Thought Leadership

Siemens PLM’s role as a supplier collaboration leader

By Darby

The days of being in the same location to engineer products are gone. Global product development has taken over, and OEMs and suppliers must contend with these changes to deliver high quality products on tight schedules. 

Moreover, the products that OEMs define, as well as their suppliers, are rapidly becoming more complex. This complexity is driving the need for more sophisticated collaboration across a global network of partners and suppliers. This puts Siemens PLM in a unique position to help OEMs, their partners and suppliers expand and streamline collaboration processes.

In this series, Darby O’Reilly has explored how OEMs can improve their supplier collaboration process. He has highlighted the problems OEMs have managing large numbers of supplier deliverables, enabling collaboration using digital products and collaboration scenarios from a supplier’s perspective. Here, he discusses proven collaboration solutions from Siemens PLM.

In part 2 of this series, we discussed the use of JT, the lightweight ISO standard for visualization of product and manufacturing geometry. JT is reducing administrative activities across the product lifecycle by enabling new user communities to access precise geometry.

JT is increasingly exchanged between OEMs their partners and suppliers. VW and Audi recently announced they’re now exchanging JT-based geometry when sourcing design-responsible suppliers. By allowing suppliers to exchange JT instead of native CAD, VW and Audi can expand their candidate supply base and streamline their sourcing process. The end result will be suppliers spending less time on CAD conversion and more time on innovation.

In part 3 of this series, we discussed the need for multiple supplier collaboration paradigms based on the different roles suppliers play in product development. Here, we’ll discuss Siemens’ solutions for these paradigms. Because Teamcenter is the preferred PLM application for OEMs and suppliers who design and manufacture complex products, Siemens collaboration solutions leverage the Teamcenter instance your company is likely already using. CollaborationParadigms.jpgThere are three main supplier collaboration paradigms based on suppliers’ roles — and Siemens has solutions for each paradigm.

PLM client access 

Strategic and trusted suppliers often use a PLM Client to remotely work with their OEM. These suppliers are said to have their “eyes in the system.” 

Thousands of suppliers use Teamcenter PLM clients to work with automotive and aerospace industry leaders. Teamcenter clients include zero footprint browser-based clients, role-specific clients (called Active Workspace) and full-function Rich Application clients for advanced PLM users. 

Suppliers use Teamcenter clients to access and work in the context of their OEM’s latest product manufacturing information. They query for context data, they import and export data and data structures and they participate in change, release and other workflows. 

Many suppliers, depending on their role and permissions, access the 3D digital product (also known as the digital mockup) or digital plant for visualization and validation. Suppliers run simulations of the product or manufacturing processes and can use their client access to create technical documentation and participate in virtual design reviews. 

Teamcenter clients use the same underlying technology to optimize:

User Experience. Teamcenter Services Oriented Architecture improves client performance by optimizing communication between client and server.

Security. Access control framework protects intellectual property and including protection of competitive suppliers working on the same project.

File Sharing Performance. Teamcenter File Management System optimizes throughput and reliability with file streaming and caching. 

Teamcenter client solutions allow suppliers to work in and update the latest product context in real time. For many OEMs, Teamcenter is the first choice for integrating strategic suppliers. Using Teamcenter clients for supplier collaboration, OEMs increase innovation, reduce errors and improve development cycle time. 

Teamcenter_AW_NEW_motorcycle.pngTeamcenter’s capabilities give OEMs the means to improve their supplier collaboration and global product development processes.

While client access is ideal for highly integrated suppliers, it’s not feasible for all suppliers to work in their customer’s PLM environment. Most suppliers work offsite and offline from their OEM, often leveraging their own workgroups and PLM environment. For suppliers working independently, sharing application data requires significant administrative effort. 

Making matters worse is more complex product and manufacturing processes. For example, technical data packages can contain product structures (150 percent BOM), 3D geometry, requirements, test results and associated data multiple users and applications have authored. It’s challenging for engineers and data administrators to share the right data with partners and suppliers while maintaining multi-discipline data associativity, managing change and protecting intellectual property.

As collaboration tasks increase, suppliers and OEMs cannot afford the delays, risks and costs associated with manual data aggregation, conversion and sharing. The good news is that Siemens PLM’s solutions already support this collaboration complexity. We understand the crucial, varied roles suppliers and partners play in global product development. 

Synchronized PLMs

OEMs and suppliers can synchronize complex data structures between local Teamcenter instances with minimal administrative effort. Teamcenter Multisite enables users to share and coordinate complex data structures in their ‘PLM context.’ This paradigm is appropriate for large or long-term suppliers who frequently exchange high-volume or complex data structures needed for advanced simulation, systems engineering and other model-based processes.

Teamcenter Multisite also manages data ownership and tracks changes. The OEM’s Teamcenter instance tracks data sharing events so only changed data elements will send in the next exchange, greatly reducing data package sizes. Teamcenter also provides a framework for schema mapping to support standards-based data exchange and to accommodate custom PLM schemas.

Suppliers who use Teamcenter Multisite often also use a Teamcenter client to access to their OEM’s environment for workflows or to participate in additional product data management processes.

Teamcenter Multisite requires both collaborating sites to have a local PLM instance. Many mid-tier suppliers primarily exchange native application data with their OEM or upstream customers. Collaboration with these suppliers can still be problematic unless the collaboration is a closed-loop process. Teamcenter supports this scenario. 

Asynchronous supplier collaboration 

While OEMs and mid-tier suppliers exchange data less frequently, manual data sharing methods are labor-intensive and increase cost, time and risk to deliverables. OEMs have data administrators or engineers who spend substantial time coordinating data exchange with numerous suppliers. And third-party data sharing sites generally charge based on the number of data sharing transactions — a business model that discourages frequent collaboration. 

Teamcenter Supplier Collaboration framework enables OEMs to increase collaboration efficiency with mid-tier suppliers. Teamcenter Supplier Collaboration enables secure, closed-loop collaboration with suppliers regardless of whether they have a local PLM system. This is a configurable, browser-based solution that supports supplier sourcing, design data exchange, technical data package exchanges and tracking or managing program deliverables. 

This solution has a number of supplier collaboration advantages.

• Improved visibility. A dashboard monitors the status of internal deliverables and those coming from the extended enterprise.

• Data Security. Ad hoc file sharing replaces secure, verifiable sharing between registered users. By eliminating the use of file transfer protocol and thumb drives, OEMS control and track movement data.

• Traceability. Collaboration events are recorded and reports help you track data sharing activities and deliverable status.

• Schedule discipline. Timed collaboration events proactively manage supplier interaction.

• Reduced administrative effort. Authorized suppliers can browse Teamcenter within the context the OEM defines and request information to create deliverables. Pending approval, data sharing is largely automated.

• Improved change management. Suppliers can receive delta design packages containing only data changed since the previous sharing event. This reduces the data being shared and improves collaboration efficiency.

• Closed loop collaboration. There are automatic notifications when a collaboration event initiates or when a supplier submits its deliverable, improving development cycle times.

• Integrated solution. There’s an automatic import of supplier deliverables into Teamcenter upon approval of supplier’s submission, saving administrative time and effort.

• Reduced risk. By optimizing collaboration, suppliers are less likely to work with outdated context data, a leading cause of late cycle changes. OEMs can validate their product with the latest supplier data, thus identifying issues earlier and avoiding quality issues. 

OEMs no longer need to guess the status of supplier deliverables. OEMs and their suppliers don’t need to waste precious resources on collaboration, freeing them to focus on quality and innovation. 

Supplier collaboration isn’t practical with a single solution. OEMs, their partners and their suppliers require a solution framework that optimizes each user community in the global product development ecosystem.

Teamcenter has right-sized solutions to close the loop on collaboration processes while protecting intellectual property and reducing administrative effort, costs and errors. This is why OEMs and suppliers see Teamcenter as a ‘win-win’ for supplier collaboration.

This concludes our introduction to improving supplier collaboration

About the author
Darby O’Reilly has 23 years of experience in the PLM Industry. His background as a software engineer and extensive customer interaction informs a balanced business and technical perspective to help Siemens customers optimize globally distributed product design and manufacture. In his current role as director of product driven services, he consults with automotive and aerospace companies to streamline globally distributed product development. Competencies include defining collaboration policies and processes, overseeing technical solution implementation in support of joint OEM partnerships and integrating design-responsible suppliers. He also interfaces with Siemens’ product development organization to ensure customer needs are enabled by Siemens solutions. In previous roles at Siemens, O’Reilly worked in technical services to define industry best practices and provide solution alignment. He managed global PLM deployment for a major automotive OEM. He served as technical lead for PLM deployment at a major commercial aircraft OEM and has provided technical consulting services and solution development for numerous Global Fortune 100 companies and the U.S. Air Force. O’Reilly holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer and information science from the College of Engineering at Ohio State University.

Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at