PLM forges link between OEMs, contract manufacturers

Is product life-cycle management (PLM) software one of the most underrated enterprise applications available to manufacturers? So says PLM vendor Arena Solutions, which conducted a survey with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Symphony Consulting to assess the challenges of manufacturing outsourcing and associated best practices.

11/01/2007


Is product life-cycle management (PLM) software one of the most underrated enterprise applications available to manufacturers?

So says PLM vendor Arena Solutions , which conducted a survey with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Symphony Consulting to assess the challenges of manufacturing outsourcing and associated best practices.

The survey confirms widespread use of inadequate processes and controls, including phone, fax, and email with spreadsheet attachments to handle new product introductions, and communicate product changes across organizational and geographic boundaries. In fact, just over half of respondents suffered hard dollar losses due to communication and documentation errors, including rework, scrapped inventory, excess materials, and product recalls.

Further, only 32 percent use PLM as a “shared information infrastructure” to manage product and process information, and share it with their contract manufacturers. That same 32 percent report fewer outsourcing problems than did companies relying on manual processes.

According to Mark Holman, senior VP of operations for Arena Solutions, there are three reasons for the slow PLM adoption rate. First is the perception that it's expensive, because companies hear about some multimillion-dollar projects. “Second, many companies are challenged [by] imagining how to implement it,” states Holman, and third, many companies are unaware of what a PLM solution can do for them—and their manufacturing partners.

“We help them realize that it is affordable, it is relatively easy to deploy, and it can provide a lot of benefits,” continues Holman. “For example, the only thing users need to access our PLM solution is a browser.”



Omnify’s PLM system establishes a single environment for creating and changing product information, and enabling vital product data to be easily shared manufacturer and customer.

One satisfied PLM user is Manchester, N.H.-based Intelligent Manufacturing Solutions (IMS), an electronics manufacturing services provider. IMS uses a solution from Omnify Software , which provides PLM software for electronic, medical, mechanical, and defense manufacturers.

Facing competitive pressures both domestically and overseas, IMS wanted to provide the highest level of service to its customers by creating a streamlined communication and collaboration process with its OEM customers, allowing it to become a true extension of its customers' product development teams.

“Our customers are moderate-volume OEMs,” explains Shannon Ryan Aubin, a manager with IMS. “Many of them are start-ups. One thing they have in common is limited bandwidth.” IMS adds values for its customers by enhancing bandwidth for them. “We do this using PLM software,” says Aubin. “PLM allows us to interact much more effectively with our customers.”

Omnify PLM establishes a single environment for creating and changing product information, and enabling product data to be easily shared between IMS and its customers. This leads to seamless, immediate communication between the OEM engineering community and IMS. When both the customer and IMS leverage PLM, IMS is able to participate, at the sourcing level, in preliminary bill-of-material reviews, new parts requests, and engineering change order workflows.

“With PLM, we get immediate notifications from OEMs,” says Aubin. “In fact, we learn about events the same time as people within the OEM itself are notified.”

Holman offers a recommendation to companies considering PLM.

“Make sure you fully evaluate the software you plan to deploy against the uses you have in mind,” he states. “If you want to use PLM as a key interface between your company and your suppliers, experiment with vendors' software first to make sure you can actually implement it—before you make the purchase.”





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