Journey into life management

Tom Shelley travels to Texas where he finds Product Lifecycle Management (PDM) is finally reaching its intended destination

. The ultimate integration of all CAD, CAM and product information management functions, which has been designated Product Lifestyle Management, seems to have finally crossed the border from hope to reality. Whereas a year ago, major companies were talking about their ‘working towards’ the integration of all their engineering-related systems, there are now those who claim they have achieved it. Nobody is saying it is easy. In the words of Tony Affuso, president of EDS PLM Solutions: “PLM is not for the fainthearted. It takes a lot of work.” But what they are saying is that it is achievable, and that it is well worth doing. The occasion was the EDS annual forum on the subject, held this year at the company’s corporate headquarters in Plano, Texas. And there was as always a the noticeable gap between the claims of salespeople: that a company could integrate all their functions in 90 days: and the experience of customers, who seem typically to have needed around 20 months. This meant that customer stories were a little dated, since they referred to the successful implementations of SDRC I-Deas, Metaphase, Unigraphics and I-Man, whereas EDS has been working hard to bring all these products together under one roof under new names. Hence the name NX, representing the NeXt generation CAD technology that will ultimately replace I-Deas, Unigraphics and Teamcenter as the name for the data management and collaboration software that under the designations of Metaphase, I-Man and other modules currently cement everything together. The latest product releases available are I-Deas 9, Unigraphics 18, i-Man 7, e-Vis 4.1, Teamcentre Enterprise 2.0 and Solid Edge 12. Packaged solutions have been developed for aerospace and defence, automotive suppliers, and high tech electronics, while ‘Near term’ packaged solutions are being prepared for: consumer packaged goods, marine and naval and after markets. While the work required for a full implementation should not be underestimated, the cost of the basic ‘bricks and mortar’ is surprisingly modest. “A small business can start building PLM with a single seat of Solid Edge and one of e-Vis,” says Tony Affuso. “On the other hand, a larger company might have 200 seats of CAD, 500 seats of Teamcentre Enterprise, 250 seats of e-Vis and 100 seats of manufacturing simulation software for a total software cost of around $10 million or an average of $10,000 per seat.” Affuso describes implementing PLM as ‘a journey’, but points out that the advantage of using an integrated IT approach is that digital data is only entered once. And there is a single 3D model associated with all relevant information from marketing concept through detailed design and manufacturing to disposal and recycling. The objective is to eliminate mistakes, make relevant information available to everyone who needs to see it, save time and reduce paperwork. Nobody at the forum claimed to have a truly ‘paperless office’. Kathy Evans of Goodrich Aerostructures, for example, says that her company still has to print out documents to be signed off in their business of supplying kits of parts for aerospace. The PLM solution adopted also involved Catia for CAD and SAP as well as Metaphase 3.2 for the PDM. Deployment included the need to incorporate the management of engineering reports up to 10,000 pages long. Having to work with systems supplied by competitors is far from unusual. One questioner asked Dick Brown, chief executive officer of EDS: “Are you willing to work with evil competitors?” His response was blunt and to the point. “You won’t stay in business unless you do what your clients want.” William Carrelli, president of business strategy and marketing, described the present stage of business as ‘co-opetition’ and specifically mentioned agreements with PTC and Autodesk. Customers were coy about exact cost and time savings, but Johannes Schaede, vice president, engineering for German printing machine maker Koenig and Bauer, mentioned a 32% time saving in one design projects. He cited figures of 65 hours for design using 2D CAD, plus 404 hours to produce derivative drawings and bills of materials, compared with 106 hours using 3D CAD but requiring only 21 hours to produce derivative data. He warned that users should tread carefully when choosing their PLM system because “with PLM you can’t install a system and try another. The terms of divorce are even more disastrous than in private life.” Koenig and Bauer opted for Unigraphics and I-Man. Arno De Taeye, general manager Hardside Samsonite Europe described how the use of Unigraphics, I-Man, e-Vis, and Net Meeting has allowed Samsonite to quickly combine a case body designed in Germany, a handle designed in Oudenaarde in Belgium, and a hook designed and made in the Far East. The product is the company’s new ‘Hardlite’ business case for portable PCs, which has a hard frame and soft side panels. It has to be capable of being opened out flat on a desk but limited to a 30º opening if held on the shoulder. De Taeye said Samsonite had a particular problem inasmuch as the company had many competitors, with it being said that some of those in China regarded copyright as ‘the right to copy’. But thanks to Samsonite’s ability to use its software to collaborate across the world, he claimed the company had achieved: “simultaneous design anywhere, simultaneously changeable with PCM change management.” This, he added, formed part of a ‘glocal’ company policy, which was explained as being “global and possible and as local as needed”. Underlying all the EDS design-related products is the Parasolid modelling kernel, invented in Cambridge University more than 20 years ago in a process begun by Ian Baird, a graduate student there when he wrote a thesis on B-Rep solid modelling. One of the most interesting recent enhancements to the Unigraphics CAD element to make use of Parasolid is a new module to capture 2D concept design sketches. A demonstration at the forum showed how a just-into-production Matsushita (Panasonic) video camera had begun life started as an artistic, shaded 2D plan and elevation drawings, which were captured and mounted orthogonally These were then pulled into shape to form the sides, top and bottom and ends of the enclosure. Eureka had previously seen a similar demonstration with Catia, capturing the somewhat less complicated shape of a mobile telephone. This seems to be one of the leading edge areas of CAD development, with the eventual goal of capturing 3D perspective sketches without losing any of the concept designer’s intent. EDS Pointer: • Fully integrated Product Life Management is a major investment in time and effort but, if properly implemented, can be well worth it