We live in a world where smart, connected products are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, 70% of companies are expected to have connected products this year. But how exactly are smart, connected products going to affect the way engineers and product development teams develop products?
Enter The Connected Engineer – PTC’s new podcast series aimed at the people who turn napkin sketches into reality. Host, Gavin Quinlan, cuts through the hype to talk truth with engineers, designers, and innovators about the product design challenges they are facing today and the trends of tomorrow.
Today, we are thrilled to release the first of many episodes. Our premier will focus on how product development teams can use a Bill of Materials (BOM) to communicate the most up-to-date and accurate product information to stakeholders throughout the product lifecycle.
According to Steve Drzewiczewski, Senior Manager of Collaborative Applications at iRobot, managing a BOM was the natural evolution of their product management. Previously, they had used PTC Pro/INTRALINK to manage CAD data but they were always scrambling to find ways to get information to their contract manufacturers. Solar Turbine’s Eric Horn, Senior Enterprise Business Process Specialist, experienced challenges due to the multiple systems being used to manage CAD, BOM and ERP data. Engineers and teams across the organization were using the ‘copy and paste’ function from Excel sheets to integrate disparate data. This method was not scalable considering the growing number of complicated and expensive parts and of course the pressure of getting the product out on time.
One thing both guests agreed upon was that deploying a BOM addressed the issue of wasting money and over ordering parts. Joked Drzewiczewski, “Wasting money is a bad thing for the company – they frown upon that.”
Deploying a BOM management solution has even helped reduce the amount of work that the engineers need to do. Managing the BOM through Windchill – PTC’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution -- allowed Solar Turbines’ engineers to reduce redundant data entry across multiple systems, as well as reduce the extensive error-checking required while managing BOM’s through Excel sheets. “They [the engineers] love it,” explains Horn. “They’re like ‘oh man! You mean I can just work on my CAD… and my BOM automatically updates? Why didn’t we do this years ago?’”
Despite all of the benefits of deploying a BOM, many companies hesitate to uproot their current product development process – no matter how inefficient it may be – fearing that it will cause too much disruption. However, both guests agreed that, not only do the good aspects of the BOM outweigh this fear, but that the transformation can be incremental and taken in manageable steps. “[BOM management] is an evolution,” says Horn. “It’s definitely not going to happen overnight. But there are steps that we’ve done along the way that have paved the way for bigger transformations.”
We are merely skimming the surface on ways our fellow engineers are making an impact.