Factories Of The Future -- Integrated Product Development

Dec. 21, 2004
Leading-edge manufacturers such as DaimlerChrysler, Johnson Controls and General Motors have united the islands of product development and production through carefully crafted systems that connect core functions with one another and with the supply chain.
Editor's Note: Collaboration and integration are best practices that unite IndustryWeek's three-part series on Factories of the Future. In IW's preceding edition, the first part of the series revealed how manufacturers gain substantial paybacks by closely integrating the manufacturing facility with both the process and the environment. This article, which is part two, highlights the strategic benefits collaboration tools provide by integrating product development with the supply chain. In IW's July issue, the third and final part of the series focuses on the manufacturing process itself. Although future focused, all three parts of the series present best practices that are obtainable today. But be warned: Creativity, flexibility and dynamic planning are the critical elements of any successful execution. FastCar Speeds Design Decisions Often, the distance between a new or improved design and a new or improved product is as long and circuitous as a Sunday drive on a country road. But at DaimlerChrysler Corp., the process is becoming more like a ride on a bullet train. FastCar, a new initiative at the automaker, is an information infrastructure that slices across and connects legacy and Web systems in all functions that touch product creation. This includes linking CAD geometry, simulation and analysis, and production with business systems including finance, procurement, supplier systems and sales and marketing. Integration is provided by IBM Corp., workflow support by i2Technologies Inc. and product-data management from Dassault Systemes SA. FastCar allows all stakeholders to capture, understand and track how changes in design ripple through the product-development process to business, production and all connected functions. For instance, anyone involved in development from engineers to upper management can log in and understand up-to-the-minute cost status, functional status, weight, manufacturability, or quality status as a product moves through design iterations. "It's like keeping track of your stock portfolio in real time based on millions of transactions going on all over the world," says Roger Lundberg, director, development system and vehicle engineering operations, DaimlerChrysler, Auburn Hills, Mich. In a successful pilot last year, collaboration via the FastCar network reduced the time to roll design changes through the product-creation team by 70%. FastCar will now be implemented in each future new-product program. For model year 2004, collaboration with suppliers during new-product development will be supported by another new tool in the FastCar arsenal. Already implemented in about 80% of the Chrysler Tier One supply base, Powerway.com advanced quality planning software from Powerway Inc., Indianapolis, manages all the communications, and engineering and production process-related specifications flowing in the supplier-readiness phase of new-product development. The objective is to guarantee receipt of quality parts from a particular supplier for a new component for the entire lifetime of the program. "This requires a supplier to translate engineering specifications into manufacturing processes that can be kept under control," says Linda Petro, director, supplier quality, procurement and supply. "Powerway helps us organize and simplify execution of that task, while providing us a deeper look into supplier processes." In the future Chrysler plans to deploy deeper into the supply base with its supplier quality tool to better understand the root cause of supply glitches. "We want to know where the risk for readiness to supply a new part really resides," says Petro. "We don't know that very well today. We might see risk at Tier One, but perhaps it's originating in Tier Five." Less Assembly, More Collaboration Automotive-interior supplier Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI), Plymouth, Mich., wants to provide more total systems to customers, with its suppliers offering more turnkey solutions and modular components. Partitioning its products into more clear subsystems and transferring more development responsibility to suppliers offers the opportunity to stay at the leading edge of technology, retain the most flexibility as technology changes, and eliminate duplicate work. "Our product development strategy is to build from the best capabilities and technologies in the world, but that doesn't mean they have to be owned and operated by us," says Jeff Edwards, group vice president, product and business development. "What we want is the know-how to be the best integrator of automotive interiors." Already, JCI is supplying the entire cockpit for the 2002 Jeep Liberty, integrating 11 major components from 35 suppliers. To further enhance collaboration at the product-development stage of future programs, JCI will manage design sessions within the company and with supply-chain members via a Web-based design collaboration system from its product-data management (PDM) supplier, MatrixOne Inc., Westford, Mass. With this tool, 3-D solid models of parts and components from different suppliers are imported into the same online, virtual design space to see if they fit and function together. Components may be spun around, sectioned, assembled and disassembled. Participating online team members can make notations on the models, which everyone can see simultaneously. Design-session comments are captured in a knowledge base to track the basis for design changes. Connecting With Modeling, Simulation How best to squeeze out "lemons"? Virtual prototyping and simulation of component and process behavior will further enhance product-development collaboration with suppliers and producers. That should mean fewer disconnects between design and reality. Already General Motors Corp. (GM), Warren, Mich., is crash-testing vehicles in a computer, simulating vehicle system performance, and doing factory layout in a virtual environment. The future of system simulation lies in multivariable optimization of vehicle attributes according to GM's Steven Rhode, technical director, vehicle systems analysis and simulation. Design conflicts can arise in optimizing handling and suspension, or aerodynamics and crash worthiness, yet the challenge is to have all performance criteria operating at high levels in the same automobile system at the same. "This requires integration of systems-tools that talk to each other," says Rhode. A design-optimization approach GM uses today links simulation and analysis tools via a third software tool, iSight design integration/automation software, Engineous Inc., Morrisville, N.C. For instance, one tool models the forces generated when a vehicle hits a bump. Those forces then drive a structural analysis to determine the impact of those forces on the vehicles suspension. The iSight software manages collaboration between the two simulations, setting up and running literally thousands of if/then variations of forces and reaction, and arrives at a design automatically optimized to meet specific engineering criteria. Today, simulation of a total vehicle is done via models that represent different aspects of vehicle performance such as safety, noise and vibration, or structural characteristics. Ultimately Rhode foresees a complete computer representation of a vehicle, something he calls a truth model. "You could even look at atomic structure and interactions that take place at that level," says Rhode. "That may sound preposterous, but I don't think it's that far off." Simulation and math modeling will continue to evolve in the collaboration between product development and production. Having a common set of geometry data for developing designs and supplier components goes a long way in allowing production to be working on tooling and simulating assembly processes concurrently with product development. "Typically you think of physical prototyping at the plant level, but not virtual prototyping," says Kirk Gutman, global product development information officer for GM. "But we will be focusing much more on that in the future as well as the application of other math-based processes." High on the list of opportunities for simulation in the future is variation-management collaboration between production and product development. The idea is to simulate in math the combinations of assemblies that can occur within the range of tolerances of a host of parts to determine if there are situations where combinations of parts, while in tolerance, do not function properly together. Some consider this a prime cause of "lemons" in the automotive industry: everything in spec, nothing works together. "The idea is to desensitize the design while identifying the key tolerances to hold of the many parts joined, marrying design requirements with process capabilities," says GM's Rhode. In the past this has been done statistically, but simulation will allow introduction of variation possibilities, such as the flexibility of body parts during assembly. Optimization of weld position and sequence is yet another opportunity of the combination of math and simulation application in the collaboration between production and product design. "We will be doing more and more of this minimizing variation around a target so that ultimately we will be able to predict not just what one vehicle will do, but what a whole fleet of vehicles will do in the field," says Rhode. Associating design changes with factory-floor equipment changes is another feature set evolving in the area of factory-simulation tools, according to Peter Schmitt, vice president of marketing and business development, Delmia Corp., Troy, Mich., vendors of simulation software. A drilled hole in a design, for instance, is a feature that can be associated with a particular drill bit and machining system. With associative capability, if changes are made to this feature in product development, software will automatically pick new drills and tooling for manufacturing engineering. The result of increased associatively will be a much deeper ripple of design change through manufacturing engineering and vice versa.
Integrated Product Development Tools Following is a partial list of vendors that provide product-development and collaboration tools: Integrated, multi-functional offerings Dassault Systemes SA www.dsweb.com Electronic Data Systems Corp. www.eds.com Parametric Technologies Corp. www.ptc.com SAP AG www.sap.comProduct-data management (PDM) Agile Software Corp. www.agilesoft.com MatrixOne Inc. www.matrixone.comVisualization/collaborative design Alibre Inc. www.alibre.com Alventive Inc. www.alventive.com Centric Software Inc. www.centricsoftware.com CoCreate Software Inc. www.cocreate.com ImpactXoft Corp. www.impactxoft.comSimulation/process modeling/virtual prototyping Ansys Inc. www.ansys.com Delmia Corp. www.delmia.com Hibbit, Karlsson & Sorensen Inc. www.hks.com Mechanical Dynamics Inc. www.adams.com MSC Software Corp. www.mscsoftware.com Tecnomatix Technologies Ltd. www.tecnomatix.comOther Engineous Software Inc. www.engineous.com Framework Technologies Inc. www.frameworktechnologies.com i2Technologies Inc. www.i2.com Mechdyne Corp. www.mechdyne.com Panoram Technologies Inc. www.panoramtech.com Powerway Inc. www.powerway.com Proficiency Inc. www.proficiency.com

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!