Whether you’re a design engineer, manufacturing engineer, project manager or a technical publications proofreader, it’s critical that you effectively coordinate and collaborate with other departments — and possibly other organizations. From design outsourcing to change management, you’ll likely need to adhere to various product development procedures and processes that your company has established. Having the ability to smoothly and effectively participate in such processes is critical to creating a successful, top-notch product.
“Many companies look at the product-development world as a set of business processes,” says Michael Distler, PTC’s Windchill Product Marketing Director. “At a high level, the emphasis is on completing a set of value-added activities, regardless of geographic or organizational boundaries. It’s all about what steps do I need to complete in order to get this product from concept to market. But to effectively accomplish this takes the right technology, and that’s where Windchill 9.0 comes in.”
Starting with the business challenges. Look at the typical business challenges for today’s product development companies. New products and product modifications come faster than ever before. Products are typically more complex, yet they are expected to be of higher quality. Design teams are geographically dispersed, with designers having to work with manufacturing engineers who are 10,000 miles away. Added to all of this is the constant pressure to keep costs low.
Well-managed product development processes can help both you and your company meet these demands. Here’s a look at how Windchill 9.0 can help manage six of today’s most critical product-development business processes.
Detailed design. Defining and documenting the specific details of exactly how a product will look and function, detailed design is challenged by the growing complexities of products and design teams. “Look at a typical cell phone,” Distler says. “It’s full of design challenges — trying to stuff more and more functionality into a smaller space, while still striving to beat your competitor on price and delivery time.”
As a design engineer, chances are you have to work with large data sets and collaborate with third-party resources. You’re part of a design team that’s collaborating across multiple time zones, and your teammates are likely to be using CAD tools with diverse data formats.
Windchill 9.0 supports this complex detailed design process by enabling all CAD users — Pro/ENGINEER or other CAD applications — to efficiently manage and collaborate on their CAD designs. For instance, the Pro/ENGINEER data management capabilities of Windchill 9.0 include the ability to make unlimited copies of assembly structures within your workspace. This allows you to investigate alternatives before having to commit a new design to the server. And, for users of other CAD systems like SolidWorks, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor or CATIA, for example, Windchill 9.0 offers a common user interface — based on the Pro/ENGINEER UI — that works across all applications, regardless of vendor. So if an engineer understands how to manage Pro/ENGINEER data, they now know how to manipulate any set of MCAD data; a significant productivity improvement.
Design outsourcing. Most companies perform some version of outsourcing; that is, offloading certain responsibilities to third-party suppliers. For example, a cell phone company might outsource the camera optics and audio subsystem. This means that communication and coordination between the cell phone designer and the remotely located outsourcing partner is critical. To succeed, you’ve got to be good at ramping up new partners, synchronizing design changes across remote locations, and efficiently sharing high volumes of data across a WAN (Wide-Area Network).
To address these challenges, Windchill gives organizations network-savvy data libraries with robust organization tools and role-based interfaces to facilitate fully secure design-team access to your internal data. Also,”smart” content-replication features in Windchill 9.0 optimize performance and help minimize network bandwidth demands.
Variant design and generation. In today’s market there’s increasing pressure to produce products that are more personalized. For instance, large retailers may insist manufacturers make subtle product modifications to create a “unique” brand for them. Or, with the move toward global product marketing, a product may have to be slightly changed to better appeal to different regions of the world — marketing to Japan, for instance, might carry different requirements than marketing to the United States.
For you, variant design and generation means more and more product configurations and thus a proliferation of product designs that need to be created, validated and maintained. Thus, for any new product, the desire is to first define a generic platform that’s not customer-specific, and then later develop variant designs for each customer that’s based on the generic platform.
Windchill 9.0 simplifies this whole process by making it easier to develop generic and variant structures. One can first model generic products, then capture fine-grained product rules and constraints which are applied on an option-by-option basis to generate customer-specific product variants.
Manufacturing process management. Developing and managing the steps required to make the parts, build the assemblies, and perform inspection for a given product can be quite challenging for the manufacturing engineering group. In many organizations, this process is not coordinated with design engineering, plus, the manufacturing information may reside in various formats and repositories — causing wasted time and budget overruns that undermine the success of the product and the organization.
Windchill 9.0 gives manufacturing engineers a development and management environment that closely links manufacturing to design engineering, letting manufacturing engineers work concurrently with the design team to fully develop associative manufacturing Bills of Materials (mBOMs) even before the design is finished.
Change and configuration management. Making a change to a product is often a multiple step process that includes a change proposal, analysis, planning, and implementation. Often times, each step must be fully reviewed and approved before the next step can proceed. If not effectively managed, the sequential nature of change processing can prove a significant waste of time. According to some analysts, processing changes can increase product development time by as much as 33 percent, a number that is likely to grow as pressures for higher-quality products, delivered faster and at less cost, continue to mount.
“The review process is critical,” Distler says. “It used to be that you could walk down the hall to your boss’s office, show him the design, and get a quick ‘go ahead.’ Now you could be in Europe, but your boss is in the US, and company and/or government regulations require more than a handshake — you need a formal audit trail for all reviews and approvals. But you’re still trying to get this change done as fast as possible.”
The new Windchill 9.0 supports this process in a number of ways. It improves change-process flexibility by allowing you to bypass a Change Request for situations that warrant this. It now lets you control and trace any modifications made to the change management objects. And it streamlines the user interface and the processes related to managing changes and configuring product structures.
Technical publications. Just as design engineering is challenged by more complex products, increased demand for variations and changes, and geographically diverse design teams, documentation and other technical publications suffer from the same circumstances. Technical documentation needs to be quickly and accurately developed as well as closely coordinated with the product design.
Windchill 9.0 supports technical publications through close integration with the entire product development process, and by letting organizations collaboratively author, manage, publish and deliver personalized publications from a single-content source. Building on the existing integration between Windchill PDMLink and Arbortext, using Windchill 9.0, you can now integrate technical publications with product development projects. This improvement allows you to more effectively collaborate on and manage technical publications project schedules and activities.
All product development processes are important. “A company that does five processes well, but let’s up on one, is bound to suffer”, says Distler. “For example, lets’ say you bought a product and couldn’t install it because the documentation was incorrect. Regardless of how well-designed the product is, if the company’s technical publication process is so poor that the product manuals are unusable, chances are you will never buy from that company again.”
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