PLM system improves management of product info
Omnify’s Empower PLM software smoothes integration with ERP and engineering tools for better data quality.
Genetec Inc. had a bit of a problem with its open-source product lifecycle management (PLM) system.
The provider of IP video surveillance, access control and licence plate recognition (LPR) technologies for various markets implemented a system to replace the use of spreadsheets to manage product information. It did improve some of the processes in its electronics manufacturing environment, but minimum functionalities such as reference designators, redlining, bill of material (BOM) compare, and importing capabilities required customization. The time spent by software designers to customize the tool was extensive and counterproductive.
It was important for the Montreal manufacturer to catch product documentation problems before production and to have a complete history of the changes for accountability. It needed a PLM system that delivered robust, out-of-the-box functionality including: electronic management of part data, engineering changes, BOMs, and product documentation that didn’t require customization. The system also had to be easily integrated with existing engineering design tools (Altium Designer and SolidWorks) and interface with the ERP system (MS Dynamics).
This led Genetec to Omnify Software, a PLM provider based in Tewksbury, Mass.
The primary goal of Omnify’s Empower PLM was to fill the voids of previous tools to make engineering processes, such as new part creation, completely automated and more formal. “Previously, MCOs/ECOs were processed in Excel, even while using the old PLM system, because it did not provide redlining functionality to visualize the details of product changes,” says Danny Roy, Genetec’s hardware development manager.
Another goal was to improve the visibility of hardware product changes across the organization. This process was mature and well in place for software, but not for hardware.
Empower PLM allows Genetec to automatically notify appropriate parties of the intended changes and when they are released.
“We already see the benefits with this aspect of the tool and … we still have plans to make use of task assignment features and giving viewing abilities to other groups to continuously improve the awareness across the organization and foster team communication.”
With Altium Designer, electronics designers browse existing parts inside the Empower database directly from within their Altium environment. This promotes team collaboration by enforcing official library management for part symbols/footprints. Designers quickly determine if they need to create a new part, and then get immediate access to it in Altium during the approval process. Thanks to the pre-configured mapping, BOMs are exported from Altium and imported into Empower PLM easily and quickly. When a schematic is modified, an engineering change order (ECO) is issued directly from a new BOM out of Altium and redlining on the existing products is automatically generated.
Roy says the loop is closed and efficient. “Omnify feeds Altium with parts, Altium feeds Omnify with design/assembly information such as BOMs and drawings and then Omnify confirms visually any change that was implemented in Altium at the schematics level.”
The process is similar with SolidWorks, except parts are not browsed directly from within its environment, but performed via a BOM export/import and accurate field mapping.
Genetec planned to reach full integration by using the Omnify CAD toolkit, which allows SolidWorks to push a BOM directly into Omnify.
“Since the highest level BOM in the hierarchy is a mechanical assembly for most of our products, SolidWorks has control over the final end-assembly details through its native PDM vault for progressive versioning during development, and once the design is ready to release to production, SolidWorks pushes this official released version (assembly) to Omnify and makes manufacturing documentation available to the NPI/production group,” Roy explains.
Applying Empower PLM has increased productivity with notable improvements in data quality and time savings that have allowed Genetec to transition to a completely automated system for managing product documentation and changes, eliminating the need to partially manage processes in Excel spreadsheets. This environment removed the data integrity issues commonly associated with entering information by hand.
For the engineering group, the more formal and thorough part creation process addresses issues early on. Parts are verified via an automated approval process before they’re released and propagated to outside sub-contractors. Communications between the NPI/production group and engineering group has improved, with guided workflow approvals and easier traceability of product versions.
Eliminating the need to customize the system or perform partially manual processes has saved the company a significant amount of time and money. A design engineer now imports a large BOM (electronic board or mechanical assembly) into Empower PLM easily and within seconds rather than the item-by-item cut and paste of the previous system. And the software compares BOMs between different, but similar flavours of the product to quickly confirm correct implementation of the new product version.
“Overall we executed close to ninety changes over the course of nine months and I could not imagine performing those changes via manual formatting in Excel,” says Roy.
Productivity is improved with the fully automated system, data quality is better, as is communication. Genetec is calling its PLM issue resolved.
This is an edited version of an article provided by Omnify Software, a PLM solutions provider based in Tewksbury, Mass.
This articles appears in the May/June 2014 issue of PLANT.