• October 21, 2021

Five Steps to Rethink Manufacturing with Product Design Data Exchange Strategy

Manufacturing is a complex, evolving industry, and disruptions in the past year and a half have complicated these operations even further. According to KPMG’s Global Manufacturing Outlook Report, the greatest threat to manufacturers’ growth over the next three years is the risk to the supply chain. A typical supply chain has several tiers, each with multiple partners who need to share product design data with each other quickly and accurately. Suppliers need to know who has been sharing what data with whom, and how and when it was shared to protect one of their most valuable IP assets – product design data. 

Of course, with all these intertwined stakeholders at each tier there is the risk of errors occurring or data being mishandled, for instance it could be shared with the wrong person, or an old file version could be used mistakenly. Manufacturing companies’ customers rely on their suppliers’ ability to deliver products on time and in compliance with internal and industry standards – meaning one seemingly small mistake can grind operations to a halt. These types of mistakes can have drastic consequences, from time and money lost to delayed product launches and worse. In the highly competitive manufacturing industry, efficient and right first time sharing of product design data can be the difference between gaining a competitive advantage or falling behind. 

Successfully Collaborate with Automated Product Design Data Exchange Strategy 

What is the secret to avoiding a potential catastrophe? Implement an end-to-end product design data eXchange (PDX) strategy that automates the exchange of CAD and related product design data within Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, such as Siemens Teamcenter® and PTC Windchill®. A PDX strategy that uses automation solutions like Rocket TRUfusion Enterprise will help build an inherently secure process for managing your and your customers’ product design data as well as reducing the costly risks associated with data mismanagement. 

With TRUfusion Enterprise, PDX is automated to enable users to easily log in, locate the data they need and share it with partners correctly the first time. This way, manufacturers can easily track data for auditing, standardize the transfer process, deliver data with the correct format and naming conventions and avoid insecure methods of sharing like email, FTP and consumer file sharing services. Rather than relying on an employee to handle each of these pieces manually, automation reduces errors and frees up engineers’ valuable time. In a digitized and integrated manufacturing world, an automated PDX strategy is essential for rapid innovation, faster time to market and product differentiation. 

Here is a simple step-by-step guide to successfully implementing a PDX strategy that uses automation to save resources, reduce errors and boost productivity. 

  1. Set the Foundation 

The first step to launching any new initiative is to set the foundation by answering some fundamental questions. For instance, who owns the PDX strategy planning and execution? Typically, key stakeholders managing IT, engineering and procurement teams are involved, with input from legal to counsel on best practices when sharing intellectual property. Next, those stakeholders should determine the goals of the  PDX strategy. Goals usually focus on eliminating mistakes, waste and risk by creating more efficient processes within the data management environment. It is critical to have these conversations in the planning stages of the initiative to craft a strategy that appropriately addresses discussed goals and timelines. 

  1. Establish Roles and Access Rights 

Once a strategy has been determined, manufacturers need to build out roles and access rights in their file systems and PLM software so that the right people can find the right data – and ensure those who don’t need access to it don’t have it. Consider a supplier who builds a component for multiple manufacturers – a common occurrence in industries such as automotive, aerospace, defense, high tech and consumer products. An automotive T1 supplier, for example, can establish access rights so that engineers working on a Nissan® product can’t access Ford® or Daimler® product files, and vice versa. Leveraging access control rights prevents users from sharing product design data that could put companies’ intellectual property at risk. It also facilitates more productive collaboration by ensuring the right data is sent to the right partners.  

  1. Create a Process for Quality Assurance 

Supply chains demand high quality data that meets every stakeholders’ specific standards, including naming conventions and security mandates. Some supply chain partners even require that their suppliers use third party solutions to ensure data complies with a quality standard, especially for checking CAD design data. These third-party programs can plug into TRUfusion Enterprise so that CAD data is automatically checked before being shared with partners to prevent roadblocks in subsequent processes that would demand design rework. Likewise, manufacturers can review data they receive to prevent poor quality CAD data impacting downstream functions which may result in product quality issues and expensive corrective actions. With an automated PDX strategy, quality assurance is built into the process thereby reducing the burden on engineers and other stakeholders, freeing them to focus on more complex, productive and value-added tasks. 

  1. Configure the Whole Process  

Exchanging product design data is more than just the act of sending and receiving information between supply chain partners; it should account for the entire lifecycle of data. An effective PDX strategy and supporting system should consider the entire workflow, including the CAD systems used to create the data, the PLM systems which manage the CAD data and the agreed data processing steps (e.g. quality checking, renaming), resulting file types (e.g. other native files, STEP) and exchange mediums (e.g. Portal, OFTP2) to be used with each partner. Embracing the entire data lifecycle as part of the exchange process provides visibility into the end-to-end process so that manufacturers can trace their intellectual property, who has had access to it, what changes have been made to it, and who it has been exchanged with. Manufacturers need control over this entire process to avoid any losses, unnecessary wasted time and money and inefficient collaboration with their supply chains partners  

  1. Simplify the PDX Process for Powerful Results 

PDX automation allows users to focus on more interesting, challenging and important work for their company. Use of a simple, consistent and standardized integrated PDX automation solution, like TRUfusion Enterprise, eliminates the need for employees to remember who needs what CAD files, to what quality standard, with what naming scheme and which file exchange medium. Employees use a simple email-like system to select the data to be exchanged and the users to receive the resulting data. Partner users can also send back product design data to the users via the same portal. Automation of the steps to import CAD files into PLM systems can save hours per transaction received. Reciprocal automated PDX minimizes human interaction with the PDX process saving time, reducing errors and improving data integrity all at once. With Rocket TRUfusion Enterprise, automated PDX fits right into existing PLM processes, saving suppliers thousands of hours that employees can use to fulfill more strategic, productive roles. Automation is the secret ingredient to optimizing productivity, reducing time-to-market and maintaining control of high value IP. 

Improving the Bottom Line 

An automated PDX strategy can ensure that manufacturers provide their partners with the right product design data, in the right format, at the right time. The automation capabilities of TRUfusion Enterprise drive the integrity and appropriate use of product design data exchange by limiting the opportunity for human error while increasing productivity. These benefits all help improve the manufacturer’s bottom line and helps to differentiate them from their competition.  

Click here to learn more about TRUfusion Enterprise and speak with a Rocket expert: Request Contact | Rocket Software 

Martyn Davies 3 Posts

Dr. Martyn Davies is Director of Product Management at Rocket Software and responsible for the product roadmap of the B2B supply chain integration products.

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