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A PLM Approach To Managing Change

Tue, 08/26/2008 - 12:00pm
Albert Bunshaft, Vice President, IBM PLM Solutions

Today’s CEOs face multiple issues, but their primary concern is driving growth in a rapidly changing globally integrated enterprise.  Supply chains are becoming leaner and greener, and companies continue to search for ways to remove cost and waste from existing processes. 

Manufacturers have used the latest technologies, such as three dimensional design, simulation and testing, along with collaboration and systems management tools to foster international collaboration.  And as customers are becoming more sophisticated and demanding about product features, companies must institute additional business processes to deal with change in a product's value chain.

Manufacturers must keep pace with competitors and anticipate and manage that change on a daily basis.  When IBM conducted a study of more than 1,200 CEOs around the world over the last 12 months, the results showed a surprising level of optimism about change as an opportunity to build new competitive advantages.

Overall, 83 percent of CEOs surveyed expect substantial change in the near future, yet those same CEOs think their ability to effectively manage change is progressing at a far slower pace.

It’s no surprise that CEOs view technological advances as instrumental in achieving their desired business results. Companies in a broad range of industries -- from traditional, engineering-driven fields like automotive and aerospace, to emerging industries including apparel and consumer goods -- are focused on deploying product lifecycle management (PLM) strategies across the enterprise.

By taking an overarching look at their existing processes and identifying areas for improvement, many organizations are realizing valuable gains in efficiency from embracing change and expanding their PLM footprint.

Efficiency Takes Flight

In a bold move, Bombardier Aerospace committed to a new aircraft program that reduced the time it took to get the planes from the design board to the tarmac by two full years.  In order to accomplish this aggressive goal, Bombardier deployed a PLM suite across its global design and manufacturing network.

The plane system’s components included interactive 3-D modeling, software that enabled sharing of information across globally dispersed teams, and middleware to integrate the PLM solution with Bombardier’s existing ERP systems.

The PLM solution allowed Bombardier engineers to re-use parts and assemblies from other aircraft programs to quickly jump start projects and reduce overall manufacturing time.  The engineers were also able to track and manage design changes from around the world, avoiding costly errors and the need to rework designs.

This streamlined PLM strategy helped Bombardier revolutionize its design and manufacturing processes, shortening the overall cycle and strengthening the company’s ability to meet strict customer delivery deadlines.

The first product of the new PLM solution was the CRJ1000 aircraft, launched in 2007. A brand new wing design was created and the time required to machine new parts for the CRJ1000 was reduced by 40 percent.

A New Approach to Integration

The fine-tuning of business processes speeds the delivery of and improves the products we rely upon daily.  Service-oriented architecture (SOA) helps technology deployments much like the assembly line changed automobile production.  Business processes are broken down into individual services that can be re-used across different business applications. A single and common infrastructure based on industry open standards allows companies to cost-effectively share data and integrate processes across its value chain.

In the PLM world, this means bringing products to market faster, improving overall product quality and facilitating a dialogue between a global design and manufacturing team.

Luxury ship maker Meyer Werft’s passenger and cruise vessels are highly specialized, large-scale projects that require consistent and integrated communication between the company’s shipyard engineering and production departments. When dealing with millions of dollars and hundreds of tons of steel, even the smallest changes can have a significant effect on the manufacturing process.

In order to redesign its approach for developing and integrating its applications, Meyer Werft worked with consultants who analyzed the business situation and created a customized PLM solution that could better handle the impact of engineering changes on the manufacturing process. The solution uses a SOA approach that allows Meyer Werft to be more flexible across its entire IT landscape, from design to production.

SOA has helped Meyer Werft realize an increase in data efficiency, and a substantial improvement in worker productivity and in the quality of the shipyard’s manufacturing scheduling process. The SOA-based PLM architecture lets Meyer Werft use a customized approach based upon the specific needs of each area within the design and manufacturing process.

As a result of this flexibility and increased efficiency, the company anticipates further development of new applications through targeted reuse, which in turn will continue to reduce overall IT costs.

Enterprises that accept change as a permanent state in their organization are more likely to realize success through greater efficiency and valuable business gains. As client preferences and business circumstances evolve, companies require a flexible technology environment to welcome change and then take a fresh look at the way they design, innovate and manufacture future products.

Al Bunshaft is vice president of IBM Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Solutions. IBM conducted a study of more than 1,000 CEOs as part of its “The Enterprise of the Future” bi-annual research project in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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