- 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
How, he asked, do I know where my PLM and ERP system should begin and where should they end? How do they work together? How should I structure my data be stored and accessed?
This question was coming at a moment of extreme digital change for him. His company was in the midst of a 2–year battle to evaluate ERP solutions and upgrade their obsolete system, and their prodigious growth had also forced them into expanding their investment in their product data management system. These parallel digital initiatives were critical to their continued growth – but it was not immediately clear to him on how to reconcile these two seemingly disparate systems.
Understanding the difference is a challenge for many companies, especially given how PLM & ERP systems have changed and developed since their inceptions decades ago. Both systems of record have matured and advanced far beyond their original conceits. Many ERP systems will offer modules which purportedly function like PLM and some PLM systems will allow you to interact with vendors in ways which are reminiscent of ERP. There are overlapping capabilities, but the central roles of ERP and PLM are distinct and optimizing a harmonious PLM-ERP connection delivers real value to the entire enterprise.
PLM is to your Intellectual Property what ERP is to your physical property
Both systems manage data but the distinction can be seen at the moment of financial impact. Once you physically buy parts or service and that transaction belongs on a P&L, then that transaction should be owned by ERP. Everything up to that point, however, is part of the product development process and we believe that PLM has many more impactful tools and processes when it comes to product development.
Think about building a house. Would you start by buying some amount of lumber and pouring concrete around a lot? No. You’d start by planning and drawing out schematics, calculating loads, and simulating the house in CAD before you ever buy anything. That’s the power of PLM – PLM is the planning tool that allows you to design and iterate a product before you ever purchase physical assets to build it with. It saves you time and money by planning smart and being precise.
One need not take precedence over the other, I explained to the CEO. The goal for any intellectual product is to one day become reality, and thus PLM needs to talk with ERP and ERP needs to be in step with PLM. Companies that want to understand true cost to produce and supply chain will need both tools working together. The key is to use the best tool for the job and not pour any concrete before the foundation is planned.
Mastering change management with Windchill has its complications, but the secret is out. There’s an easier way to do change management with PTC Windchill Product Lifecycle Management software, and this new Windchill “cheat” may be what changes the game completely.
It’s true, PTC Windchill really is the best PLM software on the market, but along with its seemingly uncapped capabilities comes divine complexity.
And with complexity, well, often comes…frustration.
In a world where we can virtually have anything instantly at our fingertips, why should anyone be forced to learn and memorize an ever-changing, complex PLM system?!
Yet, it seems that in order to successfully capitalize on a PLM system and utilize all the features a company invested in – it’s almost unavoidable.
Time after time, we hear of instances involving Windchill users’ wasted time, energy, and clicks.
So, our company, EAC Product Development Solutions, thought to ourselves – how could we make PLM easier?
How could we simplify the user interface of PLM systems, such as PTC Windchill, to make a faster, easier and better user experience?
How could we do the same for change management within Windchill easier, better, and faster?
Not only did we figure out a very simple solution, but we also figured out how to make data access simple.
It’s easy to plugin, install, and most importantly – it changes the entire user experience of PTC Windchill.
It makes Windchill PLM easy to use, understand, and it provides an easier way to capitalize on all the features the complex system has.
Essentially, we created and designed an easy PLM system plugin that transforms the complex user interface of Windchill and makes tasks such as creating change reports, requests and adding new variances easy!
Applications that make PLM faster
Although our PLM applications might not speed up a Windchill system directly, they will definitely decrease the time any users take to search for information.
With our Productivity Apps, infrequent PLM users no longer need to remember how many clicks they need to make or where they need to go to find information in Windchill.
In fact, anyone with access to the simple desktop applications can easily access any PTC Windchill Product Lifecycle Management information directly through their own simple personalized desktop screen.
This eliminates any and all time needed to train and learn a complex PLM system.
Our PLM system applications were designed to relieve and entirely combat Windchill user complications.
We built them to initially enhance enterprise wide Windchill system adoption and usage.
So let’s talk about how our Apps really work.
Our applications plug directly into your PTC Windchill system and display a simplified desktop user experience.
They push and pull data to and from your system, helping to streamline your PLM system usage and functionality.
The accessibility for users that might only need access to information housed in Windchill, perhaps only once or twice a week, will greatly benefit from the implementation of our Apps.
By opening a simple desktop application, without any training, any user can easily navigate the interface, find any product information they need and do so all while eliminating time and lengthened processes that the basic Windchill interface requires to complete a task.
Our PLM applications give any user the Product Lifecycle Management information they need as quickly as possible. This is exactly how PLM Apps can speed up the time it takes to accomplish a simple task!
Forget the need for PTC Windchill training
The truth is, PTC Windchill systems can be complicated, especially in instances where users are not fully trained to use the software.
This is where infrequent PLM system users oftentimes research how to do this or that within their system. If this is you, you know all too well of the valuable productivity you’ve lost when searching for answers in the system help center.
You may even run into instances where you’re skipping tasks altogether (such as creating a change report), and in fact, you may even risk doing it wrong because you’ve forgot a few steps.
To make matters worse, you might even need to disrupt others for help.
It’s because of all these reasons and more, our Productivity Apps really can change the game.
With the simple click of a button, our Apps have the ability to alleviate several daunting steps.
Over the years, our organization has worked with hundreds of Windchill users’, allowing us to continually expand our app framework and functionality based off what our customers have told us.
After all, the technology you purchase should be working for you, not the other way around.
We have had customers say, “I want a view. I want to be able to have a guy on the shop floor and a partner both be able to see everything related to a part number. I want them to see a document, a drawing, a part, a bill of material. etc.”
Overtime, what we found our customers were looking for was really any relevant data that that was associated together. They wanted their data to be completely available and, in some cases, even to download.
They were unable to easily display all the information they were looking for just by doing one, simple, quick search.
That’s when our Quick Search App was born, and it was really developed just to do that.
Quick Search provides a single easily accessible view where any user can get all the relevant product data and information they need on a simple screen. It’s even downloadable and all.
Connect disparate data from unconnected systems
Our PLM Apps even have the ability to tie together data you need from siloed, unconnected systems.
Not only do these Apps help users easily find Windchill data, pull data, and make that data easier and more accessible without great changes, but they were designed to truly tie and pull data together from other siloed enterprise systems.
They have the ability to pull data from Legacy ERP or MRP systems.
For example, you could connect to your ERP system to pull quantity, along with any other relevant information and have all your information right at your fingertips.
Forget difficulties with change management
The truth is, many organizations face difficulties with change management, and we wanted to ‘change’ that.
How? Let’s start with how our Apps alter change management in a way that makes a difference, and more importantly, how that difference makes the process easier.
Change management becomes effortless with the ability to easily customize or configure the user interface that is built on top of the ThingWorx on navigate app.
What does that mean?
Essentially, our Apps still utilize the powerful change management workflow built within Windchill to point at all of the complex, rich data in Windchill.
The difference is, they change how data is visually displayed and how your teams work together.
Hence where the ‘productivity’ name comes in.
They provide one view into all relevant data, so your users are easily able to fill out all of their relevant change information. This is a huge benefit in comparison to having to jump back and forth between multiple screens to retrieve data or complete things inside of Windchill.
By tying all necessary data into one view, not only is the user experience enhanced, but the number of clicks and picks required by a user is drastically reduced as well.
Ultimately, this is what grants your users with the ability to quickly submit change requests (while it even presents the information that is needed as users fill out a simple form).
This means your team no longer has to go through the GUI or work step by step to fill out the information they need to kick start a change request.
This is something most Windchill users don’t understand.
There are easier ways.
The best part? These ‘ways’ don’t change your system configuration, they simply sit on top of your system and re-invent the user interface to enhance the system’s abilities and most importantly, productivity.
Our applications alleviate the need for siloed departments to interrupt other disjointed departments by providing accessible data in real time, everywhere
Easy task management
Not only can you easily submit a change request or problem report, but you also have the ability to easily manage tasks.
Users are able to pull up a dashboard displaying the entire task force. For instance, once a change request is submitted, you have the ability to see if that change request is being analyzed.
They provide visibility and status on task completion. This helps users easily know what they need to do, and what state that task is in.
You might be thinking, “But what about the people using change management to review and approve and complete tasks?”
No need to worry, our Apps are equipped with that functionality too.
Managers can utilize these Applications to easily see what is going on and help them understand what they might need to review.
Users can even view open tasks, complete them and even assign tasks to other users.
The functions are endless. You can do anything that involves change management, all directly within our EAC Productivity Apps. It really is a one stop shop.
This means anyone involved in your organization’s change management process now actually has the ability to do everything they need to do, within one single app.
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.