Continuous Product and Process Improvement at Monarch Hydraulics with ProductCenter PLM

From Automation of Business Processes and Product Information Management to ERP Integration and the Extended Enterprise, ProductCenter PLM Delivers Success

The Company:

Founded in 1856, Monarch Hydraulics designs, manufactures, and distributes quality hydraulic components and innovative systems for the worldwide fluid power market. Ever since its inception, Monarch Hydraulics has taken pride in fulfilling its customers’ needs with quality products and services and for over 150 years has done just that.

The Situation:

Paper-based and saturated with information that was scattered throughout the corporation it was time for a change. While Monarch was transitioning from ComputerVision Personal Designer® to SolidWorks®, making product data accessible, current, and in-sync was a priority and the foundation for a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution search. Monarch’s goal for a PLM solution was to automate its product lifecycle processes and information to accelerate time-to-market. In addition to the business and functional requirements that had been defined, there were two other criteria that were equally important to Monarch. Based on the experience gained in a prior attempt at implementing a PLM solution, Monarch insisted that the new solution had to have a low total cost of ownership and could not disrupt the current level of customer service that Monarch’s customers were accustomed to.

The Solution:

ProductCenter, from SofTech, Inc. was ultimately chosen based on its extensive functionality, numerous successful customer implementations and on the strength of ProductCenter’s tight integration with SolidWorks. “Our criteria for selecting a PLM solution was that it had to integrate well with SolidWorks and deploy rapidly, which is where ProductCenter really excels. We were well underway with our ProductCenter deployment in just a week. It implements, works, and delivers. What more can you ask for?” said Brad Fluit, Monarch’s Systems Administrator.

In the phase one rollout, which focused on managing SolidWorks product information and automating product lifecycle processes, ProductCenter was deployed to over 100 users throughout Monarch. In support of Monarch’s objectives the ProductCenter SolidWorks Integrator brought PLM right to the SolidWorks desktop allowing users to access all associated data, to manage reviews, data package assembly, approvals, and status checks directly from within SolidWorks.

ProductCenter Workflow eliminated the lack of continuity within Monarch’s Engineering processes by implementing a workflow for all engineering work requests (EWR). This enabled Monarch to combine multiple engineering change notice (ECN) and engineering work request processes into one seamless EWR process. Monarch also had a requirement to maximize product information accessibility thus streamlining communications throughout the organization; this was enabled through the implementation of the ProductCenter viewable generation module.

Driving Continuous Process Improvement Initiatives Forward:

Although they have not put a formal label of Kaizen or Six Sigma on their process improvement initiatives there is a spirit of continuous improvement at Monarch. Now that product data was centralized and in control at Monarch the next logical step was to disseminate the information across the entire company. During phase two of the ProductCenter implementation, the initial focus was to integrate ProductCenter with MAPICS, Monarch’s ERP system. Building on the success of the first phase of the implementation Fluit comments that “The goal of the ERP integration was to have a 10% productivity gain in our Engineering process. Once that was complete we would look at a project to integrate the newly established design center in China with access to all appropriate product information in real-time.”

By leveraging SofTech’s pragmatic “4-points of Enterprise Level Data Sharing” (Document, Item Master, Product Structure and Process Information) Monarch has been able to see immediate returns with gains in productivity resulting from reduced approval times and improved data consistency and integrity. “We’ve had resounding success with our MAPICS ERP integration, which is one of the most successful IT projects Monarch has undertaken,” states Fluit. He goes on to state “The integration between ProductCenter and MAPICS automates data synchronization so all employees know they are looking at the latest product information from a product development and manufacturing perspective. In addition, as information moves between the ERP and PLM systems it ties back to the already implemented EWR Process. The EWR workflow is the engine that drives this integration.”

Monarch is based in Grand Rapids Michigan so the next step was to extend this solution to a remote engineering design service based in China. Having their Center Of Excellence (COE) in Grand Rapids, Monarch was faced with a common problem experienced by many discrete manufacturing companies. How do you securely control product data and quality when a portion of the design is being done half way around the world? To solve this problem, Monarch worked with SofTech’s Professional Services group to setup a replication and vaulting scenario where behind the scenes ProductCenter ensures that both locations (Grand Rapids and China) have local access to the latest files. “We can send out EWRs to our group in China and expect them to function as if they were local to Grand Rapids,” adds Brad Fluit. “Because of ProductCenter Workflow we have an easy way of documenting and deciding what EWRs go to China and what needs to stay here in the US.”

“There has been a significant productivity increase since ProductCenter became a part of our business. A lot of customers are outsourcing more and more to Monarch Hydraulics as we continue to prove that we can handle the workload,” explains Fluit. “Compared to last year, we have seen an approximate 45% increase in engineering project output as a result of both the ERP integration and extended enterprise to China projects. This is a major improvement considering the initial goal of phase two was to have a 10% productivity gain.”

Fluit goes on to say, “ProductCenter has proven to be a great investment for our organization. Its reporting capabilities have made the appropriate information accessible to those who need it. This new found visibility into the day-to-day engineering operations is making us more efficient every day by exposing process and procedural issues so that they can easily be corrected. In addition, all the things that we have continued to do right over the years do not get overlooked.” When asked how difficult it has been to “teach the ol’ dog a few new tricks” Brad commented: “I’m able to train new users easily and in two hours they’re off and running. After a training session one user commented ‘Is that all there is to it – I can just go back and do my job?’ expecting something more complicated would be required to do their job.”

The Future:

Monarch continues the next steps required for its initiative of paperless engineering and complete digital archiving of all product information. Building upon engineering’s past and present successes with ProductCenter, initiatives like the paperless push is being embraced in departments outside of engineering such as accounting and finance.
Brad Fluit concludes, “We’re not quite there yet but the direction is to implement a digital archiving mechanism under ‘customer records’ that will link all changes, EWRs, drawings, sales orders, etc. to a specific customer record thereby streamlining information accessibility throughout the company. We are looking forward to the continued successes and cost savings that ProductCenter has helped us realize.”

ProductCenter @ Monarch

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