- Phase 1: Document Control
- Phase 2: Your Choice (often this is Change Management or WT Parts, depending upon what is most important to your organization)
- Phase 3: Quality Management
As you’re onboarding with Windchill, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by its wide array of functionality …assembly instructions, supplier management, classification searches… the list goes on and on.
Let’s face it – change can be intimidating, and ‘doing it all at once’ can seem like a lot.
In a perfect world, we’d always be implementing WT Parts and accounting for Change Management at the start of every single Windchill implementation, but the unfortunate truth is, that’s not always the case.
It’s natural to have the desire to implement a Windchill project in bite-sized pieces. This article aims to explain the advantages of phasing your Windchill implementation to do just that.
The Phased Approach
Our phased approach usually goes something like this:
First thing’s first – prioritize getting your data under control.
Start with your engineering data management. The check-in, check-out version control. Then when you’re comfortable with that, Change Management or WT Parts can be introduced as a viable next step.
Let’s not forget the costs associated with all these options. There are hard costs with respect to the implementation plan you decided on, along with any associated trainings or workshops you deemed necessary.
The end goal: a complete Product Lifecycle Management system that creates and enables a ‘digital thread’, ‘digital continuity’, ‘digital transformation’ (whatever you want to call it), throughout your entire organization.
Let’s talk about how you get there.
Phase 2: What is a WT Part? Why WT Parts?
The WT Part is misunderstood and why often, many shy away from it.
Sure, it’s a different concept, but that doesn’t mean its necessarily hard.
So, what do I mean by different? It’s different in the way that most organizations aren’t thinking about their engineering data.
But, as a matter of fact, that same engineering data is exactly what I would consider the ‘enabling piece’ which has the ability to facilitate the core functionality every organization should have within Windchill.
It’s a vital piece that lets you do all the ‘other stuff’.
Another way of describing the WT Part (or gear icon) is a central hub of all information that is related to a part. It has to do with your relevant CAD files, drawings, engineering change history, primary BoM structures that link to all your other parts.
I’ll use a hypothetical situation to explain.
There are all kinds of different parts that go into designing this bicycle. You have some assemblies that you have built up in Creo, along with a bunch of other different parts and sub-assemblies.
In this case your bicycle has a variety of different parts, that have many different versions – but the important part is – at this point, you have your data under control. You check out a part, make a change, check it back in. Soon enough, version A.1 becomes A.2, A.3, etc.
With WT Parts enabled, your system has the ability to create a paralleled data structure. This means you can have the same assembly structure in CAD that you do in Windchill.
WT Part acts almost as a placeholder (I like to think of it as a shoebox). Inside your shoebox, you can put all kinds of ‘other things’, and I’m not talking about just CAD files. For your organization this could mean PDF’s, published visualizations (allowing you to look at your bicycle in Creo view), word documents, links to other webpages, or just about anything else you want.
Let’s say (in this scenario) you outsource the break calibers, the tires, or the spokes.
WT Parts allows you to have images and direct links to your supplier webpages allowing you to document and specify the exact parts and versions you need. This creates a parallel data structure.
But even with your paralleled data structure (for your bicycle line), you know that how your products are modeled in CAD won’t mirror the way they need to be assembled in manufacturing.
Your manufacturing assembly process includes other things, such as tape, Loctite for the handlebars, cable shrouds, etc. In fact, there are all kinds of things you’re never going to model in CAD, but are still essential components within your manufacturing bill of material.
By using WT Parts, you can start off with an engineering bill of material, create a parallel data structure, then add to it, and even rearrange that part structure in your manufacturing bill of material.
This allows you to properly represent how things should be put together in the shop.
Furthermore, down the line when you create a service bill of material, you’ll no longer need to need use your entire CAD structure (as it was designed in Creo) because your product only needs new tires and inner tubes.
With WT Parts you can easily create a service bill of material that states exactly what’s needed to service your product.
It creates individual containers allowing you to put things in, shuffle them around, and re-arrange them, so you can easily create different bill of material structures. These structures can even be based on what you need to do, downstream from your CAD models.
It also allows you to quickly create a service document explaining how to properly change your tires.
Phase 2: Change Mangement
Perhaps you have heard of it as the ECN process or maybe even the ECR process. What these really consist of – is just one stop along the journey of your change management process.
You might be wondering why more organizations choose Change Management for phase 2 over WT Parts.
The answer is quite simple. It’s because most companies are already doing a change process today in one way, shape, or form.
You might be more familiar with the outdated process, or what I like to refer to as ‘the red folder’.
Many companies today still trudge around the office with that red manila folder when they need sign off on a change. They walk from station to station with documents, prints and more to whoever needs to sign off on that change to get it done.
The Windchill Change Management piece has the ability to replicate what your physical real-world processes can. This allows you to entrench the workflows you’ve already established digitally, inside Windchill.
This is also one of the many reasons why you should not be afraid of the Change Management capabilities inside of Windchill.
So how does change management inside of Windchill work exactly?
The out-of-the-box Windchill Change Management workflows include problem reports, change requests, and change notifications.
Built within the core capabilities of Windchill Change Management, there’s a process in place for problem reports.
Starting at the beginning, the typical entry level is what’s called, ‘the problem report’. You can think of this as your digital suggestion box. Anyone can create a problem report (PR).
With a widget, your problem report gets pushed forward to a change admin, who can then review that report.
Your change admin has the ability to either approve or reject the change request. They can even send it back to the person who originated it (if needed) to ask for further clarification.
This helps you easily keep track of your problem reports, know the length of time they have been opened, and be aware of how many reports are currently active. This enables you to see, as a company, how you’re doing with respect to your problem reports.
The next step along the way is a change request. In the instance that your problem report is moved forward, it gets sent to the next person in line who sees that as an engineering change request.
At this point, there may be some additional research to say, “well, wait, now what other part is used, or what other assembly part is done, and what they might impact?”
When deciding to make a change, its crucial to think downstream and about what the implications of that change might be.
This is what the engineering change request feature inside of Windchill is all about. It allows you to do the research.
Once you meet the set of criteria or you obtain a certain serial number, you can say – “yes, we are going to do that.”
This allows you to have a formalized process where you can either individually approve changes or run change requests through a more formalized review board.
That’s when the change notification task gets assigned back to your design engineer that can then go into Creo, open up the part, and make the change.
The best part? With Windchill Change Management you actually have a way to keep track of your changes, processes, and documentation.
You’ll no longer need to wonder what hasn’t been completed or what the status of a change request might be.
Although that’s the out of the box Windchill Change Management functionality, there’s a lot of subtleties and nuances that can be tailored and configured to your specific company needs. It doesn’t have to be a strict 1 to 1 mapping – there’s flexibility with respect to how you map and manage them.
Say, for example – you had three different problem reports on one specific part. You could now bundle those altogether and roll that into a single change request.
You could also take 2 or 3 different change requests and roll those forward into a single change notification.
Yes, this change process will be new and different – it’s designed to make your life easier.
The difference is – now you’re not cruising around the office with that red folder trying to catch up with all the information. Instead, everything you need is right in front of you. You can see which assemblies will be impacted, what you have on-hand, and what series you want to do the cutover on.
That concludes the first half of a closed loop change management process.
Phase 3: Windchill Quality
The second half of the closed loop change management process stems from things such as nonconformance, that actually come from the Windchill quality management piece.
Again, more Windchill functionality here is also tied together in WT Parts, but these are your corrective and preventive actions.
Looking at the nonconformance piece – where you actually build and manufacture something, but it isn’t measuring out right. Or perhaps your drilled holes that are in the wrong place…or your part is the wrong dimension…or something to that extent.
Windchill Quality enables corrective actions you can take against these incidents to make sure that you’re not building parts to the wrong specifications or dealing with nonconformance. This helps you to take preventive action.
In other words, what steps are you going to take to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes again? What are you going to do with the parts that you’ve already built?
That’s the second half of the closed loop change management process.
To truly explain how all the Windchill functionalities can be intertwined to create a true ‘digital thread’ – this article would go on for days.
Sure, you can learn about all the different parts and pieces individually, but my organization has a real, tight, concise methodology for doing this.
That’s why EAC Product Development Solutions is here to help. We know and understand what it takes to get your system stood up and in place to truly transform your organization.
Don’t leave your Windchill system with untapped potential. It’s time to make the most out of your money.
Let’s talk about ERP and PLM, the differences, the benefits and everything you need to know in order to be successful.
Our most popular blog throughout the years has been a defining article of what the differences are between ERP, MRP, and PLM. If you want a high and fast overview of the terms read our previous blog, “ERP/MRP/PLM” – or keep on reading below for a more in-depth look at ERP vs PLM.
Oftentimes organizations wonder: Do you really need both a PLM and an ERP system? Should you, or can you, use just one enterprise system to manage all of your product information? Which system is best? An ERP (enterprise resource planning) system or a PLM (product lifecycle management) system?
We hear these questions all the time.
This article breaks down the similarities as well as the differences between ERP and PLM so you can make the best and most informed decision for your specific situation.
As an organization, it is in your best interest to use technology as a competitive advantage – therefore it’s important to understand the ins and outs of both systems.
With everyone needing to get products to market faster and more efficiently, it’s good to understand that building and sustaining brand equity is just as important as speed to market.
As your company searches for technology that will give you a competitive edge, it’s crucial that you choose the right technology to serve as the foundation for your digital transformation initiatives.
This means choosing technology that will boost your innovation efforts, fulfill your operational and strategic business goals, and help you get closer to your end customers.
While your company continuously faces tough decisions when it comes to technology investments, you may be wondering if it is better to go all-in on an ERP system or invest in a PLM solution.
After all, both ERP and PLM vendors ‘claim’ they can manage both Bill of Materials (BoMs), costs, changes, and other information related to products.
My goal is to help you learn what system or systems are best for your organization.
What is ERP and how does it work?
First, let’s breakdown what ERP is and its benefits.
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning systems, software, and solutions.
One of the biggest driving factors for an enterprise-class ERP system revolves around finance and accounting. ERP systems are important because they ensure your quality products are manufactured in a timely, cost controlled manner once they have been engineered and approved.
This could be why approximately 97 percent of mid-sized companies already use an ERP application.
It’s important to also take into account that ERP solutions are considered to be one of the first software solutions to be categorized as an essential business tool. This could also be why so many organizations are already familiar with ERP.
Although there are many ERP software solutions on the market today, systems you may be familiar with might include Oracle ERP, SAP, Epicor ERP, Microsoft Dynamics AX, and a variety of others.
The fact is, ERP systems are generally built to satisfy the needs of business operations.
This means they are often used for manufacturing (such as manufacturing resource planning), human resources (HR), finance, accounting, purchasing, inventory management, order management, distribution, labor, customer service, and more.
An ERP system can take a product to market and is known for handling operational concerns such as logistics, warehousing, and inventory management.
These systems also provide vast amounts of transactional data which can be used to gauge your financial position and make informed choices about future business decisions.
What is PLM and how does it work?
PLM stands for Product Lifecycle Management software, systems, and solutions.
While ERP systems take transactional units to market, the data and information these systems use should originate in PLM.
PLM is all about the management of the process behind the product, as well as the history and collaboration that goes along with it.
Some PLM systems you may be familiar with include SAP PLM, PTC Windchill, Area PLM, Teamcenter, Siemens PLM, and more.
By adopting PLM software you can reap many rewards.
PLM solutions allow anyone involved in design, development, and manufacturing to work collaboratively with one set of comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date information.
PLM software works by supporting processes that define your brand, engage your customers, and differentiate your company’s products in the marketplace.
The unique value of PLM provides is that the software delivers a “single source of truth” about your product to anyone and everyone who has anything to do with product development.
The difference between ERP and PLM
A simple way to think about the differences between ERP and PLM is to focus on what each system was intended for, especially because both of these systems originate from very different foundations.
Product lifecycle management systems focus on planning.
Enterprise resource management systems focus on execution.
To take a deeper dive, the focus for each system influences the key and unique features that the system provides.
PLM is a collaborative planning tool for your products.
The typical users of a PLM system tend to be product designers and engineers who need to work together to figure out what a product looks like and what it should be made of.
Since PLM is about planning everything about your product, it provides capabilities around managing designs, related services, collaboration with red-lining, task management and more.
Most PLM systems even have a PDM (product documents management) system inside of them. This how they often control the history of the intellectual documentation needed to design and manufacture a product.
These systems control and manage everything from CAD (computer aided drafting) files to program, project and change management processes. A PLM system combines all this functionality and integrates it into an overall product lifecycle management process.
This is why PLM solutions have a higher impact on revenue and brand image.
ERP on the other hand is a system focused on making and executing a product. The primary user of an ERP system tends to be people who deal with manufacturing operations.
Since ERP is about execution and fulfillment, it focuses on capturing information around things such as inventory, purchases and more.
While ERP systems focus only on traditional entities such as item masters, bill of materials and dates, PLM solutions encompass all of the iterative, collaborative, and creative processes that make up the vital elements of your product’s lifecycle.
In short, both solutions are vital for a company to develop and make products as efficiently as possible.
How PLM and ERP work together
Despite sometimes being viewed as competing solutions, ERP and PLM systems work very well together.
In fact, these enterprise systems complement each other, and it is in your benefit to have both! We can help you work through a Return on Investment (ROI) analysis if you’d like. Just contact us.
So how do enterprise resource planning and product lifecycle management systems work together?
PLM software provides the single point of product truth used by ERP to manage product resources and financials.
For example, by using eBoMs (engineering bill of materials) data from your product lifecycle management system, ERP can accurately generate purchasing and inventory management records, creating a unified management of both your resources and production.
Essentially, ERP systems pick up from PLM solutions and take finalized products forward.
This means that design, development, sampling, fitting, approval, assortment planning and all other activities essential to creating great products have already been signed off by the time your products reach the ERP system.
PLM systems help define, design, and plan your product. PLM integrated to ERP allows the systems to feed relevant BoMs and file components, so your manufacturing teams can efficiently order, make, and ship your products.
In fact, combining these two software solutions has only improved end-to end business performance and has already proven to be necessary. This is why so many ERP providers have started to acquire and develop their own PLM platforms!
By using ERP and PLM together, your organization can create a powerful source of data, information, processes and workflows. It can make it easier to create and deliver products from idea generation through design to manufacturing and distribution.
Now that you have a better understanding about how PLM and ERP solutions can positively affect the profitability of your entire company, you are in a better position to understand why it is best to invest and integrate both solutions.
PLM ERP integration benefits
Oftentimes, PLM only gets associated with engineering. In fact, many people don’t even realize that the full product lifecycle management system can integrate with ERP.
Rather than considering whether or not a PLM system could complement an ERP system, you should focus on the benefits your organization will gain by integrating the two.
When used together, your organization will have unified control over your manufacturing process and here’s why.
Today, in order to stay ahead of competition it is essential to deliver the right product, on time, and under budget.
To meet these requirements your organization must shorten design time and product engineering cycles.
By using PLM and ERP systems together, you will increase collaboration throughout your entire organization. ERP and PLM work best together as they collaborate and facilitate movement throughout your organization.
Without PLM, your ERP system is likely to consume and manage inaccurate data from design and engineering. This in turn is likely to deliver minimal (if any) improvements to your business.
Only using an ERP system without a complementary PLM system puts your organization at risk of mismanagement of product changes – which could lead to instances of inaccurate financial planning.
Together, PLM and ERP enhance collaboration between engineers, operations, and suppliers as they provide a single source of product truth. This will help you to seamlessly deliver products from design concept through manufacturing and distribution.
Because these two solutions both focus on products, they help create one single version of your product truth. This helps reduce errors and guarantees that your product documents and product versions are under control.
Seamless PLM to ERP integration will enable your organization to be more agile and reactive in all business activities including traceability, cost, delivery, quality, innovation and more. It helps ease your manufacturing process and creates a more cohesive environment.
By integrating both PLM and ERP, your organization will accelerate innovation, increase productivity, improve quality, and boost your overall performance.
Our Solution: Windchill PLM System
PTC Windchill is our PLM solution that we offer to our customers – so for the 97% of you that already have an ERP system, you should consider complementing it with Windchill. A popular blog called, “What is Windchill?” distinguishes all the ins and outs of this system.
“Windchill and our new ERP system make it very easy to manage customizations and helps us to make sure that we have materials in-stock and on-time to meet those needs. We save about four hours per job with just the front-end BoM load and getting the information into the ERP system – which has been huge for us.” – Myron Pundt, VP of Engineering, ALM Positioners
Watch our video to learn more about ALM Positioners’ success with PTC Windchill