The growing ubiquity of product lifecycle management (PLM) applications in manufacturing signifies more than management reaching for incremental improvement. It reflects the emerging challenges of a developing business globalism defined by increasing complexity. PLM offers an enterprise solution to deal with growth and acquisitions and the accompanying increase in plant sites, products, processes and regulatory requirements. By facilitating a response to those challenges, PLM is more quickly satisfying customers.
"PLM is a powerful way to automate the decision-making process," says Ed VanNimwegen, director of product development at Lifetime Products, a recreational products maker in Clearfield, Utah. He describes Lifetime's PLM strategy as beginning in 1994 with a product development decision. He's referring to the company's switch to a 3-D solids modeling environment enabled by PTC's ProENGINEER product design software.
In addition to providing the basis for Lifetime's PLM evolution, the switch provided immediate benefits by eliminating wasted time and errors in mold making, he notes. "With a 3-D capability, for example, we no longer build wooden models from 2-D drawings and then create a digital file," VanNimwegen explains. "We saved enough money from our first mold to actually pay for our first seat of ProENGINEER. And we pared 12 weeks off the tooling cycle. Our only regret is not having started earlier."
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He says PLM's overall competitive advantage comes from accelerating the delivery of innovation and value to customers. "Fast, effective data sharing is how we win against foreign competitors." The sharing involves more than design data. VanNimwegen emphasizes that PLM enables the design function to easily access data from the manufacturing, quality and customer service functions.
VanNimwegen's advice to PLM beginners: "Bring it on board and exploit the software. Make that your motto."
At Sweden's Sandvik Mining and Construction, PLM software from UGS is being exploited to integrate the operations of the rapidly growing supplier of mining equipment. Involved with a rapid pace of acquisitions, Sandvik's globally dispersed facilities face the need for integration and internal collaboration, says Svante Larsson, PLM project leader. One goal is having the design departments of 13 sites appear and function as one integrated product development organization, adds Larsson.
By implementing UGS Teamcenter software, Sandvik Mining is working toward the following goals:
- Reuse existing designs
- Use a virtual team approach to unite designers among the global product development centers
- Implement one system -- one place to store all data with full versioning and traceability
- Maximize the amount of documentation that can be generated automatically.