The Practical PLM Newsletter - Issue 13, June 2017

Practical PLM Newsletter - Issue 13
"Pursuing The Promise of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)"

In this Issue

  • Featured Article - Quoting & Execution for Auto Suppliers - Part 2 of 3
  • Business of Engineering - Innovator, an Application Development Platform
  • In the Lab - Component/Parts Catalog Solution
  • Events - Aras Innovator Demo Series: Systems Engineering with Aras MBSE Integration
Empowering Quoting and Program Execution for Automotive Suppliers

Featured Article

Empowering Quoting and Program Execution for Automotive Suppliers - Part 2 of 3

This article is part 2 of a 3-part series.  Here's a link to Part 1.

Creating a Foundation of Success

Many automotive suppliers are heavily invested in legacy point solutions to support activities across the enterprise.  While these point solutions usually work well at performing a specific function, they often create silos that impede coordination.  Activities like a simple quote revision or a routine advanced product quality planning (APQP) corrective action can be cumbersome and error-prone.  These islands of data create a range of problems that can be broadly grouped into three categories: data, process, and people. 

  1. Data – data related challenges can manifest as duplicated information, a lack of reusable data, and limited access to timely information.
  2. Process – controlling change is critical in complex and fast changing environments. Ensuring business rules and workflows are adhered-to helps avoid corrective actions, minimizes waste and scrap, and encourages multidisciplinary decision-making. 
  3. People – how often are emails used to send sensitive OEM requirements? Balancing data security with the need for effective collaboration is critical so OEM data is not compromised. Ultimately, How can all the stakeholders contribute to winning business and executing?

Creating a foundation for success requires that the challenges related to data, process, and people are addressed.  But before diving into these issues, it’s important to understand an underlying principle that will ensure success when tackling these issues.

A Platform-Based Approach

How should automotive suppliers respond?  Many automotive suppliers have tried replacing or updating legacy systems, but all too often, the process is disruptive to end users and costs are prohibitive. Adding another one-off solution or connector between silos usually doesn’t work either and only amplifies the problem.  In actuality, most suppliers already have the right tools and solutions in place!

These tools, however, lack the underlying connectivity to keep the data, processes, and people in sync. Improving connectivity is the central value that informs a platform-based technology strategy.  The preoccupation with improving, fixing, adding, removing, or consolidating a specific solution is a secondary concern.

“Improving overall connectivity is the primary concern. The common preoccupation with improving, adding, removing, fixing, or upgrading a legacy solution is a secondary concern.” 


CIMdata, an analyst organization specializing in the product lifecycle management industry, recently suggested, “… companies need a platform and technology that can fill the large process gaps by managing workflows and capturing data while connecting and coordinating existing data silos.”  They further assert, “companies get stuck with their legacy systems and solutions, which in turn impairs their abilities to respond to these challenges.”

 Next-Generation Product Lifecycle Management Platforms


Today, the leading automotive suppliers and industrial manufactures are looking to product lifecycle management (PLM) to fuel platform-based digital transformation. Modern PLM has come a long way from its origins in engineering and product data management. Figure 4 illustrates a high-level model of how next-generation PLM solutions are playing a role in connecting the enterprise.

Figure 4 - The Evolving Role of PLM in the Enterprise Software Mix


Solutions and applications that operate against a PLM platform are claiming an ever-increasing slice of the enterprise software mix; not because PLM is replacing existing solutions, but rather connecting the organization’s technology silos.  Figure 5 looks at this trend from a different angle and highlights the horizontal nature of PLM’s growth from engineering in the 1990s into sales, manufacturing, and even services/support today.

Figure 5 – Comparison of Enterprise Software Usage for Industrial Manufactures Across the Product Lifecycle

Click Image to Expand

John Sperling, the PLM product manager at Aras Innovator, was an early advocate of this platform-based approach.  He articulated it well during a 2012 industry event saying “… tomorrow’s [PLM] solutions will be platforms, not stand along applications.  These platforms must provide the building blocks for applications and the connective frameworks that synchronize a company’s data and processes.”  He goes on to say, “for a long time, the idea of digital transformation seemed unattainable, too disruptive, and expensive. [A] PLM platform, however, is the ideal approach to incremental and low-risk digital transformation.  The era of monolithic, rip and replace implementations is over.”

The high-level architecture of a modern PLM platform is illustrated in Figure 6. The platform is comprised of three components while the core framework, functionality, and business solutions operate between the data integrated applications. In contrast, legacy PLM solutions have a product data management (PDM) paradigm where the data and integrated application run as a monolithic service.  “Connectivity” is often an afterthought.  Next-generation PLM platforms are designed from the ground-up to enhance connectivity while supporting the ecosystem and building blocks for strategic applications such as quality management, APQP, and NPI for example.
Figure 6 – High-Level Architecture of a Modern PLM Platform


It’s finally possible to synchronize the data, processes, and people across the organization.  And in turn creating a "single source of truth” for product information, establishing repeatable processes, and supporting real-time collaboration. To win business and effectively execute programs on time and within budget it is critical that automotive suppliers consider the benefits of a PLM platform.

Data Cohesion

Flexible data models are central to platform-based PLM. Figure 7 illustrates how data and item connectivity should be modeled in industrial manufacturing or automotive supplier environments.  Each circle and rectangle represents information silos while lines represent relationships supported by the PLM platform. Connecting these silos promote better management, visibility, and data reuse.

Figure 7 - Data & Item Connectivity within a PLM Platform


Click Image to Expand

Given that these data sources are connected and related, users and business applications can traverse the relationships and access data that corresponds to a program, quote, part, etc.
In this example, the part/assembly is exploded to highlight its attributes such as purchase costs, required tools, and labor. These attributes are single instances and can be accessed by other items through their connected relationship.  Thus, various calculations and analyses can be readily achieved such as the impact of change on a quote, labor requirements, etc.  The exploded view of manufacturing process planning (MPP) illustrates how it’s definition and properties can be referenced from the part/assembly among others.  This referenced-based definition would be true of any application running on top of a cohesive data model – such as APQP, change management, quotation, etc. 


A cohesive data model helps minimize data reentry, creates where-used relationships, and lays the ground work for better workflow and process management.  This means less data entry mistakes and duplication, improved searching, and processes that operate with confidence referring to a single instance. But, perhaps the most important benefit is the ability to reuse data.
To illustrate the possibilities of data reuse, advanced product quality planning (APQP) is a perfect place to start. The nature of the APQP process is to collect, analyze and assemble a broad range of data.  At a high level, the diagram below shows how data elements can be referenced and reused at different phases in the process.

FIGURE 8 - APQP Data Reuse Diagram


Click Image to Expand

Hence, maintaining selected data items in one place and then referencing them during other phases, drives significant efficiencies, eliminates duplication error, and improves visibility.  To extend this concept further, the properties and items defining this product, such as CAD files, for example, can be referenced by other programs.  Once this data model is in place, maintaining a true digital twin is not only feasible but relatively easy.

Please continue reading at the Practical PLM Blog here.

Business of Engineering

Aras Innovator as an Application Development Platform

Breaking away from the artificial constraints of PLM

By Martin van der Roest

Why have the likes of Airbus, GM, Microsoft and others leveraged Aras Innovator to displace or supplement traditional PLM solutions?  Simply stated, they have discovered that Aras Innovator is more than just PLM.  It’s an application development platform that also does PLM.  They have embraced a fundamental shift that is being heralded and delivered-on by Aras. 
For years, traditional PLM software vendors have told organizations what PLM is supposed to be.  PLM has become synonymous with expressions such as “big,” “monolithic,” “expensive,” and “time consuming.”  Based on antidotal conversations with end users, an observer might get the impression that these vendors have created a self-serving model. 

Lessons Learned
Without a doubt, core functionality such as managing parts, BOMs, content and media, change, requirements, etc. are crucial.  But after nearly two decades, we have enough “lessons learned” to parse out the net-net.  That is … without a platform that is well architected, flexible, scalable and upgradable, organizations will fail to achieve the desired results.  

Continue Reading Here

In the Lab

Component/Parts Catalog Solution

Leveraging the Power of Aras Innovator
We recently prototyped a components/parts catalog solution by leveraging the power of Aras Innovator.  The prototype empowers users to search, provide new part request options, support document linking to items such as material safety data sheets (MSDS), dynamically links to ERP data, and integrate with IHS’s parts catalog solution.  This was done in days, not weeks or months, and with software that doesn’t cost a cent.

There were three key capabilities of the Aras Innovator platform that made this possible.

  • classification structures with attribute inheritance
  • workflow capabilities
  • federated integrations

Without these application development underpinnings, we could easily have spent several more weeks doing development work.

Existing Options
There is no shortage of components/parts catalog solutions available.  Just browse the web and you’ll come across numerous standalone systems. Also, ERP vendors tout their capabilities to support this.  And of course, there are countless home-grown solutions.  So why use Aras Innovator?

For starters, standalone solutions are just that … standalone.  They perpetuate the islands of information that isolate data and spawn all the associated challenges.  Parts have to come from somewhere and typically follow a review and approval workflow.  Once approved, they are used during the engineering, quality, and manufacturing phases.  How do you do all that on an island?

ERP vendors will tell you their environment is the place to park the data.  Admittedly this is needed for purchasing, inventory (balance sheet), etc.  But when was the last time you saw a company open up their ERP environment to the enterprise so users could check on the status of a part?

And don’t get us started on the folks that choose to “roll their own.” That’s the theme of this newsletter.  As stated in the previous article, Aras Innovator provides an 80/20 framework.  Why be left trying to figure out how to handle security, release stages and life cycles, and in this case of the catalog solution, chase functionality to treat classification and attribute inheritance?  This doesn’t even address the issue of how to upgrade over time as requirements change.

Easy Prototype
What made this prototype effortless is that our team was able to focus on the solution, not on the application fundamentals, infrastructure and technology capabilities…

Continue Reading Here


Aras Innovator Demo Series: Systems Engineering with Aras MBSE Integration

August 3, 2017 @ 8:00am - 8:30am

What you'll learn:

Benefits of MBSE Integration

  • Persistent administration in an extended PLM and/or ALM System for MBSE artifacts
  • Integration of MBSE into the enterprise ECM (Engineering Change Management) and CM (Configuration Management) processes
  • Managed access control
  • Visualization of the MBSE artifacts
  • Data exchange in the early phase based on standard