Overview: How Groupe Beneteau drives mass customization with a digital thread

Groupe Beneteau, the worldwide market leader for boats, manufactures 200 different boat models across 10 brands. This innovation and variety differentiates the manufacturer—but it also complicates its operations. The market demand for Groupe Beneteau’s boats was outpacing its manufacturing capacity, but the number of boats being sold per model was decreasing. Wanting to deliver more innovative options faster while satisfying all customer requests and changes, the company implemented PTC’s PLM solution, Windchill, and integrated it with other enterprise systems to help streamline the product development-to-delivery process.

The results to date have been significant:

Increase-Arrow DATA QUALITY
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Challenges: Derailed by data silos and manual processes

Groupe Beneteau encourages its customers to configure the boat of their dreams. It manufactures over 180 boat models which all come heavily personalized with features and options such as cabin type, wood grain, upholstery material, and electrical settings. With new models and configurations being introduced to the market every year, Group Beneteau’s customer demands were outpacing its capacity to produce.

Trying to manufacture boats with this level of customization was no small feat—especially with product development processes that were hindered with data silos and manual, disjointed systems. For example, the bill of materials (BOM), process plans, and work instructions were all maintained in Excel. Stakeholders did not have access to accurate product data when they needed it. Changes were manually communicated through spreadsheets and whiteboards on the factory floor, causing significant implementation delays.

Furthermore, there were heavy cost implications from change requests made during production, or last-minute updates based on materials used or part availability. With all these unwieldy changes and version control issues, each phase of the product development process was affected; from design, engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing, all the way through service.

Groupe Beneteau’s team of highly-skilled, veteran workers were getting bogged down in non-value-adding administrative tasks. Attracting new talent was a challenge as the learning curve and onboarding process were increasingly steep.

Groupe Beneteau

Solution: Establishing a PLM-enabled digital thread

To maintain market share and meet the demands of its customers, Groupe Beneteau knew it had to digitally transform. They turned to PTC’s PLM solution, Windchill, to create and orchestrate a digital thread, Groupe Beneteau is benefiting from operational efficiencies with streamlined change management processes. A continually updated thread of accurate information flowing across systems, like PLM to ERP, enables concurrent design and manufacturing, along with higher factory productivity, fewer errors, and lower costs.

By keeping all stakeholders aligned, a single source of digital information makes it easier to monitor variants and changes. When combined with IoT and sensors embedded into its products, the digital thread will empower Groupe Beneteau to reduce downtime, keep its factories up and running smoothly, and optimally produce customized boats.

Calling upon AR, Groupe Beneteau hopes to provide customers with the ability to visualize and select their boat configurations, dealers to close orders faster, and engineers to precisely define product components and manage configurations.

“It’s all about optimizing everything—organization, tools, process, and documentation—in order to both improve performance within Groupe Beneteau and also ensure a better level of customer satisfaction.”
– Bertrand Dutilleul, former CIO Groupe Beneteau

Implementation: Streamlining the development-to-delivery process

To streamline and improve the product development-to-delivery process, Groupe Beneteau embraced a fast and agile approach to implementing Windchill, focused on delivering the out-of-the-box capabilities incrementally. It started with foundational PLM capabilities within engineering, then focused on enabling concurrent design and manufacturing, while exploring AR functionality on the factory floor and in dealerships.

Driving engineering excellence
Achieving operational effectiveness
Driving product and service differentiation
PLM serves as the backbone for the digitization of Groupe Beneteau’s product data. By connecting Windchill with the ERP system used in production and with the Creo CAD system used in development, Groupe Beneteau ensures all teams are working from a single source of truth, automating change and variant management, and reducing risk of error. For example, their boats go into production leveraging EBOM to MBOM transformation, as paperless work instructions are delivered to the factory floor. Meanwhile, because its technical references are standardized, parts and designs only need to be created once, enabling greater reuse and agility. With such efficiencies, Groupe Beneteau shortened the time it takes to implement changes and new variants. This ultimately helped to eliminate errors and save time while reducing the costs of non-quality.
Because Windchill can connect to any system—from CAD to ERP—it keeps engineering and manufacturing data current and accurate. Customer and design changes are updated and shared in real time. As a result, digital work instructions and process plans are automatically updated, enabling operators to produce higher quality products. Groupe Beneteau seeks opportunities to take operator efficiency further, offering workers the ability to visualize installation sequences with AR. To further manufacturing process efficiency, Groupe Beneteau looks to implement IoT sensors into its CNC machine to establish predictive maintenance and in turn, decrease machine downtime.
Using AR, Groupe Beneteau seeks to empower customers with the ability to visualize the options and configurations of their boat, in turn helping dealers shorten the sales cycle. The defined configurations are then built in Creo and managed in Windchill. Through sensors, the manufacturer can also use IoT to collect data about their products as they are used, such as how often customers use their on-board generators or HVAC systems. This information then becomes part of the digital thread guiding Groupe Beneteau’s future development and manufacturing process, enabling it to optimally produce customized boats.

Demo: Groupe Beneteau’s digital transformation roadmap

Watch this demonstration to see Groupe Beneteau’s digital transformation implementation plan. The roadmap begins with foundational PLM capabilities, such as BOM management and change management, and extends into the factory with concurrent engineering and manufacturing associativity while leveraging AR functionality for shop floor operators and dealership scenarios.