Change Fast and Often, But Keep Everyone Informed: Dynamic Service Information Connecting Engineering and Service

Written by: Scott Thompson

Read Time: 5 min

We all know that change brings opportunities. But it can also bring confusion when not orchestrated well, particularly with regards to engineering product changes and all the stakeholder perspectives involved. For companies focused on product lifecycle management and service delivery, truly dynamic service information and illustrations can be a great tool to help with change management.

In this Q&A, Scott Thompson, Senior Solutions Consultant at PTC, explains the importance of seamless engineering changes in product development and subsequent service detail production. He discusses the importance of the digital thread in ensuring strategic, process-driven changes that extend consistency and insights from engineering out into the field of service maintenance and back again.

What are the key principles of engineering product change management, particularly in the context delivering service content and illustrations?

While it’s important for things to be linked together or updatable, you also need control points along the change management path. When something changes, you should not only be aware that it has changed, but also ensure that the person responsible for, say, the illustration or the CAD change, is the person who actually goes into the system to verify what has been changed.

In this way, you can link everything together consistently through your change management process, all the way through to service. For example, an illustration used out in the field by a field service technician is seamlessly updated because we have those control points built in.

How do organizations effectively identify and manage changes coming from engineering when designing for service?

There are two sides to this. We have the management side tools and processes and then the delivery side. When we are creating content with engineering data for service, you can think of it in those different realms, but in general at PTC, our management capability happens inside of Windchill, our Product Lifecycle Management tool, and it has robust change management features built into it.

More specifically, engineering for service requires you to actively identify and manage changes coming from engineering when designing for service. For example, an illustrator or perhaps someone within the service organization may recognize that specific engineering data is valuable for them and they want to be connected in with the changes on the engineering side.

So when we revise the CAD drawing, it's useful to know that there are these illustrations built off of it, and we can in turn include those within Windchill as the linked or updatable illustrations, ensuring service are in the loop and we’re all consistently on the same page.

How does data flow between stakeholders and across various stages of service design engineering, product design, and what are the pain points?

If you think of this in broad terms of create, manage and deliver (rather than within the PTC tools), often times, data doesn't always flow between all the stakeholders. Likewise, there may be a common pain point where you have really great 3D data, but it's not being used or it's a very disconnected process to use. This is a common, painful and completely avoidable scenario.

The idea of connecting everything together or even having it in the same system can be unique for customers or a great opportunity just to have all of that management combined together within Windchill. Alternatively, even if it's disconnected from Windchill, just having the perspective of bringing everything together, rather than being disconnected from engineering to service, means that service design engineering can be considered – such as your service Bill of Material (BOM) definition which would go into BOM transformation capabilities in Windchill.

The idea of building a digital thread from the source of your data all the way through manufacturing or service or other views of that same information is what PTC is all about and what Windchill can deliver.

How can organizations leverage illustration technology and digital tools to enhance managing engineering changes when developing content for service teams?

Having the ability to update your illustration based on a change to a source is the biggest capability in terms of operationalizing and enhancing engineering changes. You’re not having to recreate or redo all of that work every time something changes.

Likewise, having the service team connected within the change process is certainly valuable, but just the simple ability to update your illustration based on 3D data and having a 3D illustration can be hugely beneficial. Leveraging the power of this kind of technology for delivering 3D and having it based on a changing source, can be a game changer.

What strategies can companies employ to foster collaboration and communication among stakeholders involved in service design and change management?

Your strategy should be inclusion. Having everything and everyone’s different perspectives within the same tool is critical. At a minimum, you should have fairly robust CAD data management with change management built into that process within a business. But often the illustrators or service authors are not part of that perspective. Making sure that everyone is aware of what is happening, even just including them in that view, is really beneficial because now a CAD designer knows that when he or she changes this part, it's going go to these illustrators. It provides context for everyone.

How can service teams leverage engineering Bill of Materials (BoM) information effectively?

By creating a digital thread where an engineering Bill of Materials - a specific view of a product within an engineering or design context within Windchill - allows you to build other views of those BoMs. Commonly, these would be manufacturing and service views, but the technology supports really any type of transformed bill of material.

This is the biggest capability where the service team is directly inheriting this engineering information within their structured view. This means they can create their own kit and restructure things as they would need. The same is true for manufacturing who are then also working with the same data.

How can we enhance the collaboration between maintenance engineering and service teams? How can we optimize the handover process from engineering to service?

It comes back to making sure that everyone's within that digital thread and all of our perspectives are being met with a control point for how they would see that Bill of Material information. And just to reiterate for those who don’t know, the Bill of Material information is what gets sent to Creo.

Say for example, you’re a solar turbine company. You manufacture to order and then install onsite. You're installing it in the context of being able to perform maintenance. You need to know how much space a human needs between the wall and the equipment in order to change the oil. It’s important the feedback from installation, maintenance and service are captured and that all this feedback has somewhere to go so it gets fed into the system and factored in. This is a perfect example of the digital thread feeding observations from the end point of installation and service all the way back to engineering, so they can take service design considerations and iterate the product to make it better.

A network of Bill of Material views that include maintenance, engineering and service includes this type of collaboration, change management and control points - and the technology supports creating these different linked views to ensure everyone's part of that process and you’ve built your change to flow correctly.

What role does intellectual property (IP) play in this handover?

This is a good thing to think about when organizations are presenting more and more information out into the world. Certainly, an illustration created from CAD data would have a lot of intellectual property potential inside of it.

Each stage in your process of say, bringing in CAD data to the illustration tool or publishing your illustration for somebody to consume, you would want to think about what is useful, say for an illustrator to reference. Perhaps it's edges or points on the 3D data that they would use to build their illustrations, but perhaps when you deliver that, you want to remove a specific piece of intellectual property. The attributes or 3D surfaces could be smoothed out or removed so that somebody looking at that, even if it's a 3D illustration, are just getting essentially a picture, rather than the detailed CAD model where the data started.

It's important to think through who is going to be accessing this and then what you want them to have them have access to. Likewise, it’s also possible to do this the other way as well. For example, if you're working with suppliers, or you are the supplier, perhaps then you do send that fully modelled information, inclusive of the intellectual property, because that could be part of the agreement or contract for supplying that information.

Find out more about 3D technical illustrations

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Tags: CAD Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Creo Digital Thread Engineering Collaboration Windchill Field Service BOM Management

About the Author

Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson graduated from Geneva College as a mechanical engineering. He has worked with PTC for 10 years in a technical solutions consultant role. Scott focuses on illustration creation, technical documentation, BOM management and transformation, and service parts catalog delivery. He supports the digital thread for end-to-end creation, management, and delivery of critical information linked to the original sources.