25 – Rockwell Consults Announces Optiva PLM Implementation Capability

Rockwell Consults is pleased to announce consulting services and full implementation of Optiva, Infor’s process PLM offering.

Considered “Best of Breed” among PLM software packages that cater to the process industry (i.e.:  Food and Beverage, Paints, Pharmaceutical, plastics, Oil & Gas), Optiva has a long history of development with robust functionality and capability.

For additional information regarding Optiva and it’s capabilities, please refer to the Infor PLM page:

https://www.infor.com/products/plm

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24 – ECx: What is the Difference?

ECx – What’s that?

Engineering Change, or the process by which a product change is identified, approved, executed, documented, and finally implemented, is at times confusing to the company, especially if the process is not well documented.  According to ISO9000/1 requirements, the change process needs to be documented and followed, although there are no criteria indicating whether the process is effective or not – that is left to each company to define.

So, based on engineering change, there are several acronyms floating in the industry with sometimes little definition of what means what.  The most common are,  ECN, or Engineering Change Notice, ECR, or Engineering Change Request, ECO, or Engineering Change Order, or even ECP, Engineering Change Process.

Many companies simply call the entire process the ECO process, and this does fit to an extent.  However, the question arises, when does one apply and another not?  That may be difficult to say, but here is an attempt at clarifying the intent of each one:

ECR:  Engineering Change Request

Typically, the first step in the engineering change process is to identify there is an issue with the product.  The source of this issue may stem from engineering itself, from the sales field, a customer, or an enhancement that has been identified.  Regardless of the source, it needs to be documented.

This is the ECR process.

Looking at the ECR process from a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) standpoint, this is typically where I like to see the documentation of the Engineering Change Process begin. Why?  Because there are times when the change may not be feasible, not from an engineering perspective, but maybe from a cost point-of-view or due to a management decision.  It doesn’t really matter what causes the rejection of the change, if it is documented, later conditions may change and the change does become profitable or even possible.  If it is documented, the turnaround time can be cut, at times significantly depending on the initial effort/documented process.

ECO: Engineering Change Order

The main portion of a change process is the ECO.  It is executed once the ECR has been approved and the change is allowed to continue.  The ECO is where actual changes are made to the product, based on the defined change laid out in the ECR. Is it a separate process from the ECR?  Yes and no.  I consider it more of an extension of what the change process is and simply see it as the continuing phase.

This process may have only a small change or could be a major revamp of the entire product line.  It all depends on the change requirements.  The change may be completed in a day or it could take years.  There are no hard and fast rules around a change except that it should fulfill the following:

  1. Adhere to the basic change process stipulated by the company.  This could be as simple as a change form routed with the redlined drawings and a basic description of the change to a full-fledged change managed by PLM software and documented ad nauseam due to regulatory requirements.  It really isn’t important the process as it is adhering to the process. There is no wrong process, simply room for improvement.
  2. The actual change or changes are documented and they are approved prior to implementation.  If there is some ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that will receive information, this process needs to well understood and monitored.
  3. The change is communicated to the appropriate parties at the time deemed by the company.

Once the change is completed and approved, we move to:

ECN: Engineering Change Notification

The Notification is the process by which the different stakeholders and interested parties are informed that the change has been made and approved.  This typically occurs at the time Production is notified that Engineering has completed the change.  Management, Finance, Procurement, Planning, and others are normally brought into the loop and are made aware that the change has been completed.

Sometimes, if the change does not change fit, form or function, the change notification made be minimal.  If there are major changes, it may require notifying customers and even to some extent, a recall of previous models or revisions of the product.  Although an extreme case, this does occur.

Final Words

No matter what it is called, the process is the consistent method by which Engineering will control and monitor the change itself.  Each company does it different and each company can benefit from constant review and assessment of the process to determine if changes in business culture, market environment, or the internal process can require modifications and improvements.

Can we give you a boost?

 

 

23 – Rockwell Consults Partners with Aras

Rockwell Consults is pleased to announce a new partnership with ARAS Corporation, a company specializing in enterprise-level PLM solutions. Brian Rockwell, Principal PLM Solutions Architect was overheard saying, “This is the start of something great!”

ARAS Innovator 11.0, currently the latest PLM product on the market, is a fully-fledged PLM solution with excellent scalability, CAD/product data management, process flow management, ERP integration, and overall user experience management.

RC can handle on-site face-to-face requirements gathering and discovery, on-site or remote configuration, and full deployment with data migration in a waterfall-type project setting or an Agile project approach. They specialize in Infor ERP integration and can connect to either ARAS PLM or Infor PLM Accelerate.  More on Accelerate in the near future.

RC is customer-focused with attention to details and being forthright in the work performed, as well as maintaining the integrity and trust you deserve.

Rockwell Consults

 

21 – Paper Avalanche Burying You?

With so much technology, it is sometimes amazing that we still seem to hold on to antiquated processes and procedures.  Typically businesses build from the ground up and adapt a simple, spreadsheet-driven approach to managing business aspects that are cumbersome, error-prone, difficult to manage, and even more difficult to track.

PLM is no different in this manner, since it takes knowledge that it even exists before trying to implement some of the benefits.  It has been brought home to me time and again of the difficulties in handling product development and engineering changes.  Some of the biggest complaints I hear are:

  1. We lost a month of work on a particular change because the paper routing the ECO was misplaced.
  2. We are constantly plagued by incorrect versions in production due to an uncontrolled change process.
  3. We have a PLM system in place, but have no idea what it does or how to leverage the benefits. For this reason we stick to our current paper-based system because everyone knows how it works.

These were from real or potential customers that I find are in dire need of help. It’s not the upfront cost of implementing PLM that should scare management, but the unseen loss that chips away at profits due to unmanaged expenses and scrapped parts.

For this reason Rockwell Consults can provide help where most needed.  We thrive in:

  1. Understanding where issues exist in engineering and in production, as well as the handoff between the two.
  2. Establishing PLM best practices by standardizing ECN/ECO processes to prevent department-, site-, or area-specific anomalies to cause variations in how changes are managed.
  3. Providing a robust, revision-controlled system to handle the engineering changes while communicating them to the appropriate parties.
  4. Connecting CAD to PLM and PLM to ERP for a smooth-flowing process that integrates data in what could be called seamless process.

PLM can and should provide management with a handle on the pulse of what is going on – not at the detail level, but at least to understand if there are obstacles or bottlenecks that are recurring.  This will begin to improve metrics through performance management and improvement.

Many argue that a piece of paper is tangible and easy to handle – put it in front of someone and get a signature.  This may be true in the idyllic sense that the person is sitting at their desk and waiting for the change to come – as many know this is rarely the case since most managers are either traveling or in meetings.  In these cases, the requester simply leaves the form on their chair, assuming they have done their job.  Only after a couple of days do they check on the signer to see first, if they saw the form, second, if they reviewed the changes, and third, whether they signed the form and forwarded it to the next approver.

More often that is admitted, the change form is shuffled in amongst several other changes or is put at the bottom of a pile.  Even worse is when the paper is simply lost and is unrecovered – this is where the major loss occurs as the change has to be completely re-initiated and routed through the entire process again up to the point of loss.

Another problem is that no one other than the one who placed the form on someone’s chair and possibly the one whose chair it belongs knows where the ECO is sitting.  This lack of communication or lack of exposure keeps everyone else in the dark and people wonder what happened to the change that should have been completed weeks or even *shudder* months ago.

This is not the apex of product innovation!

According to a study by the Aberdeen Group in January 2014, industry maturity was defined in three classes: Best-in-Class, Industry Average, and Laggard. For those who fell into the laggard category, there was a 71% Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) while the industry average was 82%. Best-in-Class was at a 93% OEE average.  The laggard company was an average -11% operating margin versus corporate plan, with the industry average being +7% and the best-in-class averaging at +15% operating margin versus corporate plan.

The Aberdeen group also noted that the success for successful New Product Introduction (NPI) was 58% for the laggard, 73% for the average, and 92% for the best-in-class companies.

However, what I saw as the true indicator of maturity in industry was the number of ECOs generated. The laggard had a 14% increase while the average had 13% increase. Not much difference.  The best-in-class had a 14% decrease in ECOs!

How is this achieved? Can any company realize such potential? Hard to say, but there are always common threads that can be seen in any company which are obvious to see and not hard to eradicate, or the more insidious “hidden” issues that cannot simply be fixed with the flip of a switch.  Since this article is geared towards the company still working with a paper-based process, I will concentrate on the laggard and how that can be changed

Let us walk through some scenarios:

Scenario 1:

Hank’s office is a mess. Papers strewn all over the place, there is a foul odor that emanates from his workarea and no one really wants to know why. Although a brilliant engineer, the stacks of paper have generated real fear of a fire hazard.  Even Hank doesn’t know what lives in his office.

Scenario 2:

Product returns are on the rise, and management is at a loss for the reason why. They do not see any changes and the sales have been as strong as always, although as of late complaints are becoming more noticeable and long-time customers are starting to threaten seeking alternative suppliers.

Scenario 3:

Since the retirement of Sally, the bookkeeper in charge of managing ERP data, errors in production data have spiked dramatically.  Her replacement, Moreen, although bright, has spent months in trying to decipher the cryptic notes that Sally left in order to enter product information into the antiquated but functional ERP system. Production is now in chaos as several product releases have been shelved until the problem is resolved.

In each of these cases electronic data could have prevented or at least mitigated the problem. Let’s walk through each one:

Scenario 1:

Hank had several ECOs squirreled away in the mountain of paperwork and although some were aware of the location, they knew it would take an additional week to two for him to sort them out and get back with an answer.

Had an electronic system existed that notified the requester that the task had not been completed, it could have been escalated to management until Hank “cleaned up his act.”

Scenario 2:

If management were aware that the number of reworked parts was in direct correlation to the number of changes made and the amount of time spent on tracking down correct revisions or parts, the problem might have been avoided, or at least understood so that changes could be made.  Because that was not the case, profits suffered and the company posted lower than expected earnings.

PLM could have identified certain recurring changes that were continually being reworked. ECOs were being generated for the same information and sometimes in conflict with each other.  Production had no idea there was an issue and continued to manufacture outdated parts.

Scenario 3:

If an electronic PDM solution were in place, with a connection to send items and BOMs to ERP, the retirement of Sally wouldn’t have been such a blow to the company.  The replacement would have only had to monitor the situation and not try to scale the Everest of paper to understand what had happened in the past with oddball rules and workarounds that always seem to exist with “special cases.”

In each case, PLM could have provided some assistance, and the effect would have been noticeable – sometimes not immediately, but the ramifications would have been far-reaching.

Let Rockwell Consults help evaluate your system and see what areas of improvement can be made.  The 80/20 rule applies here as well.

20 – Oil & Gas – Strike While the Iron is Hot?

Dec 2015

Summary

With the rather unexpected downturn in the Oil & Gas Industry, we see more and more layoffs, budget reductions, and overall shrinkage in what was once a booming business. This does not mean O&G will go away, however this provides an excellent opportunity to review the business structure and processes for improvement for those businesses savvy enough to take advantage of the available resources within the organization.

Problem

Let us review what normally occurs in the manufacturing industry, which may translate into any industry if viewed in the correct light – typically, in times of activity and industry when business initiatives are undertaken, the manpower to perform the operations and tasks related to those projects are significantly curtailed by the day-to-day work that needs to be performed. This leads to the following:

  1. Reduced effectiveness of the effort applied
  2. Limited time available for meetings and organization
  3. Time slippage of tasks and delays in the critical path of the project
  4. Poor communication of foreseen risks and/or time to address existing issues

When this occurs, the project suffers, leaving an overall feeling the project was either mismanaged, or simply was not really the solution needed for the issues faced. The project fails and the blame game begins. The reason many projects fail is because more times than not, the issues the project was to address were well known ahead of time management realized the problems even existed, and only when the business is under load do they become painfully apparent.

When this occurs, what can be done, or what is the remedy to the situation?

As a knee-jerk reaction, most companies reduce personnel in order to decrease the operating cost of the business. This is a quick fix, a bandage of a sort, that causes a quick rebound for profitability or in most cases eases the cash hemorrhaging, but creates far-reaching repercussions of which many enterprises at times cannot recover.

What does this do?

Since I am not an economic analyst, nor will I try to become one in the next few minutes, I will offer my take on the situation faced by many O&G companies in this moment and provide a solution that may not apply to all, but may be something worth considering:

Personnel:

The cost of firing and rehiring employees has significant cost and risk. Some essential personnel will need to be downsized regardless of the damage it will do to the company, and there is no guarantee they will be around when rehire time arrives. With this, the need to hire new talent and retrain on the business policies and procedures will eat into profits on the upturn. The need to lay off personnel is usually brought around by a fear or the uncertainty of knowing when profitability will return. This is a valid concern and most companies do not have the assurance this slump is short- or long-term.

Product:

Many companies build their entire business around a particular industry or field, which does not lend to the fluidity and flexibility to move that knowledge to a completely different industry that may now be doing excellent. This inability to transition can hamstring a company when these types of economic fluctuations occur. It is now when the company knuckles down and weathers the storm, or decides to close shop for good.

For those who have the foresight and can make that transition, they can recover quickly and be back in the black in a short period of time. This will fall to either a robust product line that can be applied to several industries, or a crack staff of engineers who have an innate grasp of the existing product and can quickly and efficiently change the product design to match the innovation essential for survival.

Management:

In order for any product to succeed, it takes leadership, vision, and guts to capture the opportunity when it presents itself. These pioneers are hard to find, but they do exist. If you are one of them, you can see where the issues lie and take steps to remedy the situation.

Solution

As with many problems they correct, the solutions are at times as complex and difficult to grasp. The ability to decipher and comprehend the problems and the solutions usually leave most confused by the many factors and considerations. For this reason most will turn to experts in the field who can leverage years of experience rooting out problems and providing “best practices” to eradicate the maladies seen during a time of crisis. Unfortunately, the price tag is something that many balk at, considering the highly specialized knowledge that is required. It is similar to the urban legend:

A factory suffered from failed equipment that brought production to its knees. With no alternative, the plant manager called in “the expert.” The older gentleman walked around asking questions, until he asked for a hammer, whereby he took the hammer and banged a few times on the side of the machine. It coughed to life and was soon chugging along. The expert submitted the bill – $10,000. The plant manager was furious – “how can you charge us ten grand? You were only on site for twenty minutes and I even loaned you a hammer!” The man took back the invoice, tore it up and wrote a new one.

Borrow hammer:                                       $5.00

Knowing where to hit hammer:      $9,995.00

Although anecdotal, the concept stands – this is why expert help is at a premium. Now, most solutions aren’t as clean-cut as the story above, and usually requires internal assistance to carry out tasks, to be taught through training or knowledge transfer, or to simply reduce costs.

Wouldn’t this be best done when that help is available? If the essential personnel that you don’t want to see walk out the door were put to good use – say on a project that will need to be executed anyway, why not take advantage of the situation. Doesn’t the old adage go, ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?’

Here is the kicker – sometimes the time spent on the project, if the project is to reduce operating costs, or design time, or something that is business beneficial, you actually might be able to make the project profitable and save the money so desperately needed by cutting staff.

PLM is seen as just this type of solution – not business critical because it is not part of the supply chain, it usually is postponed or not implemented with 100% attention. Many times customers will add it as an ancillary project on the coattails of an ERP implementation – used to enhance and not as a separate, required project with its own budget and assigned project team.

Rockwell Consults is a team dedicated to providing expert help when and where it is needed – with over 7 years PLM implementation experience and 12 years software implementation project management, we can help solve operating expenses, improve design times, and increase the bottom line. Let us take advantage of the O&G economic downturn and support you in coming out the other side the way you want – pristine!

 

 

 

18 – Infor annouces cloud PLM discrete for eu

On Nov 3, 2015 Infor announced at the Paris Inforum expo the launch of a Cloud PLM solution, or ARAS rebadged as PLM Accelerate, what was announced at Inforum 2014 in New Orleans for the US market.

http://www.infor.com/company/news/pressroom/pressreleases/plm-accelerate-europe-manufacturing/

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this will expand Infor’s PLM offerings and the jury is still out as to how the products will be positioned and sold.  This is the first time I have seen Infor emphasize a cloud PLM solution, which ARAS/Accelerate is very capable of doing.  My concern is not the software, but the execution of the add-ons and if Infor can deliver what they promise.

17 – ePDM and LN

I received a request to connect ePDM to LN from a prospective customer. This was my response:

Typically PLM will replace ePDM when looking at a PLM/PDM solution.  Let me explain why:

Aspect Dassault Systèmes’ ePDM Infor PLM Discrete Advantage
Functionality Works very well with SolidWorks as a data repository. Decent CAD independent PLM solution that handles all the PDM requirements that ePDM provides. ePDM has better functionality for the engineer, but loses ground when dealing with the rest of the business.
ERP Integration No outside ERP integration is allowed by ePDM and requires a custom program to do so. Designed to work with Infor ERP systems including Baan IV, Baan V and LN. PLM Discrete is the definite winner here.  PLM can work with ION or as a point-to-point solution.
CAD integration ePDM is designed to work with SolidWorks and does an excellent job. PLM Discrete is CAD independent which means it connects to many CAD systems, but does not excel in any particular one. ePDM has the advantage, but PLM can provide similar functionality and BOM/change management
Value for the business ePDM is seen strictly as an engineering tool and cannot really help benefit the business as a whole. PLM Discrete handles change management within the engineering department as well as outside. PLM Discrete can help reduce many engineering to production issues and can reduce many engineering issues once implemented correctly.
Cost Licensed and supported by Dassault Systèmes Licensed and supported by Infor Both are managed by their individual developing companies. The cost of both is similar and the added benefit that PLM provides outweighs ePDM.

I am currently working with a large valve company in the US using LN that is in the transition from Pro/E to SolidWorks and is using ePDM right now.  They will probably migrate to PLM for the reason it absorbs two custom programs they developed to push BOMs from ePDM to LN.  The process has been very costly and the solution is not ideal and I cannot endorse their strategy.  For this reason they are seriously considering PLM as the solution to replace ePDM and both custom systems.  We have already identified several other enhancements that PLM will allow as well.

Furthermore, I have replaced ePDM with several customers.  The business sees the benefits to doing so, but this requires looking at both and identifying the pros and cons.

If you are available for a call, we can discuss details and see if this would be a profitable solution.  Regardless, I would like to learn more about how your client is set up and what their interest would be to making the transition.  If you have any documentation I can review I would love to see it.

Let me know what works for you and we can set something up.

Regards,

Brian

16 – Rockwell Consults Announces Free PLM Webinar

Rockwell Consults announces a free webinar showcasing PLM Discrete with an interface to SyteLine 8.03.  This will be an open forum and will allow a short presentation to establish PLM concepts, a point-and-click demo of PLM with SyteLine, followed by a Q&A session.  To register, follow the link below to Google Hangouts:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/c4ksc7jtljjftebpt3j10lu5lpo

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