Engineering’s Stake in Managing Through Supply Chain Disruptions

Written by: Mark Taber

Read Time: 3:30 min

Manufacturing companies have deployed a variety of standalone departmental software products to serve the needs of engineering, sourcing, manufacturing, and service. Lacking integration, these systems are the cause of major inefficiencies in business operations. This is particularly true in the area of supply chain management, which depends on the smooth and reliable flow of material data from one functional area to the next.

Without integrated and well-orchestrated processes, organizations cannot flexibly plan and schedule resources to optimize for cost and quality while avoiding disruptions and complying with local regulations. The following are just a few of the resulting problems throughout the supply chain:

  • Non-compliant sourced materials (conflict minerals, etc.)
  • Missed volume discounts
  • Early part obsolescence
  • Costly export/import duties
  • Shortages of parts and finished products
  • Cost overruns
  • Inconsistent quality
  • Manufacturing scheduling issues
  • Order fulfillment and distribution problems
  • Regulatory delays

Given the increased risk of supply chain disruptions, from political trade posturing and pandemic bottlenecks, sourcing teams must know product/part dependencies and scope of work in real time. At a minimum, they must be able to navigate through the latest CAD and component data, such as Approved Manufacturer Parts Lists (AML) and Approved Vendor Parts Lists (AVL) and be apprised of changes.

To enable agility in such an environment, it’s imperative to unite product and material data in a digital thread. A key step in the process is integrating PLM and ERP systems within the organization for traceability and change control. With easy, secure access to automatically updated data early in the design phase and throughout each product’s evolution and every product change, sourcing teams can act quickly as needed.

PTC Enables Supply Chain Collaboration and Agility

As a complement to PTC’s PLM platform – Windchill ThingWorx Navigate allows procurement professionals in downstream systems like ERP or MES to access Windchill data via a URL where they can leverage out of the box apps and/or build building customized views. This eliminates the need to transfer or duplicate the data in another system and allows manufacturers to easily make up-to-date information available as needed.

Without the support of experts in engineering, buyers can research component attributes, including approved suppliers, data sheets, where a component is consumed, and associated change requests and problem reports. They can even see the associated CAD drawings in 2D or 3D, in context, along with the traceable and auditable history of every component. With a single AML, the buyer can easily determine the demand for that product design and determine the components a manufacturer is able to supply.

Because buyers are also key members of the product review process, Windchill notifies them when the BOM (Bills of Materials) reaches the quote, prototype, or production state. Buyers can then collaborate with suppliers using Windchill’s project management capabilities by sending data and drawings along with various revisions. At the same time, designers can send prototype BOMs and quote BOMs to suppliers to begin sourcing materials for the manufacturing of products.

How PLM Facilitates Change Notices

Getting more granular, let’s explore how Windchill facilitates change notices with connections to an ERP system such as SAP ERP.

Step 1: PLM can help identify the needs for change based on a problem report, non-conformance, corrective and preventative action, alert from an integrated component catalog like IHS, Silicon Expert, or Assent (compliance, lifecycle, inventory risks. The PLM systems can suggest existing alternate parts based on parts classification and/or component catalog recommendations.

Step 2: As the PLM system releases the change notice to various systems, the ERP system is updated with relevant information. Effective PLM-ERP integration enables data synchronization and ensures supply chains remain undisrupted and optimized.

Step 3: To ensure the digital thread extends beyond the enterprise, external suppliers and vendors are also notified of implemented changes and the reason behind the change. Through PLM Change Notice, suppliers and vendors receive the change summary report.

Step 4: Through the linked change process that comes with PLM-ERP integration, the procurement team can pull approved vendor lists from PLM. It can also notify relevant vendors with updated technical packages via PLM.

Step 5: Authorized suppliers can access the PLM system to see the full details of the change, including updated part information, design, and BOM updates.

Step 6: The corrective actions for suppliers could include a change in tooling or part specifications to conform with the manufacturing process plan.

Sharing this information seamlessly in real time closes the information gap between enterprise and external stakeholders, enabling manufacturers to enhance their manufacturing flexibility and reduce scrap and rework.

Move Forward With Confidence

At a time of uncertainty, it’s essential to master supply chain orchestration with agility. By integrating their PLM and ERP systems, manufacturers can gain the automation and collaboration needed to ensure a seamless flow of information between the systems. In turn, sourcing teams can readily and easily access crucial information in real time without delay, paving the way for an optimized supply chain.

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Tags: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Windchill Navigate Aerospace and Defense Automotive Electronics and High Tech Industrial Equipment Life Sciences

About the Author

Mark Taber

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.