Modern PDM/PLM and Engineering and Manufacturing Collaboration Challenges

Oleg Shilovitsky
Oleg Shilovitsky
4 July, 2022 | 7 min for reading
Modern PDM/PLM and Engineering and Manufacturing Collaboration Challenges

Collaboration can be a challenge in any organization, but when you’re working with data it can be even more difficult. Managing data properly is critical to the success of any business, so it’s important to find ways to work collaboratively and efficiently. But, with different tools and applications, and different ways of storing data, it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page. In this blog post, we will explore some of the challenges associated with data collaboration and discuss possible solutions. Stay tuned!

The benefits of collaboration

Product development and manufacturing is a team play. Staying connected and collaborating with multiple people is an essential part of successful product development and allows manufacturing companies to deliver project objectives at the right cost and on the right dates.

The collaborative engineering and manufacturing process is a foundation. It starts from the design processes which connects all team members responsible for multiple elements of the design processes- mechanical, electronics, and software. Later on, it depends on efficient communication with production planning and the procurement process. With modern supply chain issues, having timely information sharing to get long-lead items is crucial not to get later delays or get exposed to the higher cost. Availability of some components can be problematic, so providing this information to designers is an important part of the procurement feedback loop. If CM (contract manufacturing company) is involved then having CM’s earlier visibility is critical for success.

Collaboration Challenges

Unfortunately, the collaborative engineering process is hard to establish. Distributed nature of work, multiple locations, and old desktop tools together are a perfect reason why people have a hard time communicating, and have trouble with information sharing and working on the same information in a timely manner.

Files are shared randomly via multiple cloud drives (eg. Dropbox), a Bill of materials is shared via Excel and emails, companies don’t have a single source of truth about all components and related information, and working on a wrong Excel version can be a norm. As a result, you can expect nothing more than a complete disaster.

OpenBOM Cloud PDM and PLM – to overcome challenges

The way to prevent the problems is to have a system in place that will provide a single space to manage all your files, items, and bill of materials. Simple? Until very recently, these systems were complex and required lengthy installation and configuration processes, services, administration and to be honest, were not very affordable.

Also, even implemented, these systems were not tailored to work with multiple companies and users located everywhere in the world. The sharing was limited to a single company and access was limited to a local network.

OpenBOM multi-tenant SaaS applications are a game-changer. You can create your account in a minute, load files, collect data from your CAD design, import catalogs with prices and manage vendor lists to perform procurement planning and manage RFQs and POs. All in one OpenBOM Subscription, which is very affordable.

Tips for smoother collaboration

What can you do with OpenBOM to improve collaboration? Here are the first 3 tips you can start implementing immediately in a matter of minutes after you created an OpenBOM account and started a free trial. I recommend you to get an OpenBOM Company trial and also request an OpenBOM Drive trial.

Copy all files to OpenBOM Drive

Create a project folder on OpenBOM Drive and just drag and drop files there. Share it with all you need seamlessly. Everyone will get access to the same files and all revisions. No more zip files and emails. All changes are consolidated, and multiple people can work together without overriding each others changes.

Use one of the available CAD Add-ins to automatically create BOMs

OpenBOM is integrated with all CAD systems (both mechanical and electronics). Check for the list of integrations and downloads. Once the CAD add-in is installed, use the one-click BOM function to create a BOM with all information you need, including attachments such as STEP and PDF attached to the BOM.

Share data in real-time or export Zips

OpenBOM gives you two options to share information about bill of materials – (1) real-time sharing and (2) export with zip files. In both options, all team members are getting immediate access to all information that is updated in real-time. No more delays or work with the wrong data.

Case Studies of Successful Collaborations

You can learn how OpenBOM helps to collaborate with many customers by checking customer stories online.

Here is one example – Building36 Simplifies Smart Home Products Design Using OpenBOM

For Building36, OpenBOM checked a lot of boxes; First, the Electrical team exports PCB and other electrical systems BOMs from Altium which load right into OpenBOM. Next, the mechanical team uses the Fusion360 plugin which makes the mechanical portion as easy as one-click. And finally, Neha creates a top-level product BOM with a corresponding packaging sub-level BOM for all the specification links, artwork and much more. The multi-level multi-discipline BOM is mastered in OpenBOM and shared with the design, planning, and manufacturing teams.

Another example – Bird Gard Improves Product Costing Management and Purchasing Process Using OpenBOM.

The system is amazingly effective and technologically advanced utilizing a multi-discipline bill of materials, managed entirely in OpenBOM. Bird Gard buyer, Heather Heath, explains, “Given the challenges and shortages in the component pipeline, we are buying far into 2022 and our Microsoft Dynamics Great Planes system just doesn’t offer the flexibility around cost management and forecast modeling that we need. Great Planes just doesn’t work the way we work, happily, OpenBOM does.”

Bird Gard products are in use in over 25 countries on farms, landfills, and commercial sites, and every product contains a variety of proprietary circuit boards and other components, many with long lead times. We use a variety of PCB and other component suppliers”, Heather explains, “OpenBOM lets me keep track of each individual component, lead times, and variable pricing. 

The Future of Engineering and Manufacturing Collaboration

Manufacturing is changing and companies are moving from siloed old-school legacy systems to modern SaaS PDM and PLM environments. In my article on Beyond PLM, I shared the future of post-monolithic PLM systems and how the collaborative engineering process will be changed for many companies.

The idea of a digital thread is to connect different silos of information belonging to lifecycle stages together. While the idea is not really new, it started to accelerate recently when companies started a broad digital transformation strategy. In my article Digital Thread, Bill of Materials and Multi-Tenant Architecture I speak about existing PLM architecture gaps such as multi-tenancy and the need to connect multiple organizations and multiple systems in a single logical model that can be used to optimize processes.

Old legacy PLM systems are mostly focusing on document management and product lifecycle for a single company. Product lifecycle expands the product development process by breaking a single organization’s silos, breaking limits of the current product lifecycle management, and expanding existing paradigms of process management. Digital Thread covers an entire product value chain and not a single organization. This is a challenge for legacy PLM solutions. Limitations of current platforms are especially visible in solutions covering supply chain management where coordination of work between multiple companies is so critical. The role of multi-tenant data architecture in future product lifecycle management is to organize a network layer connecting data structure (BOM) representing multiple elements of multi-disciplinary system development. PLM software capable to organize such a network layer will be capable to provide unique functions and data intelligence capabilities to optimize a product lifecycle and business processes.

Conclusion

At OpenBOM, we provide an online environment capable of supporting multiple engineering and manufacturing teams with the solutions to solve engineering and manufacturing collaboration challenges. It starts from a single source of truth for files, items, and BOM and instant real-time data sharing capabilities. The digital future is here today with OpenBOM.

REGISTER FOR FREE to check out how OpenBOM can help your team today.

Best, Oleg

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