Many manufacturers, no matter what they make, face the same difficulties when it comes to dealing effectively with the large volume of data to support product design, manufacture and service.
This is particularly true when the company produces goods across more than one product line. In that case, managing revision and release processes, ensuring reusable CAD designs aren’t re-created, and tracking product configurations can be especially difficult. And with the rise of products made up of hardware, electronics and software companies may also need to manage electronic components and software versions using a single data management tool.
Engineering organizations that use a data management tool to track revision and release processes, CAD files and other product data have seen this move pay off in ways that go well beyond the cost of the tools. And these organizations can choose between simple data management solutions such as the built-in Solid Edge data management tools or the comprehensive PLM capabilities provided by Teamcenter.
Industry research from Tech-Clarity (Best Practice for Managing Design Data) shows that manufacturers who implement effective solutions for data management are:
- 2.7 times as likely to be “very effective” at finding the data they need
- More than three times as likely to be “very effective” at managing their design projects
- 2.7 times as likely to be “very effective” at sharing data with others
- Over 2.5 times as likely to be “very effective” at providing the correct data to manufacturing
The report based on the Tech-Clarity research concludes that designers benefit from transparent completion of many tedious data management tasks. They can also run faster searches for the data they need, and see improved revision and configuration control throughout the product lifecycle. The end result is an improved product development process with fewer errors and less rework. Also, lower product costs through an improved flow of information to manufacturing and increased reuse of existing proven components in new designs.
Kimball International of Jasper, Ind., illustrates the challenges engineering and manufacturing companies face as they seek to track data. Kimball found a solution with Teamcenter, the PLM solution from Siemens that is closely integrated with Solid Edge. The company is an example of a manufacturer that makes goods across several different product lines. Its furnishings are sold under three brands: Kimball Office, National Office Furniture, and Kimball Hospitality. The latter encompasses hotel and motel furniture. The company also designs and manufactures special orders for nonstandard furnishings not available in its catalogs.
The company also needs to understand the big-picture—a daily, monthly, yearly, view of its engineering processes and design project completion. “We need to ask things like: How fast are the ECs or development projects that we process getting done, where are the bottlenecks?” says Chris Waltz, engineering systems manager at Kimball International.
Company leaders sought a single data management environment for its design data and other product related information. They also needed a way for changes requested on the manufacturing floor to be integrated back into the design process. Kimball implemented Teamcenter, the Siemens PLM software that integrates closely with the Solid Edge CAD tool that the manufacturer has used for 13 years.
The system serves about 80 CAD users and more than 200 other users, such as those in marketing, finance, or on the manufacturing floor who use it to track engineering and process changes. “Maybe the factory wants to manufacture something differently because they have different equipment now,” Waltz says. “So those process improvements can be incorporated back into the designs.”
Kimball used to track all these moving parts through back-and-forth emails. Of course, engineering companies of all types have a hard time keeping up with constant emails not to mention ensuring tasks are handed off to the correct, next-in-line person. “It’s these kind of issues that keep work from being entirely transparent to everyone touched by it, that cause bottlenecks and snafus and that take time to sort out, and that simply keep the processes from operating efficiently and timely, Waltz says.
Kimball’s management team also appreciates the visibility Teamcenter offers into the engineering process. “They can see things like trends, so we can get up to speed and allocate more resources toward it or address the root cause of a bad trend” Waltz says. “Consistent processes, visibility, reporting and metrics, those are just a few of the benefits that allow for better decisions to be made, those are the things that department heads mention as benefits,” he adds.
You can also read a case study that focuses on Kimball’s use of Solid Edge for furniture design here.