CMC Electronics Saves Millions with ProductCenter PLM

SofTech’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Solution Gives Control Over Explosion of CAD Files, Saves Valuable Time

CMC Electronics, Inc. (formerly BAE SYSTEMS CANADA, Inc.) produces both commercial and military avionics products, including flight management systems based on the Global Positioning System (GPS) for manufacturers like Boeing for installation and retrofitting on airlines. The U.S. Marines and Army are also customers for products such as line-of-sight, high frequency tactical radios.

As CMC Electronics was rapidly adopting more computer-aided design (CAD) tools in the early 90’s to produce their avionics equipment, engineers began grappling with new problems from the huge proliferation of files. They began to realize they needed the ability to effectively manage these files and associated information to prevent costly inefficiencies and thus shorten time-to-market.

Files Multiplying Out of Control:

As the company continued to expand, its increased use of CAD systems began to create problems of its own. Pro/Engineer®, Mentor Graphics®, CADKEY™, AutoCAD®, and four or five other minor CAD systems were in use, resulting in a bewildering array of files and file structures. The only official tracking system at that time consisted entirely of manual processes with paper. The resulting potential for error was being fulfilled with alarming regularity.

Typically the files were just spread all over the place,” according to Mark Hamilton-Piercy, IT Engineering Manager, “with multiple copies everywhere, and this caused us all kinds of problems. The time it took just to find drawings, to make sure you had the right ones, and be sure you were not redoing work by picking the incorrect files was costing us a lot of money.”

In 1994, CMC Electronics began to realize they needed a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution to gain control and turned to SofTech “One of the main driving forces was cycle time in the design phase,” Mark says. “An awful lot of time was spent effecting change. There were all kind of issues that just went away when we started working with SofTech.”

Pro/Engineer® Integration the Driving Force:

Why did CMC Electronics choose SofTech’s product lifecycle management solution, ProductCenter™ PLM? “I would say the main driving force was ProductCenter’s integration with Pro/Engineer,” Mark explains. “That’s the emerging standard in our company. Although other vendors had products available for managing it, they were far short of meeting our requirements.”

After reviewing the product, it became pretty evident that ProductCenter is an extremely flexible product. We saw that it would be an ideal electronic system for gathering and collecting the information we need, rather than distributing paper.”

CMC Electronic’s Engineering Configuration department began using ProductCenter to store and manage all of their core drawings and engineering documentation. They have also started implementing the next step of putting all technical manuals for their product lines into ProductCenter. “Over time, our plan is that ProductCenter will become our full blown product lifecycle management system – handling everything,” Mark says.

Currently, all engineering data (mechanical and electrical drawings, specification sheets, and other product information) is accessible through the Web with their custom built Electronic Document Online Viewing System (EDOV). The company-wide EDOV system is based on ProductCenter and was created with the ProductCenter WebLink™ Toolkit. “This is now deployed across the entire organization,” Mark says. “That includes the manufacturing, testing, and engineering departments.”

ProductCenter’s Web integration capabilities with its WebLink toolkit opened up new development possibilities for different user interfaces, including the EDOV electronic viewer. “This way, we’re moving out of the paper paradigm and towards electronic data, which is far more efficient,” Mark says.

CMC Electronics has calculated savings of over $313,000 a year just on employees’ time spent looking for drawings and information. Usage of ProductCenter has doubled the company’s original savings estimates.

Prior to becoming CMC Electronics, the company’s ProductCenter-based EDOV system won BAE SYSTEMS’ Bronze Award for Innovation, an internal program to encourage employees worldwide to suggest improvements to products or processes.

Globally Managing Distributed Design/Manufacturing:

“ProductCenter has definitely been a big help in managing our globally dispersed design and manufacturing teams,” Mark says. He gives an example of sets of assembly instructions, called key cards, which are now kept in ProductCenter. EDOV allows both engineering and manufacturing to easily see the key cards and other elements of the product structure from their own point of view. CMC’s IT department has starting using ProductCenter’s Named Links functionality to include even more information that manufacturing needs.

“Using ProductCenter has definitely improved our responsiveness to our customers. Our increased ability to deliver is bringing us more customer satisfaction and more business. For example, many of our customers request documentation packages, which was very time consuming. Often, by the time we finally had the drawings packaged, there would already be a change to them just because the process took so long. Then someone would have to go back, pull out the changed drawings and reinsert the updated ones.”

“Now, with all documents and source files in ProductCenter, it’s pretty simple just to publish a CD for them,” he explains. “The shipping costs are less and it’s reduced a five-man week job down to less than a one-man day, which is pretty significant. Plus, it’s an area where we didn’t even realize we would have savings.”

Mark talks about business that the company might not have pursued if they didn’t have ProductCenter to work with, since the demand for a quicker time-to-market is now much higher. “A couple of recent, high profile products we developed required very short design cycles,” he explains. “Those product structures were put into ProductCenter right from day one. The payoff has been very evident.”

“Everything is there at your fingertips. You don’t have to chase around looking for things, since with ProductCenter’s release management you can go back and pick up previous versions of a structure very simply.” Contractually, the company sometimes has to deliver all of the electronic CAD files and associated data, too, which Mark says, “is a no-brainer now because it’s all in ProductCenter, under control.”

ProductCenter @ CMC

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