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SMART BENCHMARKING: PRODUCT LIFE CYCLE MANAGEMENT WITH INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS

Steinbeis experts help medium-sized business standardize its PLM

Managing and administering data can be quite challenging, especially if you have to deal with the rapid kind of growth witnessed in new target markets in Asia and Europe, which make it necessary to localize products and development projects. In an effort to maintain its competitive position as the international market leader, Manz decided to introduce internationally uniform product life cycle management (PLM) and focus its systems more closely on use in development and engineering design. To this end, the company turned to the in-depth project experience of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Innovation and Organisation, with its expertise in conducting complex software evaluations involving heterogeneous CAD and PLM systems.

Based in Reutlingen, Manz is an international high-tech mechanical engineering company. With many years of experience in automation, laser processing, image processing, measurement technology, wet chemistry, and reel-to-reel processes, the company provides manufacturers and suppliers with innovative production systems, mainly in the fields of photovoltaics, electronics, and lithium-ion batteries.

PLM FOR EFFICIENT DEVELOPMENT PROCESSES

The emergence of new target markets, rapid growth in Asia, changing conditions for suppliers and customers, and increasing demand for products to be localized, present a continual string of new and challenging demands on IT systems used with CAD and PLM systems, especially when it comes to development and engineering design. By introducing an internationally uniform PLM system, Manz wanted to safeguard the long-term efficiency of its development processes across all operations and sites.

To ensure it selected the right PLM solution, the company turned to the expertise of STZio, the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Innovation and Organization. The experience offered by the Steinbeis consultants allowed the company to conduct an objective assessment of development within a short time frame, as well as other departments directly involved in development processes. The experts also helped the firm develop a target vision.

INTEGRATION INTO THE SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENT

The interdisciplinary team working in CAD and PLM administration quickly recognized (as did users in other departments, later down the line), that as well as just looking at CAD data administration across different sites, the project would also have to consider integration into the existing IT architecture. The selection criteria focused on factors relating to usability and interaction with the CAD software used at Manz.

“The idea of the project was to address two key issues,” explains Roland Mann, who spearheaded the project and is responsible for the central CAD-PLM department at Manz. “The first was the interdisciplinary nature of international teams working in this area and the diversity of requirements, which we had to gain consensus on. Even within development, we had to reconcile different business units or individual aspects such as mechanical solutions, electronics, and software. But also, we would have to deal with overlaps between the different PLM systems due to the vast number of tasks they covered, and if necessary this would mean investigating procurement requirements for other systems.” The team of Steinbeis consultants successfully applied a systematic method based on their highly specialized know-how and certain interpersonal skills, allowing them to work with stakeholders as partners of equals, provide training, and translate everything into a benchmarked schedule of tasks that would also be comprehensible to systems manufacturers. For each software solution that came into consideration, benchmarking workshops lasting several days were organized involving a 20-strong international project team, which then identified the optimum PLM system for Manz.

THE ADVANTAGES OFFERED BY THE STZIO METHOD

After the project, Mann noticed that “it had been quite a big project and tons of work, but the STZio method had given us some excellent project documentation and at all times before, during, and after the actual benchmarking process, we were totally in control of what was happening. As a result, our approach and the results were completely transparent, such that at any stage the project team could call on support from management or anyone else not directly involved in the project. With an international evaluation project of this magnitude, that can be highly advantageous and this makes people less panicky about working on the project – anything that doesn’t go to plan can be solved quickly and permanently. Naturally, this also applies to subsequent user acceptance when the system is rolled out for implementation internationally.”

The support provided by the Steinbeis consultants made it possible to pick a solution in just six months. One team of key users has already started its preparations for the roll-out phase and the system is expected to go live in 2020. The direction has now been set for an internationally uniform PLM system, making it possible to work on development projects efficiently across all company sites, even at an international level. Manz has thus optimally prepared its CAD-PLM department for existing and new requirements and crucially, this will help ensure it stays one step ahead in this important area.