As any design engineer knows, “release to manufacturing” is a misnomer. While the term suggests a definitive transfer of design to production, the fact is, this hand-off doesn’t happen without a good deal of back-and-forth between design and manufacturing organizations. With each exchange, opportunities for errors and miscommunication can ultimately lead to major production delays.
Been there, done that. The release to manufacturing dance has always existed. In fact, nearly 70% of products are redesigned after reaching production. Why? Because requirements change. Designs evolve. Availability tightens. Components fail. Stuff happens.
And this is where problems can ensue, because design and manufacturing are, literally, not on the same page. Manufacturing works with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system designed for transactional activities such as managing inventory and costs, while design works with a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system optimized for the collaborative design processes and control of design engineering data. If these two systems worked together, the release to manufacturing would run smoothly. But usually they don’t. The result is significant product delays, cost increases, and product quality issues.
The missing link. But now there is no longer a missing link between manufacturing ERP and design PLM. It’s called Windchill Enterprise Systems Integration (ESI) from PTC. This add-on module to Windchill PDMLink — PTC’s powerful and simple Web-based product data management solution — links ERP and PLM systems by connecting Windchill PDMLink information to the rest of the enterprise. With the bi-directional integration found in Windchill ESI, your PLM system can share the engineering bill of material (BOM) and your ERP system can manage the manufacturing BOM. Everyone in your enterprise can operate with the most current information and make well-informed decisions.
Release to manufacturing, before and after Windchill ESI. To illustrate the difference that Windchill ESI can make in your release to manufacturing process, consider this scenario:
On a new handheld global positioning device, the battery cover is causing interference. The manufacturing engineer wants to change the cover.
The old way: The manufacturing engineer notifies the design engineer via phone, email, or fax.
The Windchill way: The manufacturing engineer reports the issue by opening a problem report in Windchill PDMLink.
To assess the feasibility, alternatives, and costs of the change and determine a course of action, the design engineer needs to aggregate support data from various sources.
The old way: He pulls out his supplier parts catalog or logs into a separate database to look for battery cover alternatives. To determine which one to use, he calls all affected plants to determine their quantities on hand and associated costs. But the manufacturing engineer at one of the plants is on vacation, so the design engineer must move forward with “best guess” information.
The Windchill way: He checks the standard component list in Windchill and finds three alternate covers. To determine which one to use, he checks the component details page for manufacturing quantity on hand and costs for each cover. He finds the best option and documents it in the change request.
What about the units already built? How many are there? Should they be scrapped or modified?
The old way: The design engineer doesn’t have manufacturing’s inventory information, so he can’t make this determination. So he puts together the change package that may or may not have the lowest cost or highest quality.
The Windchill way: The design engineer views the product details page of Windchill PDMLink to check manufacturing’s work in process for the GPS unit. Only 10 units have been built with the problematic battery cover, so he notes that existing stock should be scrapped, and adds this cost to the estimate for the change.
With the change package completed, the request is ready to be sent to the administrator and change board for review.
The old way: The design engineer sends the change package to an administrator, who schedules the change for review by the change board. After approval, a team of administrators takes the change details from design’s PLM system and enters them — by hand — into manufacturing’s ERP system. A clerical error is made, which won’t be caught until after parts are built.
Then, another snag. The vacationing manufacturing engineer returns and notifies the design engineer that the selected replacement battery cover isn’t stocked at his plant. Now, either the design must be changed again or the plant will be forced to carry stock for the new cover. The net result is that the change is delayed, and costs are higher than expected.
The Windchill way: The change proceeds to the change board, with the lowest cost and highest quality alternatives incorporated. It’s approved, then implemented, with change details automatically transferred from Windchill PDMLink to the ERP system, where manufacturing personnel can use the information to plan for production, order new parts, and more. The change is implemented without incident.
By automating the release to manufacturing process, Windchill ESI, in conjunction with Windchill PDMLink, reduces the amount of manual work typically required. Now design and manufacturing engineers can finally work in concert to efficiently manage changes in the engineering process.
· More Windchill ESI product information
· White paper: Connecting PLM to ERP and other Enterprise Systems With Windchill ESI