A hefty dose of supply chain apps extend PLM from concept creation to service and maintenance

The merging of the virtual world of product design and the physical realm of the shop floor remains a hot topic in manufacturing circles, with several high-profile deals leading some analysts to declare the official start of the digital manufacturing era. Others speculate that product life-cycle management (PLM) as we know it will cease to exist, as software providers are subsumed by ERP or fac...

07/01/2007


The merging of the virtual world of product design and the physical realm of the shop floor remains a hot topic in manufacturing circles, with several high-profile deals leading some analysts to declare the official start of the digital manufacturing era. Others speculate that product life-cycle management (PLM) as we know it will cease to exist, as software providers are subsumed by ERP or factory automation companies.

Meanwhile, Paris-based Dassault Systemes retained its leadership position with a 20-percent market share in digital manufacturing and the top spot in a 2006 survey of comprehensive PLM companies by Ann Arbor, Mich.-based CIMdata . Dassault ranked first in direct and mindshare PLM revenues.

“Digital manufacturing remains our focus as a company because it offers the strongest ROI, particularly in aerospace, automotive, and shipbuilding,” says Phillipe Forstier, an executive VP with Dassault.

In Dassault's view, digital manufacturing is an essential part of a PLM process extending from concept creation and prototyping through manufacturing to service and maintenance. Dassault has the product set to match this vision.

The DELMIA V5 platform offers tools for design and simulation of manufacturing processes, tools and fixtures, and production systems. DELMIA works with the CATIA product authoring applications, and SmarTeam for cross-domain collaboration—with ENOVIA providing the backbone for all of the tools.

Portfolio aside, Forstier believes discussions about digital manufacturing should begin with organizational transformation. “Companies must be ready for this new world, where manufacturing comes into the design process much earlier than before,” he says. C-level executives must participate in breaking down the walls of these domains before new technology goes in. “That's the way to drive up the ROI,” Forstier adds.

As for recent changes in the market landscape, Dassault welcomes “healthy competition” from the UGS-Siemens merger. “This deal validates that demand for digital manufacturing is strong,” says Forstier. “It's not good to be in a market alone.”

Of course, Dassault made considerable news of its own in 2006 when it acquired rival MatrixOne for $408 million, extending Dassault's PLM suite to include supply chain applications. Alleged rifts in Dassault's 25-year partnership with IBM also generated a good deal of industry buzz, though Forstier insists both parties are committed. IBM no longer distributes Dassault products in the small and midsize enterprise (SME) market, but instead focuses on specific solutions for large accounts.

While Dassault is well known for its high-profile clients—e.g., Boeing, Bombardier, and Toyota's Formula One racing team—roughly half its business comes from SMEs, proving out that digital manufacturing delivers as much value for small companies with complex products as it does for global giants.

For instance, the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) uses the parametric modeling capabilities of CATIA V5 to generate, test, and refine its design of coins and tokens. RCM's engineers modify the thickness of coatings by a few microns, and the steel core of the coin automatically expands to maintain the correct weight. Managing such changes in 2D environments is much more laborious. RCM's PLM platform integrates ENOVIA SmarTeam and a Microsoft SQL Server database to automate quoting and product development workflows across 18 people and six departments.





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