Rapid product development cycles and quick responses to market changes are of peak importance for success in every industry. Yet change approval and implementation planning remains one of biggest problems in manufacturing. Without automated, standardized workflows, changes end up sitting on people’s desks. Or people make mistakes, overlooking steps in the process – especially those working in industries governed by regulations around making changes. As a result, the actual change process gets bogged down. Even when change management is handled using technology, problems arise.
One common issue occurs when change-related details cross systems, going from ERP to PLM. Process and data management tasks end up being handled manually through a combination of spreadsheets and emails, resulting in long wait times to implement changes and a flawed, error-prone data process. In addition to a lack of concurrent manufacturing, the company loses traceability, version control, transparency, and status tracking.
Fortunately, PLM systems are structured around change and configuration management. PLM systems specialize in helping manage collaborative iterations of engineering artifacts like CAD designs, BOMs (eBOM, mBOM, sBOM, etc.), process plans, and work instructions. In other words, they not only help capture a change, they help implement the change through configuration management, which assures consistency between how the product is specified and defined and how it is produced.
By capturing and synthesizing complex and diverse volumes of data generated throughout the design and engineering process, PLM provides a means for better understanding and aiding innovation, collaboration, and their related functions. This is critical when it comes to involving the entire series of approvers and enabling all stakeholders to assess the impact of a change.
Though PLM creates data governance and associativity so that all changes and configurations are fully defined and controlled, it is critical that this data be automatically transferred to ERP. This ensures that tasks are delivered to those responsible using a repeatable and controlled workflow. It also helps ensure that changes are made and issues are resolved accurately and efficiently.
Working in concert, PLM and ERP systems enable manufacturers to plan and validate manufacturing process changes early, resulting in tremendous savings and reduced time to production ramp-up. In other words, manufacturers can make changes much more quickly and cost effectively in the virtual rather than physical world.
Here’s an example of how this works in the real world.
Vaillant Group – a global market and technology leader in the field of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) – struggled with its change management process. Once engineering made a change, the plant would implement it right away. Only after the change was implemented did engineering capture change approvals and subsequently document the change. This process led to huge problems in terms of first pass yield. Specifically, 50% of first physical samples required re-work.
Vaillant addressed this by integrating its SAP ERP system with Windchill – PTC’s award-winning PLM solution – using Windchill’s Enterprise Systems Integration (ESI) module. With this integration in place, the manufacturer automatically transfers changes to product data – including manufacturing BOMs – to SAP. Workflow functionalities provided by Windchill and SAP MDG-M include automatic and transparent cross-systems status tracking of changes. Critical functions such as pre-defined rules for maintaining ERP/SAP views and performing other actions that continuously improve master data are automatically generated.
With a hard link between approvals in both Windchill and SAP, there were no deviations at the start of series production. Further, Vaillant reduced its average time to process engineering changes by 25% in a single year.
Read our white paper to learn more about all the benefits your manufacturing organization can realize by integrating PLM and ERP.
Mark Taber is Vice President of Marketing. In his current role, Mark is focused on helping manufacturers drive digital transformation, with a foundation of PLM and the digital thread, within the enterprise and across enterprises.
Mark has more than 30 years of experience working in the areas of process automation, application integration, cyber security, and development. Prior to PTC, Mark was CEO of Active Endpoints (acquired by Informatica), a process automation firm. A graduate of the Wharton School, Mark currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.