Today’s manufacturers face increasing complexity from every direction. You’re making more complex products including medical implants, drone aircraft, smart phones and even smart vehicles that can literally drive themselves. These products must incorporate complex mechanical, electrical and software systems. To meet unique customer and regional market demands, you have master another layer of complexity, product variant management. Supply chains are increasingly more intricate, and you face an array of regulations if you want to do business in multiple geographies.
All this complexity means the amount of information that must be managed for a complete integrated product definition can seem overwhelming. Companies are racing toward solutions to bring the integrated product definition to life in an intelligent, enterprise-level data management backbone. As all this information is aggregated together, a new challenge arises. How do your users (the designer, engineer or quality control manager), who are now bombarded with information - much of which is irrelevant to their task – get their jobs done effectively and efficiently?
For every product, you have to manage massive amounts of data. Typically, only a fraction of that data is relevant for a particular task. Users and groups waste time focusing on information that is irrelevant or out of scope. Consider the example of a rocket launch vehicle for sending a satellite into space. Critical to the success of this product is keeping mechanical and electrical components in synch - working together correctly. However, your mechanical engineers have no need to see all the intricacies of the electronic and software components. Having them wade through information that is not pertinent to their task wastes precious time.
To address this issue, the ideal product lifecycle management (PLM) system would allow every user to work in context with their own BOM view. At a basic level, the system should seamlessly enable the integrated product definition to be leveraged by all stakeholders, allowing groups to organize and capture information that is relevant to their domain (mechanical, electrical, etc) without affecting the other. The solution should not involve duplication of data to support different teams. Duplication requires a lot of synchronization and leads to costly mistakes due to out of date information. Critical to success is the ability for your PLM backbone to keep all pieces of the integrated product definition in synch across domains as parallel evolution of the product takes place.
The solution can’t stop with only domain specific work in context. For many products, even that would still result in massive amounts of data. Consider again the rocket launch vehicle for sending a satellite into space. An engineer doesn’t really need a model of the entire rocket and payload. They are most likely focusing on one particular component or subsystem, say, an infrared camera. You must be able to work on ad hoc views that you can define on the fly to accomplish the task at hand.
Ad hoc views require a powerful system that allows you to quickly search and filter across massive amounts of data to gather only what is required to fulfill a particular task, then transform it into something easily understood. Your PLM solution must provide the ability to create and manage data focused on specific tasks, but always in the context of the entire product. This approach allows individuals and teams to create and work more efficiently on their specific assignments and greatly facilitate their access to and management of in-context and relevant technical knowledge. This approach enables multiple teams in all departments and operations to work in parallel to reduce cycle times while maintaining strict compliance to all regulations.
As products get more complex, the amount of data you must wade through multiplies. To increase productivity, reduce errors and ultimately get to market faster, you must enable teams and individuals to work in context – not just at the domain level, but at an ad hoc “give me only what I need to get this task done” level, as well. Only a PLM system with flexible work in context capabilities that allow users to define their own contexts, on the fly, while maintaining the integrity of a single integrated product definition can deliver these results.
About the author
A marketing manager at Siemens PLM Software for Teamcenter, Susan Zimmerlee has over 18 years of experience developing, testing, selling, implementing, and marketing Product Lifecycle Management software.