This article explains how to make product data accessible, as well as why product data access is a trend that many organizations are beginning to pursue.
Product data is vital to organizational success
In business and engineering, product development refers to bringing new and existing products to market. During this process, your product data is everything.
Your organization’s product data likely includes computer-aided design (CAD) data, 3D models, parts information, standardized work instructions, product requirements, notes, documents, and more.
This is why your organization’s product development success starts with… you know it… product data.
The reality is, the product data that may only be visible to engineering or management teams is exactly what your entire organization could leverage to make better-informed decisions.
Product data is vital to organizational success because it helps identify business opportunities, predict future trends, and most importantly it is exactly what allows you to generate more revenue.
Why is data accessibility important?
Data-driven business decisions make or break companies. This is exactly why your product data should be accessible to anyone within your organization who needs it.
People across multiple departments often need to input data into business systems, especially in larger organizations.
If different employees throughout your organization input slightly different information, use non-compatible formats or simply don’t have access to each other’s data – confusion and miscommunication can occur.
These situations lead to mistakes, unnecessary costs, and lost revenue. All of which (I’m going to assume) your business is trying to avoid.
There are many reasons why access to data is important, but let’s address data access methods and tools your organization can use to help extend and make your product data accessible.
Integrated systems streamline processes, increase efficiency and productivity, reduce costs, and reduce manual entry errors. This is why organizations take steps to integrate business and enterprise systems used throughout their operations.
Integrating your business systems helps keep everyone on the same page by ensuring all staff has access to the same data.
This is especially important when tracking product changes, and I’ll explain exactly why.
Let’s assume an engineer needs to make a last-minute one design adjustment to a product. This is a situation when it is crucial to inform affected departments and stakeholders of product changes as soon as possible.
When system integrations and PLM/ERP tools are in place, everyone throughout your organization (who would need access to specific product data) can access up-to-date information!
Not only does this keep people up-to-date and informed, but it also allows people throughout an organization to compare and contrast the evolution of your products.
Why is that so important?
A cross-functional team’s ability to evaluate the history of product changes through the lens of each individual’s respective discipline will provide a better idea of the impact of product and process changes over time.
When one department gains access to information they didn’t have before, it can help them understand the role in the company better as well as the overall operation of the business.
This knowledge can help them improve performance and productivity, as well as, allow them to make better, more informed decisions.
Recognizing & responding to multiple data user’s product information needs
PLM systems can quickly become too complex for many roles across an organization. This can make it hard for users to navigate the system, find information, and ensure they’re getting the right information.
When this happens, users lose time waiting for the person who created the information, and they take time from the designers and engineers that should be focused on designing and developing products.
The solution: System integration that is focused on data visibility and data accessibility
By integrating your enterprise systems with a focus on data visibility and data accessibility, your organization ultimately supports communication and collaboration across the entire enterprise and value chain.
For instance, product data management tools (such as PLM applications or plugins) can collect and transform your product data. These same product data access tools can also provide a data output with meaningful content, assisting any role (such as accounting, purchasing marketing, etc.) to make smarter and faster decisions which can directly impact your bottom line.
An easy solution to extend product data access
Our company, EAC Product Development Solutions, designed an easy solution to help organizations (like yours) easily extend access to accurate product data.
Our PLM EAC Productivity Applications deliver role-based data mash-ups, that provide just the type of product information that is needed by a particular role.
Our PLM plugin technology works in the back-end to bring together product information stored in multiple enterprise systems (such as ERP, ALM, PLM, QMS, etc) to deliver product data to users in a way that can be easily consumed.
This enables an entire enterprise to get valuable product data and information in just the way that they want it when they need it.
Our Productivity Applications also eliminate time wasted waiting for authors to collect and redistribute product information.
Our EAC Productivity Applications help deliver on the promise of Product Lifecycle Management.
Want to learn more? Let’s have a conversation.
Here’s why every manufacturing company should be considering product lifecycle management applications.
Expand PLM software usage throughout your enterprise with PLM apps
Let’s face it, no company uses a single product data management system (PDM) or a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system for ALL of its organization’s needs.
Your organization likely uses an abundance of different technology software to collect and store data. These technologies can include customer relationship management (CRM) systems, quality management system (QMS) software, enterprise relationship planning (ERP) systems, application lifecycle management (ALM) systems, and so many more.
If your organization currently uses a PLM system, odds are you most likely paid a pretty penny for it. So why not make the most of that product lifecycle system investment and use your system’s complete functionality?!
Product lifecycle applications support, enable, and enhance the value and footprint of PLM software. PLM Apps go a long away to assist and ensure consistent access to up-to-date product data. They can help expand controlled access to valuable content and give functional groups a single simplified view of files, data, and content all within a single browser-accessible screen.
You’re going to want to invest in these kinds of advanced technology solutions that simplify data gathering processes and expand the value of your PLM investment. PLM apps are meant to help you find data easier which reduces user frustration and helps take productivity to new levels within your organization.
PLM applications, also referred to as PLM system plugins, deliver on the dreams of many organizations. They are a simple solution that drastically increases enterprise PLM usage.
PLM apps integrate siloed data from disparate systems
PLM apps simply pull data from other enterprise systems into a new user-interface through API integrations. They don’t rely on interface features from other enterprise platforms or systems (besides the data and information they extract), therefore, they are less likely to be affected by a new release of the underlying enterprise systems!
PLM apps simplify searches for the occasional PLM software user
PLM applications offer user-friendly interfaces that simplify the complexity of PLM systems and make it easier to search, find, locate, and understand product information. In fact, many of these tools even allow organizations to adjust settings for specific users (such as purchasing, marketing, accounting, etc.) so they can access the direct information they need.
PLM apps Many customers we work with use complex product lifecycle management systems such as PTC Windchill or Siemens Teamcenter. Due to the robust capabilities of these enterprise systems (and other PLM systems), many users find product data hard to navigate – especially if they aren’t daily users within these systems.
PLM apps speed up product development processes by providing users with complete access to real-time complex enterprise data.
Product lifecycle applications really do make PLM easier – see it for yourself by watching this short PLM applications video.
Customize PLM apps without disrupting your PLM software
PLM applications and system plugins offer simple and easy ways to customize enterprise product data systems. A PLM Administrator can customize the apps to conform to their company’s goals and prioritization of tasks without disrupting the PLM software itself.
Time after time, we see organizations add PLM customizations to their mainframe PLM software, only to wind up facing dozens of challenges as new system software versions get released. Because PLM apps are an extension of PLM software systems, they are minimally affected by upgraded software versions and updates (if at all).
PLM Applications offer a brand-new UI for your intricate product data management system; enabling a fresh and simple user experience. They also have started to help organizations solve problems easier and faster with direct, accessible, and instantaneous insights from data.
Your systems are only as good as how you use them. If employees struggle to navigate your product lifecycle system interface, PLM apps are definitely something you should be looking into!
How PLM apps drive flexibility within your organization
PLM applications provide access to PLM information to employees outside of engineering such as marketing, sales, finances, and procurement.
Access to PLM system data provides another way for teams to identify the broad scale of their day to day activities and information. This can help teams understand and prioritize tasks to be more efficient and productive.
This flexibility allows teams to work the way they want. By enhancing a complex system and tailoring each end-user experience, it’s easy to see how these PLM system plug-ins can drastically improve productivity and drive value across an organization.
What is better than providing every department with product information that they want and need to do their job?!
Want to learn more about PLM Applications and how they could pair up with your current enterprise systems? Let’s have the conversation!
If you have Windchill, a PLM (product life cycle management system from PTC), odds are it’s where your organization stores a lot of really great product data and information. It also means there’s a high likelihood many employees in your organization need access to that valuable product information.
But what happens when people within your organization need to access valuable product information, but they aren’t necessarily veteran Windchill (or PLM system) users? What happens when your ‘casual Windchill users’ only want to quickly get to the information but simply don’t want to be “Windchill users”? 90% of the time this scenario involves your experienced Windchill users being disrupted by requests to pull product information.
Right at this point – exactly when people in your enterprise need access to information in systems they don’t use on a daily basis – is when you lose efficiency, productivity, and revenue. This cross-departmental disruption leads to wasted time, and wasted time leads to wasted money. PTC realized these challenges and created a solution to combat complicated enterprise system interfaces, varying user needs, and disparate enterprise data sources – It’s called ThingWorx Navigate.
To make Windchill PLM, or any PLM information more accessible and solve disruption challenges, PTC designed ThingWorx Navigate role-based applications (apps) that allow users to easily access and consolidate information from secure systems like ERP, MRP, CRP, and PLM systems like Windchill. For instance, by using these applications, a tool designer could call up drawings without having to go through the whole interface of Windchill. The applications pull up windows to look directly into systems, without forcing a user login in and navigate complex product design or enterprise planning systems.
For example, by using PTC’s ThingWorx solution, a tool designer could simply type in a drawing number he or she was looking for on the PTC ThingWorx Navigate application, and the drawing files would pop-up instantly on the screen. These simple product data navigation features also work with product information that purchasing, quality, or any other departments might need access.
PTC’s ThingWorx Navigate applications make it easy for anyone…ANYONE in an organization to obtain product information without having to be a Windchill system expert. One of the great things about these role-based applications is – depending on who you log in as – the apps can be set up to determine what type of information access someone has, as well as what types of product info an employee can access.
For instance, someone on a shop floor could access ThingWorx Navigate applications, and with a simple click in a window would display all the information they need about a drawing. Or perhaps someone only needs to see bills of materials, they could do that in one location by accessing a ThingWorx Navigate application. Just like PTC Windchill, PTC Navigate is a web-based application. This means all an organization really needs is a web browser and a login and instantly anyone can start working.
ThingWorx Navigate applications are also completely customizable. This allows your organization to control exactly what displays on the search screens, as well as, how that information would be delivered to your users. In fact, PTC even created a Thingworx Navigate Productivity calculator to demonstrate how much money enterprise collaboration can save a business. It even lets you estimate your exact company’s potential annual productivity savings!
Bottom line, there really are a lot of great benefits that come along with being able to easily deploy Windchill access throughout an enterprise in a unique and stress-free way. And remember, ThingWorx Navigate also integrates with other enterprise systems, not just Windchill.
But wait…there’s more!
You can make the user experience even better by implementing ThingWorx Navigate and extending functionality and configurability with EAC Productivity Apps. In case you are not familiar with us, our company (EAC Product Development Solutions) specializes in transforming the way companies design, manufacture, connect to and service their products.
One of the ways we do this is through implementing, maintaining, and helping customers with PTC Windchill product lifecycle management systems. Being the Windchill experts that we are, with extensive years of experience (over 23 years to be exact), we work with hundreds of organizations and their PLM systems. This is precisely how we know the need many manufacturing organizations have to extend enterprise system data and capabilities even further!
Working with our Windchill customers over the years, we recognized patterns of system requests and capabilities that just didn’t seem to be specifically addressed by existing solutions. We recognized and researched system challenges that many organizations tended to face with their PLM systems and realized the need to help organizations quickly deploy Windchill, increase user adoption, and capitalize on system functionality. After all, we live in a world obsessed with speed and efficiency. So, to quote the wisdom of Daft Punk, we needed to make complex PLM systems Better, Faster, and Stronger.
Furthermore, we realized valuable data our customers acquired from their other disparate enterprise systems never seemed to be tied together with product data from PLM systems. This was increasing our client’s risk of transferring obsolete inaccurate data. With that knowledge, we knew our solution needed to be able to connect multiple streams of data from different locations and enterprise systems, and even different databases.
All these reasons drove us to develop what we refer to as EAC Productivity Apps. They help organizations quickly advance and capitalize on Windchill PLM capabilities. Although EAC apps are different from Navigate applications in many ways, what I believe really sets them apart is how they use and leverage the concept of data mash-ups. Multiple sources of information brought together to simplify a role-specific workflow.
EAC productivity applications take product data and information from a variety of different systems and transform that data into an easily consumable visual dashboard for any user. Essentially, our apps create a way for organizations to easily connect data from multiple enterprise databases, bring it into one accessible location, and tailor it to the needs of a specific user. This allows any user to easily have all the information he or she could desire with a few simple clicks.
EAC apps also help users access product information, search for information, get bill of material reports, create and manage other related documents, and look at associated parts.
Let’s talk about why bill of materials are so important, how BoMs impact business, and the best BoM management practices. Or check out another helpful article on BoM management, “How BoM Management plays a role in your PLM processes“.
The importance of bill of materials
In fact, departments often rely on BOM records to get the job done right. Whether you realize it or not, your BoMs drive and affect your businesses’ operational success. This is why it is so important that your organization creates and manages well-organized, correct and up-to-date bill of materials.
BoM information accuracy and why it matters
BoMs require complete and accurate information, in order to successfully benefit design, manufacturing, sales and service building quality products.
The accuracy of BOMs influences an organization’s ability to make well-rounded product development decisions. These decisions fundamentally impact the efforts organizations peruse to generate a product in the most efficient, cost-effective way.
Oftentimes creating BOMs requires input from design, procurement, manufacturing, and sales. Using manual methods to collect and enter items on various BoMs increases the risk of producing inaccurate, out-of-date, or even possibly duplicate BoM versions.
Furthermore, if departments produce products based on incorrect or inaccurate bills of materials, delays to market can occur. This can not only be very costly for an organization, but it oftentimes impacts an entire supply chain.
Inaccurate bills of materials are one of the costliest errors engineering companies can make. In order to avoid the risks of inaccurate BoMs, many organizations have started to reevaluate the way they create, manage, and share product information.
BoM management processes
Bills of materials (such as eBoMs, sBOMs, mBoMs) are most-likely part of your product development process. That being said, what are your current processes for managing those BoMs?
How do you share, collaborate, and ensure the accuracy of your organizations’ bills of materials? Do you find it difficult to manage the differences between them and keep the data consistent across eBOM (engineering bill of materials) and mBoMs (manufacturing bill of materials)?
Odds are if you have yet to implement technology solutions to manage your bills of materials, your methods for BoM management most likely involve spreadsheets, emails, rekeying information, and multiple other systems of communication.
If this is the case, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Studies show nearly 50% of product development companies still use spreadsheets (or sometimes even nothing at all) to manage complex bill of materials!
Despite the big workload that BoM management represents, many organizations are still comparing bills of materials in excel spreadsheets or by opening separate BoMs and manually connecting the dots. This management approach is not only tiring, but it also increases risks of human error and mistakes, especially if the bills of materials are very long.
In fact, is not unusual to find one giant excel spreadsheet on top of information managed by PLM (product lifecycle management), ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and other databases. Why is that? The information required to assemble bill of material documents tends to reside within separate, disconnected enterprise systems.
It’s time to change that.
Connecting business systems and information
In a world of complex, role and department-specific enterprise systems, productivity can seem quite limited. But the truth is, with the help of technology, businesses no longer need to operate this way. Collaborative solutions exist, and they really are as simple to implement as they, well… should be.
System integration tools (such as applications) change the way organizations create, manage, and share product information- without even having to upgrade or change current enterprise systems.
Using system API connections, applications can pull data from disconnected enterprise systems and consolidate it into centralized dashboard display windows. In fact, many integration applications are even ready to go straight out-of-the-box (yes, this means they require absolutely no special configurations or complicated implementation at all).
For instance, productivity apps offer simple, role-based access to data and other enterprise systems making it easier for stakeholders to view and understand consolidated product information and data. What makes simple applications that integrate enterprise data even better is the fact that most of these system collaboration tools are even affordable.
With a single view to into multiple enterprise systems (such as ALM, MRP, ERP, SLM, CRM, Accounting, and PLM) you can be sure that users have access to the latest and most accurate product information when they need it, and how they need it. There’s really no catch. Productivity apps really are solutions that are; easy, affordable, and that solve the complexity of dealing with multiple disconnected enterprise systems.
Effective BoM management & bill of materials software
Parallel to system integration apps that can pull and consolidate enterprise data, BoM applications can also automatically consolidate real-time data across enterprise systems.
This means organizations can enable real-time BoM collaboration – and that is a game changer.
Real-time BoM collaboration empowers users with capabilities to collaborate and work together creating a bill, sharing BoMs and associated data, and even preview CAD drawings and images. It also opens up the ability to simultaneously edit manufacturing bill of materials, while completely avoiding duplicate and inaccurate documents. This enables users to get a virtual ‘live view’ of data.
Users are able to maintain and manage all associated product documentation such as part datasheets, materials required, CAD drawings and files, as well as anything else that is needed to manufacture a product all in one centralized location. This reassures one sole accurate and revision-controlled bill of material for a product.
This is exactly why it is so important to establish systems and methods that enable all departments within your product development process to be able to share, collaborate, and ensure the accuracy of your bills of materials.
A simple bill of materials software
Our experts at EAC Product Development Solutions recognized the need for better BoM management within many organizations- That’s why we created our bill of materials software application, BoM Reports.
Our BoM Reports PLM application is essentially an out-of-the-box PLM system plugin. It’s easy to use, simple to integrate, and an extremely affordable for any organization.
We designed our Bill of Materials Reports application with the intention of making manufacturing bill of materials and engineering bill of materials management ‘easy’ for organizations of all sizes. Meaning- our bill of materials software can even work for small businesses!
Our BoM Reports app delivers access to your accurate bill of materials database while it provides visual representations, cost rollup for materials, and detailed informational listings of items within bill of materials.
We guarantee our BoM Reports application will enhance your bill of materials management. In fact, it has changed the way many of our customers do business.
Our EAC Productivity app enables purchasers to see product cost roll-ups during design, so they can hit cost targets. It allows project managers to see the highest level status and availability of constituent parts so they can keep projects on time and budget. It helps fabricators see what version of parts go into the build so they can prevent scrap and rework- and SO much more!
We’re excited about how our organization is enhancing product development and we would love to share more information with you about how our EAC productivity apps really work.
If you would like more information about apps that could work for your business insert your information below. We promise not to fill up your inbox with overloads of information, we simply want to share tips, tricks, and tools that will help your organization succeed.