually anywhere.

I've only scratched the surface on all the things you can accomplish using Arena PLM. With all the functionality that this application has to offer, it is surprisingly intuitive and forgiving - it is difficult to make a mistake in it. Arena PLM is a well thought out and well implemented technology. It will benefit not only those within the walls of an organization or telecommuters outside the walls, but also those who are on the road visiting clients, customers, or suppliers at their places of business.

Price: Since there are many different options available, contact Arena Solutions for pricing.

Contact: Arena Solutions, 650.937.1438,

Stratasys Receives Impressive Orders For New Dimension SST 3D Printer

Stratasys Inc. has received orders from resellers for 100 of its recently launched Dimension SST 3D printers two weeks after availability was announced. The company began accepting orders for Dimension SST from its approximately 145 reseller locations on Feb. 10, 2004. The 100 orders, which have been sold to resellers under extended payment terms at Stratasys' standard reseller discount rate, will be used for demonstration purposes. Stratasys plans to ship these units over the next 90 days.

"We believe this significant number of orders in less than two weeks illustrates the strong interest in this innovative new product," said Scott Crump, chairman and chief executive officer of Stratasys. "Over the past two years, we've sold roughly 95 demo machines to resellers that have generated more than 1,000 orders. We hope to continue this successful strategy with Dimension SST."

The Dimension SST includes all the functionality of Dimension, Stratasys' legacy 3D printer, and also incorporates an automated soluble support removal system, which gives users greater convenience in the design process by reducing engineering time and enabling the development of prototypes with more complex design geometries. The Dimension SST's list price is $34,900.

Granted, these 100 machines were purchased by resellers, but the number is still significant to have impressed that many resellers in today's rapid prototyping business environment. The first Stratasys Dimension machine that was introduced a few years ago really made some noise in the sluggish RP machine arena on three fundamental notes - price (les than $30,000), the durability of the materials it could process, and the quality of the end product produced (little or no hand finishing required). It looks like this positive perception and trend continues with the Dimension SST 3D printers, especially if resellers are ponying up cash for the new machine.

Accelerating Loss of Manufacturing Jobs More Serious Than Originally Believed

The Keystone Group, a collaboration of southern and central California economic development executives, has issued the findings of its in-depth study of the accelerating disappearance of manufacturing jobs in California. The research centered on the years between 1990 and 2003. This study provides the basis upon which state leaders and legislators can begin to formulate an effective economic development strategy for manufacturing.

The findings reveal that California is losing considerable manufacturing capacity as companies close their doors or move out of the state to what they see as "more friendly" locations. This is not surprising to industry observers who have been trying for several years to draw attention to the "bleeding of California's manufacturing base."

In fact, says Larry Kosmont, President and CEO of Kosmont Companies, one of the research groups that participated in the Keystone study, "What overwhelms us is the factual and empirical definition of the problem. The effect of the bleeding is far worse than anyone thought and it is most assuredly time to see a doctor." The research study was staffed and directed by Kosmont Partners, one of the Kosmont group of economic and real estate consulting companies, in conjunction with the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College.

"We can now for the first time verify with precise data what previously was anecdotal and uncoordinated evidence," said Mr. Kosmont. "We felt that the California manufacturing sector is in serious trouble. We can now allocate precise figures to conditions that many of us have been aware of but until now have been unable to quantify."

In an extensive catalog of California's problems, Keystone highlighted the following:
  • Over 261,000 manufacturing jobs and $98 billion in gross sales of California-manufactured products disappeared in the three-year period between 1999 and 2002.
  • The loss in manufacturing jobs is particularly damaging because manufacturing jobs pay exceptionally well -- almost 50 percent more than the average of all California jobs.
  • For decades, manufacturing jobs in California have been the prized "one way ticket" to the middle class for those on lower rungs of the job ladder (in particular, the Latino worker).
  • Manufacturing jobs have a pronounced "multiplier effect" -- they create jobs in other sectors of the economy, at a rate at least twice that of the trickle down from the retail industry.
  • California legislation in recent years has had a noticeable anti- manufacturing bias.
  • State and local land use policies make the development of manufacturing facilities difficult.
Mr. Kosmont said, "As a result of all these factors, doing business in California is more difficult and more expensive than in neighboring states. California is drifting down the path of becoming a region of smaller storefront companies. Many of the large or mature companies are taking all or a portion of their operation out of town."

The disturbing new data highlight the financial importance of manufacturing to the State, and the very significant contribution manufacturing wages make to total worker's income. "We are losing high-pay manufacturing jobs and replacing them with lower paying or minimum wage jobs," said Kosmont. "Look at what we know today as a result of this survey that we really did not know yesterday:"
  1. During the 13-year period (1990 to 2003), California lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs. Between 1998 and 2003, a five-year period, 288,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared, and during a 3.5-year period between 1999-2002 261,000 jobs were lost. It is this accelerating rate of job loss that arouses special concern.
  2. While there were slightly more manufacturers starting up than closing down, the net overall job losses were substantial. During the study period (1999-2002) at least 30,300 California manufacturers went out of business or left the State and 38,900 started up or in-migrated. However, the approximately 750,000 jobs that were lost were replaced by only 489,000 jobs from start-ups, for a net loss of 261,000 jobs. Gross sales during this period from failed businesses would have been about $284 billion. Unfortunately, sales from start-ups were only about $186 billion -- for a $98 billion loss in activity.
  3. There was an insignificant difference in the number of manufacturing businesses that left compared with those that entered the State (during 1999- 2003). However, California lost substantially more jobs from out-migration than it gained from in-migration (8,126 more jobs left than came in). In- migrant companies generated $3.5 billion in sales versus $12 billion lost because of out-migration. During the same period 363 manufacturers left the state and 261 in-migrated from other states.
  4. Almost no industry sector is going untouched -- job losses are spread over a broad variety of sectors. Industry sectors with high job losses include:
    • Defense and Space - 104,000
    • Computers - 96,000
    • Electronics - 59,000
    • Communications - 54,000
    • Food Processing - 38,000
    • Wood Processing - 31,000
    • Aircraft - 24,000
  5. Average compensation for manufacturing jobs in California is $57,000 per year, which is over 50% higher than the median state income (as of 2000).
  6. Of the 363 firms that left California, 60% were mature businesses with five or more years in operation and 51 firms had over 21 years in the state.
"It's like watching our economy's foundation crumble, quietly yet broadly. In a sense, we appear to be replacing more with less," continued Kosmont.

"The data clearly indicate that California is taking a substantial economic hit as a result of the loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs," said Dr. Steven Frates, Rose Institute Senior Fellow. "It is also significant that California is losing manufacturing jobs to other states. California policymakers would be well advised to pay careful attention to the negative consequences of this trend."

This is just another in a string of studies like this that have been undertaken in various states and regions around the country in the past few years. These studies, however, only seem to report on the obvious problem, and little if any ideas for beginning to solve this massive problem of evaporating jobs that adversely affect manufacturing and related design and engineering. It's an extremely complex problem that involves many groups of people in different capacities on many levels - business, technical, legislative, education, labor, the list goes on and on. With this nationwide downward trend that continues in manufacturing, I'm afraid things will get worse before they get better, but I feel they WILL get better as we retool (again, on many different levels) to better compete in a global economy.

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor and publisher of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact or 408.850.9230.

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