Harman/Becker Automotive Systems Automates Full Product Definition Lifecycle with ProductCenter PLM
From Engineering Tool to Enterprise PLM Deployment with Savings of Millions Annually
With all the new technology, it seems that old tinny AM radio has almost gone the way of the Edsel. Harman/Becker Automotive Systems, a division of Harman International Industries, Inc., pushes this technology envelope, producing some of the finest state-of-the-art car audio, video, and navigation systems, including the latest trend, rear seat entertainment systems.
Harman/Becker Automotive Systems (HBAS) is a global operation with design and manufacturing locations across North America, Europe, the Far East, and South Africa. Growth, numerous acquisitions, and the movement to Pro/Engineer® 3D modeling necessitated HBAS’s original search for a data management solution and the group’s selection of SofTech’s ProductCenter™ PLM (product lifecycle management) solution. The original goal with the selection of ProductCenter in the mid-1990s was to centrally manage the vast number of files created in a 3D modeling environment as well as the relationships between those files.
“For many years ProductCenter was viewed primarily as an engineering tool to manage Pro/Engineer and other related data,” explains Robert Evans, Harman Engineering Systems Project Leader. “But as we explored ProductCenter’s capabilities and success with other SofTech customers, we began to formulate very specific goals to support the full product definition process as an integrated enterprise-wide design-through-manufacturing solution.”
“We now have multiple design engineering groups, supplier engineering, quality, sales, finance, configuration management, and manufacturing at HBAS all using ProductCenter in some shape or form,” adds Evans. “I prefer to call it cost avoidance but our original ProductCenter ROI calculations, reducing drawing access time, reproduction costs and mailing, was $400,000 a year. We’re managing ten times more documents than that now so are likely saving over a million dollars a year — freeing up time better spent elsewhere.”
Authorized users have enterprise-wide access to digital product content through the ProductCenter™ PLM Weblink Toolkit that includes component drawings, assembly drawings, QS9000 and ISO1400 documents, ECAD data, control plans, quality data, software, and even purchase orders. HBAS also utilizes dynamic stamping of documents. So when a document is retrieved from ProductCenter, the document is date and time stamped with a notation ‘Released’ or ‘Change in Process’ so there is no confusion.
ProductCenter™ PLM Workflow was implemented to support processes involved in new product introduction and release to manufacturing. This included automation of the group’s part number and bill of material (BOM) item master generation, which is called an Inventory Maintenance Master (IMM) record at Harman.
Part numbers were being controlled and manually logged by a person in Configuration Management. Today, an employee simply fills out an on-screen part number generation form in ProductCenter to complete the required attribute information, the basis for the IMM record. ProductCenter’s intelligent search makes it much easier to locate a part or to see if a similar part exists before creating a new one. Engineers can now get part numbers anytime of the day, which is important with global operations.
ProductCenter Workflow automates IMM approvals and completion through configuration management, supplier engineering and cost accounting. Automatic notification is sent to these organizations by email through ProductCenter. If it is a purchased part, the appropriate group adds the vendor details. If it is a manufactured part, they add routing information, which completes the IMM and readies it for the MRP system.
“On the process side, we also utilize what’s called temporary device notices or TDNs. This is a tightly controlled document required for QS9000 to document any deviation from a controlled manufacturing process. These are also maintained in ProductCenter. If someone calls up a product, they can immediately see if there are any open TDNs against it,” says Evans.
“We’re also managing software configurations with ProductCenter,” adds Evans. “With digital technology, we can have a digital amplifier that can suit multiple vehicle configurations with just a change in software. So, we no longer need to re-stuff a circuit board to change the way an amplifier works, we just change the way the software is configured.”
HBAS also automated its system for tracking customer purchase orders with ProductCenter, which up until then had been complicated with having Sales located in Michigan and their Accounts group in Indiana. “Cash flow is important to any business and we had too many late customer billings before. We now realize on-time receipts (that would have previously been late) on over one million dollars of billings per year. Also sales personnel can easily check for discrepancies in what was quoted and paid for and keep track of customer-requested changes to help us recoup those costs as well.”
What started as just an engineering tool, ProductCenter is now an enterprise PLM solution supporting the HBAS Group in ways that have had substantial impact on reducing development cycle times and alleviating costs. As to the future, the HBAS Group is looking at expanding its product repository to include more categories of product data and extending access to more and more facilities, as well as automating additional product lifecycle processes.