Effective product design - ERP Tools

Product Lifecycle Management(PLM)

The PLM process is really the process of learning from prior projects and designs. PLM provides the resources to explore design alternatives and define innovative options for release in the next product. PLM manages the linkages from the early design phase to the final release plan including required tool paths. This integrated process allows the development of the manufacturing information currently with the product design before final design release. This is very different from the iterative steps of drawing release followed by a series of manufacturing engineering changes in traditional product design. The early availability of product and process knowledge offers the option to further optimize the design or push the design to market to capture critical market share. The design engineer can see how the product will be built and can quickly determine the tools that may be affected if a design change is made. Figure shows the traditional relationship between the freedom to act compared to the knowledge of the design vs.the integrated relationship that can exist under a PLM process.

Freedom to act vs. knowledge.

Freedom to act vs. knowledge.

The typical relationship is shown with the dashed line and the dotted line. The dotted Erp tools,techniques,and applications for integrating the supply chain 174 line falls quickly representing a rapid loss of freedom to act. Unfortunately the knowledge about the product does not rise at the same rate as shown by the dashed line. The high freedom to act is very short lived and drops quickly as the product design solidifies early in the overall product development cycle. A significant number of cost decisions and product decisions are committed early in the design project. Although the product will not be available for quite some time,there is little freedom to change the product or the timing of the introduction to the market.

As knowledge is introduced into the design process through the use of PLM, the freedom to act stays very high as shown as the dark solid line with the dark arrows almost all the way to the design freeze. At the same time, product knowledge increases at an increasing rate. The dark line with the gray arrows notes this in Figure Throughout the entire design phase both the freedom to act and the product knowledge are very high.

This combination is because PLM provides visibility of the design in context. The information is presented to different functional areas in the way or context that makes most sense to them. This could be the electrical systems for the electrical engineers or just the structural layout for the structural engineers. No longer do these engineers need to work from a two-dimensional drawing and translate to their view of the system. The PLM technology allows the engineer to take a virtual tour of the product. The engineer can look at one part of the overall product and determine if there is any interference. This virtual tour can also include dynamically calculating stresses or pressures at points that are identified during the tour. This ability to create a three-dimensional product in virtual reality eliminates the need for engineering changes and passes off the best design to the PDM system. The PDM system then manages the preparation of the manufacturing BOM from the engineering BOM.

By using PLM, the conscious decision can be made to release the product to market to gain market share or continue to optimize the product in the design phase to reduce product costs. The overall design lead-time is dramatically reduced in addition to the total product cost. As a result, the number of designs that can be economically developed and evaluated increases. Figure shows how many more product options can be developed concurrently against the project and business requirements. This process allows many decisions to stay fluid until the very last moment when the best options can be locked into the design and taken into production. The benefit of this approach is that many options can be considered until the last moment when the very best configuration is determined that meets the needs of the market. The marginal cost to consider additional designs and products is significantly reduced so many more options can be economically considered.

This fills the design funnel with additional concepts that would not be possible using traditional methods. Consideration of multiple product options early in the cycle can prevent costly engineering changes after product introduction.

PLM design funnel.

PLM design funnel

The enterprise implication of this structured approach to design and development allows the extended enterprise to work together in a more seamless way. Concurrent engineering is the process by which different functional areas can work together to design and develop a product that meets the needs of the customer. PLM is the technology that provides the information support that facilitates that process.

Concurrent Engineering

The various stakeholders impacted by the different phases of the design process. A close relationship exists in this model between marketing, design,production, service, sales, and suppliers. These different functional areas interact concurrently in a series of tasks that must be accomplished to complete the product design. This concurrent engineering process is also known as participative design and engineering. The intent of this process is to enhance the design with inputs from all key stakeholders. These stakeholders can be from different links in the supply chain. For some manufacturing companies a key competitive advantage is leveraging the design capability of the supply base. By incorporating the designs that can be more easily manufactured by the supply base, the overall cost of the finished product can be reduced. Decisions made by one functional area directly impact the consequences felt in a different area. As designs are completed increasingly at a variety of sites and companies,this information must be integrated to develop a virtual prototype to validate the final design. The PDM and PLM technology tools.

Various stakeholders impacted by the design process.

Various stakeholders impacted by the design process.

Significant aid in this communications process. A physical prototype may only be required in the final stages of the design process or may not be needed at all based on the quality of design process and the confidence in this process. Unlike all previous airplanes, the Boeing Airplane Company’s 777 model never had a full physical prototype built before moving into manufacturing. This resulted in significant time and cost savings for Boeing. The robustness of the design data also allowed them to obtain overwater Federal Aviation Administration(FAA)approval in record time.

Key new product introduction practices are interrelated and have different benefits to quality, time, and cost, but all rely on integration of the factors of the enterprise, design process, and technology. Concurrent engineering has its most impact in the area of time to market a new product, but also has benefits on cost and quality. Cost is most impacted by gateway management. The gateway management process assesses the readiness of the product for launch into the market to ensure that the best design is available that meets the needs of the customer. Utilizing a PLM tool provides extended time where the freedom to act is cost competitive. Quality is most beneficially impacted by the integration of the extended enterprise and the capability of a virtual product introduction through the use of CAM and PLM. When these four factors are achieved simultaneously,the benefit is felt directly as an improved bottom line.

Engineering best practices have a wide range of interrelated objectives. Concurrent engineering requires the knowledge that is gained during previous product designs be shared across design teams. Issues that may affect the design, including the adoption of ideas and sharing the real intent of the design must be identified and resolved early in the development process. By drawing on the skills that are available across the extended enterprise, the use of external competencies and skills is possible. With the integration of the ERP system, visibility of materials information and other critical data is possible.

The use of a formalized PLM system also helps in collecting and protecting the enterprise’s most valuable asset—its intellectual assets. The virtual product introduction Product life cycle management 177 allows the product to be built without really being built physically. The PDM and CAD processes allow the variety of required parts to be viewed on a computer screen in three dimensions to assure they fit with other parts; they are also checked for any interference between parts. An automotive designer reportedly discovered during computer simulation that the oil filter could not be removed from the engine without lifting the engine off its mounts. This electronic discovery allowed a quick redesign of a fender well to provide clearance. This eliminated a potentially costly rework of tooling after the interference was discovered in the first completed car. This virtual fit allows the design engineer to visualize multiple configurations and models. Once this virtual design process is completed, the gateway management process provides the decision support and impact analysis of the design decisions. This helps in the overall project management and can significantly reduce the risk in the project. Essential throughout this whole process is easy sharing and reuse of information. When creating new products, there is a need to present information to the teams easily and in the form relevant to the specific role, task, or activity to be carried out in context.

Each of the functional areas integrates through a product creation pipeline to provide a single finished design in a cost-effective manner typically in a fraction of the time required for a serial process. To enable the development teams to work in the correct context, data have to be organized, structured, and accessed according to the specific needs of the extended teams and managed along the product creation pipeline. From all of the data available on the product, the correct data have to be selected and presented in the right place at the right time specific to the task to be carried out. It must therefore be (or have):

  1. Configured—Capable of being integrated into the product design.
  2. Maturity managed—Ensuring that only those parts with a proven design are incorporated into future designs.
  3. Secure—These data represent the intellectual assets of the company and therefore must be treated with a high level of security.
  4. Dependencies maintained—Many times if one item is changed in a design there is an impact to other parts in the design. This could be the requirement for tinted glass if there is an air conditioning system installed. Another example could be the need for a particular kind of fastener if a certain kind of wire is used. The linkages back to the tool approach can identify any expensive tooling changes.
  5. Communications support—Having information has no benefit if it is not where it is needed when it is needed. Communication support in context with the design role is critical to supporting the concurrent design process.
  6. Traceable—The source of the information is vital in making good design decisions. Not only where the information came from, but also where it has been used can be tracked in the system. Traceability provides information about other products that may be affected if a change is made to one part. The traceability of documents is also critical so that two design functions are not working on the same drawings at the same time.
  7. Activities managed—The product design process is directly linked into project management. Completion of parts of the product design is tracked in the overall project schedule as well as the cost of completion. Erp tools,techniques,and applications for integrating the supply chain 178
  8. Extended Enterprise Support—The extended enterprise includes the suppliers and customers. The data that are developed must be easily shared so they can be used at an appropriate place at the appropriate time.

Gateway Design Management

Any effective design management process must include gateway management. The PDM system tracks status levels that can represent steps in the design process. These steps can be directly linked to the overall project plan. The status level can also identify substeps. A sophisticated plan may also include transition steps that can be conditional or only take effect on another event happening. Part design maturity is equivalent to an attribute value in this database tracking status levels. The different possible maturity levels are defined in the overall profile for the part. The final level of maturity is the design freeze. The maturity and status levels are managed separately. The integrated PDM system enables interested parties to be automatically notified as soon as a change occurs. As the status of an object (parts/models/actions) changes, PDM has the ability to automatically inform any user (or manager) who subscribes to that object.

There is no longer a need to search for information—relevant information is presented to the user automatically. This notification can be inside the company or across the Internet to reach the extended enterprise. Supported by a PLM system,this notification can also provide an automatic three-dimensional view of the proposed change.

Gateway Design Management

Automatic design change communications.

Configuration Management

Configuration management tracks the revisions made to the parts and to the drawings. Part of the ISO9000 requirement is to ensure that the parts were manufactured and assembled according to the desired design. There are a few choices in how to handle this process.The first choice is to change part numbers when there is a change in the fit, form, or function of the part. Some ERP systems provide the functionality of keeping the base part number the same and simply changing the revision of the part in a controlled field. This system would plan part number 140849 revision A independently from part number 140849 revision B. Having the revision code as an integral part of the unique item identification assumes that the parts are not backwards compatible and that a revision A part is not acceptable in the place of a revision B and vice versa. Buyer beware on this ERP functionality! Ensure that you understand how the system you are considering actually handles this planning process. You should also be sure that this is how you really want to manage your inventory.

Many ERP systems will demonstrate that they indeed have revision codes as part of the database only for the users to find out later that it is a text only field and does not control any functionality. Requirements for revision A and revision B are lumped together. The parts are considered interchangeable in the bin. In addition, getting back to the old configuration at some future point in time may be impossible since nothing is associated directly in the database from this revision code. Some companies have worked around this issue by putting the revision code as the last character in the item identifier or part number. The upside is that the parts are treated as separate and unique parts and the traceability of components is very clean. A customer could order an old configuration of a part with full traceability of requirements and these parts would be separate and distinct in inventory. The downside of this approach is that any customer order for this part must include the correct revision code for that customer’s specific requirements. The revision code makes the part number unique and the ERP material planning functionality is very literal in how it calculates. The difference between a 145295A and a 145295B is the same as between a 145295A and a 105827! The system sees the parts as separate and distinct. The other disadvantage is that the part number becomes longer and more difficult to use with the alphanumeric combination.

Another approach to configuration control is to totally change the part number to the next one in a nonsignificant sequence once a change has been made in fit, form, or function. This still provides the traceability without introducing the confusion of an alphabetic character. Some businesses do not require the strict traceability of revision code. The various revisions of a part could be mixed in inventory without any adverse impact on the final product. The important thing to remember is that when a system is selected, this is a critical selection criterion since the different ERP systems handle this process very differently. If a system is required with very strict configuration management,then the buyer should also look for an integrated engineering change notice/engineering change order(ECN/ECO)module in the software tool. Systems exists where the overall part revision cannot be maintained manually but rather an ECN must be started, approved into an ECO,and applied to the part. This is transactionally very expensive. A similar process can also exist for tracking drawing numbers. Drawing Erp tools, techniques, and applications for integrating the supply chain 180 numbers can be controlled very similar to part numbers with full ECO/ECN control,including revision update and linkages to part numbers. This is the ultimate control for a part in addition to the ultimate cost. Be sure to purchase and implement the system that is really needed. Simpler,less costly answers may serve the enterprise satisfactorily. This is another reason why the strategy must be fully developed before the tools are selected and implemented.


The implementation of PLM is more than just purchasing technology. An effective PLM implementation is the unique combination of people,processes,and products,including technology that fits the needs of the enterprise. The issues that must be addressed with people to implement PLM are very similar to those that must be addressed to implement ERP At the very least,the issues that must be addressed include:

  1. A clearly articulated vision of how this technology will address the limitations of the business so that a positive return on investment is possible
  2. Teamwork
  3. An enterprise culture that embraces concurrent participative design
  4. Sufficient skills for the people who must use the tools
  5. Education to provide the understanding of what is to be achieved and why
  6. Effective communication to share this information throughout the extended enterprise

The processes should closely align the vision and goals with the organization’s objectives and detailed plans. Customization may be required as the needs,wants,and desires of the customers change over time. Products and technologies include the use of CAD, CAM,computer aided engineering (CAE),PDM,VPDM (virtual product data management) tools, and PLM tools. The final configured virtual product saves significant time and money since the problems and issues can be identified and fixed before any physical resources are committed. Because these data must be shared within the enterprise and throughout the extended enterprise,reliable networked computers are needed as part of a complete solution. A better solution is one where this networking happens through the Internet with no software is required on the client machines. This is typically achieved through the use of an integration partner to help in the selection and implementation of this technology.

A natural evolution is normal as the enterprise moves from the traditional design process to fully integrated PLM. VPDM is seamlessly integrated with the project management system to provide real time and in depth status of a design. When this is enabled through a secure Internet delivery method, the customer can take a virtual walkthrough of the product completed so far. Many questions can be answered and status can be obtained in an up to the minute manner. However, this agile integrated design process does not come about by itself nor can it be purchased off the shelf. An effective synthesis of knowledge, motivation and tools is required for this system to be effective. A successful implementation strategy is shown in Figure .The tools support the overall strategy of the enterprise. The integration of technology,documentation,and user knowledge is necessary for this strategy to be effective and provide bottom-line results. Any one of these

Successful implementation strategy.

Areas alone is insufficient to provide these results. Customization of these tools should be kept to a minimum. Customization can be very expensive to accomplish initially. The cost and aggravation only continues and builds as new releases of the software are completed. Customization should be limited to special reports and queries and not affect code within the application. A help desk needs to be provided so that user’s questions can be answered quickly and easily. This is another benefit of not modifying the software; this help desk support can be outsourced only if no modifications have been made.

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