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Collaborating with PLM


Aerospace and automotive industries can learn from successful deployments of product lifecycle management (PLM) tools

By Patrick Waurzyniak
Senior Editor 


To compress the product development cycle, slash costs, and improve collaboration with suppliers, aerospace and automotive manufacturers increasingly are embracing newer collaborative product lifecycle management (PLM) software solutions and business models that enable dramatic improvements in speeding new product designs and global collaboration.

Automotive and aerospace manufacturers traditionally have been large users of collaborative PLM tools, but the nature of each industry often dictates that automotive and aerospace manufacturers use the tools in different ways. In aerospace, manufacturers face very long product lifecycles and need to use the product development data managed by PLM solutions for maintenance and repair of aircraft that are capable of flying for decades. For automotive manufacturers, the often frenetic pace of product development means an automotive OEM might introduce several new models each year, making it even more critical to compress time-to-market new product development cycles.

Outsourcing of major parts and assemblies in both industries has made OEMs even more dependent on suppliers, increasing the need for collaborative efforts between automotive and aerospace OEM and suppliers. Auto and aerospace industry executives will meet at SME's Collaborate 2006! conference in Huntsville, AL, on Oct. 11–12, to share their ideas on implementing collaborative PLM systems, lean manufacturing, and other advanced techniques for improving manufacturing productivity through collaboration.

PLM solutions are comprised of many technologies, from CAD/CAM and NC machining software tools to collaborative digital manufacturing solutions that include 3-D visualization and simulation solutions (see "Software Speeds Innovation" in the November 2005 issue of Manufacturing Engineering). Combined with enterprise-wide data-management tools and virtual factory systems, the PLM solutions can enable manufacturers to collaborate on digital designs and validate factory-floor processes and equipment at very early stages to cut costs and speed product development.

With recent data indicating a strengthening global economy and increased interest in PLM technologies and services, market researcher CIMdata Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI) has revised its forecast for the overall PLM market upward, projecting that PLM will grow 8.7% to reach an $18.1 billion market in 2005. CIMdata also anticipates PLM will grow at about a 7.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach an estimated $26.3 billion in 2010. PLM is defined by CIMdata as not just a set of technologies, but a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise from concept to end of life, integrating people, processes, business systems, and information.

Aerospace and automotive OEMs face some of the same challenges in product development, yet the industries operate on distinctly different business models. "If you compare the automotive and the aerospace industries from a PLM perspective, there are a few similarities, and a few things which are a little bit different," observes Peter Schmitt, vice president, Dassault Systèmes (Paris). "The old-world approach to PLM is that it's very similar—they both need to have solutions which address literally the conceptual phases through the design phases, through simulation, validation, and in the area of CAE, with finite element analysis or with computational fluid dynamics for aerodynamics.

"They both embrace how manufacturing needs to be looked at, they both embrace PLM, and that there needs to be an aspect of collaboration within the company across the different disciplines, as well as with their partners," Schmitt says. "They both embrace the idea that there needs to be an aspect of how you can service and maintain the vehicle or the airplane, even though the priorities are a little bit different. For example, in aerospace, the aspect of maintenance has a significantly higher priority than it has in automotive."

Product development efforts in each industry vary, with automotive manufacturers introducing many models annually produced in high volumes, while aerospace programs tend to produce modified versions of the same aircraft for programs that last years. "In new product development and getting products to market, it's a somewhat different angle in automotive than in the aerospace market, because the automotive companies are going to make their money selling a lot of new products," notes Bill Carrelli, vice president, UGS Corp. (Plano, TX). "The aerospace companies make the majority of their money during the 25 or 30-year period when that plane is in service. So there you have a different model and PLM has to play to those two business-model differences.

"Automotive looks at PLM first in the area of new product development, in terms of shortening time, but even more importantly right now, the automotive companies are looking for PLM technologies to help them quickly react to change in the marketplace," Carrelli adds. "And really part of what's driving that is leveraging customer information that is generated during the in-service period of a product, all the way down through service and warranty, but leveraging that kind of information up-front. So tying the product information that's further downstream into early-stage development is one thing that's helping manufacturers make sure that they're producing new products that meet some of the needs the customers have."

For aerospace manufacturing, about a third of the cost is for the airplane itself, while two-thirds of costs are in maintenance, Dassault's Schmitt notes. "That means in aerospace the focus on how you can maintain an airplane, how you can prepare the appropriate data to efficiently maintain the airplane, has significantly higher importance than it has in the automotive domain. What we also see in the aerospace industry is that typically the programs are significantly larger in size and effort than in the automotive domain, and are for a longer duration."

As an example, Schmitt cites the use by Boeing Co. (Chicago) of Dassault Systèmes' V5 PLM solutions for developing the first all-digital aircraft design with its Boeing 777 passenger jet. "If we look at Boeing, about 10 years ago they did the 777, and now they're doing the 787," he observes. "There was nothing real big in-between, at least along the commercial side, and that means when they start a new program, they completely assess the IT infrastructure as well as the business problems which go along with that, and therefore they are more willing to clean the playing field and implement, for their program, the best solution, without too much consideration of the legacy system."

Starting with a clean slate sometimes can be easier with large aerospace programs than in automotive manufacturing, Schmitt notes. "In automotive, companies are introducing 18 to 20 new models a year, and therefore they have to live more with the legacy world than aerospace does. Nevertheless, if you for example look at the aerospace industry, we had a pretty interesting experience with the Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] production, which went from an individual, more or less cell-based assembly to a moving assembly line, which is typically how automotive would build.

"The JSF program was the first program where I've ever heard about working towards a moving assembly line. On the other side, you know every airplane which is manufactured is a little bit different in terms of setup of parts and configuration, while the automotive industry is still producing a lot of more or less identical vehicles," Schmitt says. "The push for more individualism, and having more variety to choose from in vehicles, will lead to additional demands and requirements as the automakers come out with more models and exert more effort to personalize a vehicle to the customer's liking, which at the end of the day will result in a significant, higher need for PLM systems to be able to handle that complexity. This is something the aerospace industry already has mastered. I think the aerospace industry is better at embracing PLM as an integrated solution, rather than the automotive industry is trying to leverage more point solutions.

"With the challenges that are coming at the automotive industry, such as globalization, suppliers going into Chapter 11, or even further, there's a tremendous need to better organize the data, and find better ways to collaborate for the sake of the OEM and for the supplier."

In both industries, Schmitt sees companies working to integrate product definition data across the enterprise for seamless product development. "The trend we are seeing is that companies which embrace the same data format, the same infrastructure, across all the different disciplines, can work in a lot more integrated fashion, faster, and more successfully than companies that use multiple systems, and have datatranslation issues, communication breakdowns, and have to re-enter data," Schmitt notes.

Increasing global competition and the prospect of very low-cost Chinese autos flooding overseas market has played a role in PLM being adopted by many automakers, both foreign and domestic. "We have to look at two key aspects. One is time-to-market overall," Schmitt explains. "If we look at the automotive industry, Nissan came out with a vehicle in 10½ months. Other Japanese OEMs are looking at 12–13 months, and I still think that the majority of the European and North American auto manufacturers are more in the range of 20–30 months, in terms of getting a new vehicle out.

"They all are improving, but the Japanese OEMs, specifically if it's a vehicle for the Japanese market, are still quite a bit ahead of the other OEMs, and with globalization, the Europeans and the Asians are all coming into the North American market. We look at how Hyundai is approaching the market, gaining market share. If you look at the Chinese manufacturers, they are now evaluating how to come to the US, and if you look at what price point where they want to be able to offer a vehicle, that's a completely new level of competition you're going to see. The only way to answer to that is through fast time-to-market, and through innovative product, where the product can offer things a competitor doesn't have. So the importance of an efficient product development process with efficient data management and collaboration between the OEM and supplier will become absolutely crucial in the global competition in the years to come.

Processing and managing engineering stages also is another key element for PLM, Schmitt adds. "The first aspect to that is you need to find a way to minimize those stages," he adds. "By being able to virtualize, you design, validate the simulation aspect, verify that the product you are developing satisfies the safety, economic, stability, noise, vibration, and whatever other requirements you have, and that you're able to validate the production-manufacturing impact on your product. Being able to see all that in context right away will help you to minimize the engineering changes, not eliminate them, but you can at least minimize them. And then the ability to be able to process changes, to see what kind of impact a change will have on any aspect before you push that change through is absolutely vital, to help you make an educated decision on what kind of changes you want to push and promote in your product. These are exactly the aspects an integrated PLM solution from a company like ours provides to the OEMs, as well as to the suppliers."

With its recent update of its PLM solution, Dassault's Version 5 Release 17 (V5R17) system offers new collaborative capabilities to improve manufacturing and business processes. The Dassault PLM solutions portfolio is comprised of its CATIA CAD/CAM package, the Enovia VPLM for collaborative sourcing, the Enovia Smarteam product structure management tool, and the Delmia V5R17 collaborative manufacturing tools. With the updated Delmia system, users access product data through the product, process, and resources stored in the Manufacturing Hub. The new release offers updated body-in-white software with concurrent process planning for automotive OEMs and their suppliers.

Reducing late-stage engineering changes is vital for manufacturers. "What's important is they want to still allow for some flexibility even late in the product development process, so they can manage change more effectively," notes UGS' Carrelli. "In other words, eliminating changes is the ideal, but reducing the cost of a change and making that change happen effectively is even more important, because if they have to react to a sudden change in the market, they want to do that as late in the product development cycle as they can."

With UGS' Teamcenter 2005 PLM software portfolio, manufacturers can use several modules to manage manufacturing data ranging from UGS NX CAM systems on the shop floor through UGS' Tecnomatix 3-D digital manufacturing solutions that enable users to visualize their factory-floor planning. In aerospace, UGS and Boeing recently announced that, after a year-long evaluation, Boeing chose UGS' Teamcenter as its enterprise data management system for future commercial aircraft and for Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems programs. The companies announced that Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) program has migrated its product data from legacy systems to Teamcenter, and that the JDAM program will be the aerospace manufacturer's first program to use the new system.

"From the core of the information, Teamcenter is the piece that links the information into all of the different groups around the product development cycle," says Carrelli. "However, there are modules within Teamcenter and within NX that are going to play a role in helping to communicate the change requirements, to identify what those change requirements are in the product lifecycle."

As an example, Carrelli says Teamcenter Requirements is a tool that defines what the requirement changes are specifically, and helps the companies to track what the ripple effect might be in that requirement. "There's also Teamcenter sourcing tools now, so that when a change is made, we can immediately try to understand from the standpoint of our supplier base what that change might mean, in terms of communicating with the supplier base, determining that there are different requirements, based on some of the component pieces or assemblies that we're going to get from them.

"From the NX side, there is the whole visualization aspect and the knowledge-capture aspect, which means that what I have to do is make sure that I'm clearly communicating what the changes are, and that I'm passing those design engineering changes down to manufacturing engineering. The manufacturing engineer, using our Tecnomatix brand tools, is able to look at the factory planning and make adjustments, based on what those requirement changes are."

Lean manufacturing and PLM also can play key roles for manufacturers working together to reduce costs and optimize operations for manufacturers. "There's a tremendous focus on lean manufacturing, and we can apply the topic of lean to the IT system and the product development process. The key element or philosophy of lean is to reduce waste. But if you look at the IT infrastructure, there many systems that are holding the same set of data," notes Schmitt.

"Let's say it's bill of materials—the engineering, design, purchasing, maintenance, service, or whatever bill of materials—they all refer to the same information from different viewpoints, but it's the same information. If you look at manufacturing, all the different disciplines need to talk to each other and need to share the same data, but what we see today in most companies is that between each department, between each discipline, there's a separate set of information that needs to be re-entered, which causes potential errors and time delays. And re-entry causes a breakdown in the communication collaboration between the different departments and disciplines. PLM is basically the enabler of lean in the IT infrastructure. And I would say that some companies in the aerospace industry are quite a bit ahead of the automotive industry; however, there are some companies, for example Toyota, which have gone pretty far with that as well."

In aerospace, Dassault Aviation (Paris) has employed Dassault's V5 PLM tools to streamline development programs and share virtual builds of its Falcon business jet with the company's partners. "Dassault Aviation used our technology to create what they called a Virtual Plateau," Schmitt notes. "The Virtual Plateau is basically a setup where Dassault Aviation and its partners share the development of that program, and create a virtual build of the aircraft. Boeing has embraced a similar concept around the 787 with its partners, which owned a portion of the development and the design of the airplane for that specific component. There are about 12 of those companies, and in the past, those partners have been purely part suppliers. Now, for the 787, Boeing gave them design responsibilities as well."

True collaboration through alliances may be catching on in the automotive industry, as the proposed global alliance of General Motors Corp. (Detroit), Nissan Motor Co. (Japan), and Renault S.A. (France) set the tone for automakers seeking to best leverage their strengths to improve their competitiveness. "That's an area where I think automotive would like to improve, particularly in doing a better job of using these kinds of collaboration capabilities to integrate the rest of their supply chain and value chain," Carrelli states. "If you think back over the last 20 years, the role of a supplier in the delivery and the design of an automobile has gone up tremendously."

GM and Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI) are included among UGS' PLM customers, and Nissan also selected UGS Teamcenter as its PLM software. UGS also recently announced a joint development deal with Ford under which the automaker will work with UGS developing new PLM systems technology.

"There are still some areas where even the OEMs themselves are probably going to collaborate," Carrelli adds. "A big issue emerging in the automotive business is the need to leverage commonization. All the companies realize how important that is, in terms of bringing new products to market. They're going to find more and more that there are many common areas that don't necessarily take away their competitive edge, but can help all of them to do a better job of being more responsive to market needs."


Increasing Tooling Productivity with Sandvik

Headquartered in Fair Lawn, New Jersey (with global headquarters in Sandviken, Sweden), Sandvik Coromant is positioned as a global leader in the metal cutting industry, possessing over 25,000 products in the areas of drilling, milling, and turning.

Throughout the years, Sandvik Coromant has continually pushed the boundaries of advanced cemented-carbide tools and tooling systems. Sandvik Coromant's CoroDrill 880 represents a new breakthrough in U-drill evolution that substantially improves production economy in holemaking. The drill incorporates new, patent-pending Step Technology for optimum cutting force balance. Sandvik Coromant has also recently released a new generation of inserts that offers even higher productivity gains for milling, drilling, and turning.

Many Sandvik Coromant customers take part in the company's six-step PIP (Productivity Improvement Program), a program that improves overall profitability by increasing machining efficiency, reducing individual unit cost, and eliminating unnecessary waste, both of time and material. Each PIP is specifically tailored to the unique details of a manufacturer's operations.

Sandvik Coromant is a strong proponent of the principle of Manufacturing Economics. This model of analysis demonstrates that the greatest amounts of savings occur through increasing efficiency. Overall, Sandvik Coromant estimates that maximizing tooling productivity could lead to an aggregate national savings of $14.8 billion for the industry. In 2005, Sandvik Coromant documented total customer savings of over $60 million.

Contact: Sandvik Coromant, 1702 Nevins Rd., Fair Lawn, NJ 07410; Ph: (201) 794-5000; Fax: (201) 794-5165; e-mail:; web:


Jet builder speeds development with PLM

Bombardier Aerospace (Montreal, Canada), the world's third largest civil aircraft manufacturer, builds world-class aircraft for the business, regional, and amphibious markets. To continue to meet its global manufacturing challenges, Bombardier Aerospace has implemented product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions from the Dassault Systemes (Paris) V5 PLM portfolio.

Known for its Learjet, Challenger, and Global business jet families, CRJ and Q Series regional aircraft, as well as the multimission Bombardier 415 amphibious aircraft, Bombardier Aerospace, a unit of Bombardier Inc., employs about 26,000 people worldwide. With global competition and technical advancements increasing, Bombardier Aerospace has continued to invest in aircraft platforms that meet evolving customer needs. Since 1989, the company has developed 18 new aircraft programs, and in its last fiscal year delivered a total of 337 aircraft.

With growth came complexity and diversity in processes, however, and Bombardier sought an IT environment that would enable rapid progress. Faced with the downturn in aerospace in 2001, Bombardier Aerospace reviewed its entire IT infrastructure and developed a strategy for the future, which included partnering with technology providers PLM developer Dassault and IBM Corp. (Armonk, NY), which markets V5 PLM solutions. Bombardier chose a unified, data-centric development environment based on the Dassault V5 PLM portfolio, including CATIA, Enovia, and Delmia software solutions.

Once it had implemented this information backbone, teams focused on optimizing critical data flows and high-level processes. A phased approach allowed engineering work to continue without disruption, while providing access to feature-based V5 PLM 3-D design tools, up-to-date product, process, and resource (PPR) information, and multidisciplinary collaboration.

"Our global teams need to be able to engineer and build more sophisticated aircraft faster than ever before, so we cannot waste time accessing or translating product data," notes Francois Caza, Bombardier Aerospace vice president and chief engineer. "Enovia V5 provides a vital component that helps get the right information to the right people at the right time, and in the right format."

When combined with cross-functional training, mentoring and support, end users benefited early on. Designers could optimize products and components for design and manufacturability during the virtual phase of development when costs were low, and global teams could perform reviews using the same product data, accelerating time to revenue. Finally, to maintain productivity levels, technical specialists were organized into lean support groups, where they could focus on problems and improvements, then share lessons learned across the organization."


Iscar Moves Ahead

Spice up your machining with the upgrade to fast metal removal tooling. The new line of fast metal removal products is designed to decrease downtime and improve production. As a result of its high quality and original products, this privately owned multinational company is a world leader in major manufacturing industries, including automotive, aerospace, medical, die and molds, and a variety of mass-production industries. Iscar continues to provide the most economical solutions for the metalworking industry.

The new fast metal removal (FMR) family of tools offers a variety of milling, drilling, parting, and reaming solutions especially designed for fast metal removal. These tools are built to be more rigid, longer lasting, and to promote better chip flow in order to increase metal removal rates. Some of these tools geared to spice up production are: Helido-Double helical four cutting corners; Feed Mill—Fast feed milling 3.5 mm/tooth; Heliturn TG—Tangential geometry for excellent feed rates; Tang-Grip—Tangential clamping method; Heliplus—Helical milling for high-RPM machining; and Bayot-Ream—Fast reaming.

In addition to the innovative fast metal removal design of Iscar’s new products, new advances in tool coating have also led to increased production including Hardtouch, 9350, 9250, and 9150, AL-TEC, Do-TEC, or Alpha-TEC, all new grades from Iscar to enhance machining performance.

Contact Iscar Metals, Inc., 300 Westway Place, Arlington, TX 76018; Ph: (817) 258-3200; Fax: (817) 258-3221; e-mail:  : web:


This article was first published in the October 2006 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 10/1/2006

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