Maintaining Leadership in Automotive Lighting

DBM Reflex

Highlights:

  • Jobs are often won or lost on pricing
  • Key factor was Windchill's manufacturing product management capabilities
  • Shortened time to market and decreased cost in less than 18 months
  • Increased production throughput without hiring additional resources or investing in more capital equipment

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Jim Cassidy is a Boston-area writer who specializes in technology topics.

How can a global manufacturer deliver greater value at lower cost? Canada's DBM Reflex, a top automotive lighting supplier, faced that question three years ago

How can a company deliver greater value at a lower cost? This was the question facing DBM Reflex, a top supplier in the automotive lighting industry, three years ago. Headquartered in Laval, Quebec, DBM Reflex creates the molds used to make lenses for vehicle taillights and reflectors. The company works with many top global brands, and all work is performed in-house at its headquarters facility.

Founded almost 40 years ago, DBM Reflex became a leader in its industry by pioneering electroforming, a process that enables the company to produce very complex molds. With electroform molding, automotive lighting designers can incorporate increasingly sophisticated, higher-quality taillights and reflectors into their designs. DBM also has a competitive advantage with its proprietary SIMOPTIC™ analysis and design optimization software, which helps automakers improve their lighting components and reduce manufacturing costs.

But even with these competitive advantages, DBM Reflex has had to work hard to stay on top. The company must win every project through a competitive bidding process, and while quality is of paramount concern, jobs are often won or lost on pricing. DBM Reflex has sought to remain price-competitive by increasing production capacity and throughput, without sacrificing quality.

“The two main issues that we're facing are the lead time and the cost,” said Jocelyn Allard, PLM Project Manager at DBM Reflex. “And if it takes more time [to create a mold], it is going to cost more.”

“The real issue at DBM was that everybody was working in silos,” explained Allard. “Nobody was talking to one another..” As designs were modified along the way – from Design to Method to Production – changes could not easily be shared among departments. As a result, the Production Manager was spending from two to three hours per day trying to ensure the workers on the shop floor had the right information to drive the drilling and milling machines. Inevitably, errors occurred that increased costs and wasted valuable time.

Seeking critical process improvements, the company sought a PLM solution to shorten its 14-week production process and increase capacity, eventually choosing PTC's Windchill solution from PTC value-added reseller BRT Solutions of Montreal. A key factor was Windchill's manufacturing product management capabilities, which enables manufacturing engineers to digitally create and manage manufacturing process plans with the assurance that they are always working with the latest, most accurate data. This has streamlined the production process at DBM and eliminated virtually all use of paper on the shop floor.

According to Marco Bertolucci, President of BRT Solutions, “As a result of Windchill, DBM shortened its time to market – and decreased cost – in less than 18 months.” At the same time, DBM has increased production throughput by 10 to 20% without hiring additional resources or investing in more capital equipment.

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