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The Importance of MES-PLM Integration

Three major PLM vendors were acquired in the past 15 months. Shakeout? Bigger industrial automation powerhouses? It’s all potentially good news for automotive.
#GeneralMotors #Siemens #Saab


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Greek philosopher and mathematician Archimedes may have lived in ancient Greek times (circa 287-212 BC), but his lessons on the use of levers and pulleys have stood the test of time. These principles have helped win wars and progress mankind to build skyscrapers and other objects that require the movement of heavy objects through the use of leverage. What could the world possibly learn from Archimedes today, when computers and electronics have taken over most of our world? More than ever. The ability for organizations to leverage their resources to achieve the challenges of a global marketplace is nearly equivalent to moving mountains. This is one of the reasons why UGS (www.ugs.com ), a product lifecycle management (PLM) software supplier recently acquired by Siemens (www.siemens.com ), has embarked on a plan to leverage its resources through the deployment of “project Archimedes.”


Moving Ahead

“This will define the projects that help bring the product and production sides of the business together,” says Tony Affuso, President and CEO of UGS. The goal is to develop software systems that integrate Siemens industrial automation knowledge—developed by its Automation and Drives division—and combine those with UGS’s PLM backbone to overcome the barriers that have prevented true end-to-end PLM solutions. One specific area of interest is bringing together UGS PLM software with the Siemens Simatic manufacturing execution systems (MES) offerings, thereby assuring, in the words of Giorgio Cuttica, head of the Siemens Simatic IT group, “the integrity of the data and processes from the very first moment from the time we start to design a new product to allowing all the information to go into the plant for production.” Allowing the production side of the organization to test and validate manufacturing processes before they are deployed is a key driver of Archimedes as that will reduce product develop times while allowing manufacturing to integrate changes to the production process in a more cost-effective manner. “We’re looking at the possibility of scheduling real simulation in the digital factory that can be directly applied to the control systems for the actual machines used on the line,” Cuttica adds. The adoption of a global bill of materials (BOM) and bill of process (BOP) could be tested and validated under the proposed solution, along with further optimization of just-in-time and just-in-sequence manufacturing. 


Growing Utilization

“Another key benefit to our project would be improved capacity utilization and a more high-fidelity analysis of the production process, along with better reuse of assets in the plant,” says Chuck Grindstaff, executive vice president-Products, UGS. A common problem with linking production and product development operations tends to be the accuracy of the data shared. Grindstaff says Archimedes project teams are focusing on improving the quality of the data shared between the disciplines, a process he calls “adaptive manufacturing.” If the barriers to improved data flow can be broken, the possibility exists the entire product development, design, engineering and manufacturing operations can share data seamlessly before committing to unnecessary brick-and-mortar and high-cost tooling changes. The project will also encompass integrating Siemens controller logic directly into UGS’s NX software, while boosting support for mechatronics simulations to incorporate information on vehicle electrical systems directly into the PLM system to alert engineers of potential issues that could arise if a circuit could fail or whether a control module may not accommodate certain electronic modifications.

While Affuso admits that this plan may take years to realize, he believes that the integration of the systems will be highly beneficial to UGS customers.


GM Takes Data Sharing to the Next Level

The movement of data between the CAD and PLM systems can be daunting and time consuming, resulting in unnecessary delays and launch issues. General Motors is confident it has a way to avoid the complexities that develop when CAD data gets transferred over to the engineering side of the house. It’s called the “Global Repeatable Digital Validation” (GRDV) system. Detlef Bielohlawek, global director of CAD/visualization development and deployment at GM, explains that before the advent of GRDV, it was difficult to synchronize the CAD and PLM data across GM’s various global engineering facilities. “We always shared the data, that wasn’t the problem. It was navigating through the data and configuration management that was the issue. We had vehicle architecture structures in the system and we could turn on and off the data manually. With GRDV we see all the data that is specified,” Bielohlawek says. For instance, a designer working on a particular variant of a platform can see how a change to powertrain affects the overall dimensions of the vehicle or how a change to the front fascia for a particular brand design will impact the rest of its platform-mates. GRDV also improves GM’s ability to utilize its global design and engineering resources in real-time. “With GRDV, the data quality is the very same in all parts of the world,” he says. GRDV was deployed during the development of GM’s Delta and Epsilon platforms and has been improved as GM has expanded the reach of its global vehicle development team throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.


Placing Limits

Reducing vehicle develop time is the underlying fundamental behind another system change called Vaild Overlays Only (VOO). Developed alongside UGS, VOO reduces the amount of data a particular design operator has access to, limited to the area of the vehicle the designer is directly working on. “Once we have the usage information attached to the geometry, then with these overlays the designer is only able to precisely call up the data he needs to work on,” Bielohlawek says. If an engineer or designer is working on the wiring harness of a vehicle, VOO would bring up the data within a 13-mm radius of that harness, meaning less data would have to be loaded onto the terminal—reducing wait time—and limiting any potential for the designer or engineer from poking around in other areas of the platform. “This will bring a lot of benefits to GM,” Bielohlawek says, noting the less time spent waiting for data to load, the more time can be spent on working on other parts of the vehicle. Additionally, designers and engineers can stick with areas of the vehicle they are familiar with, while limiting any potential conflicts that may arise if something is inadvertently changed.


Digitizing Part Globalizatio

The globalization message is also taking root when it comes to sourcing, with Bielohlawek saying GM plans to further its global Bill of Material (BOM) program started a few years ago. “Opel has had its own BOM system and North America has had its own BOM system and other regions have their own BOM systems. We’re bringing all of those BOMs together from an IT point of view and the data will be accessible from one single point and the people in those regions can make use of those parts much easier and we can save time and cost,” he says. While part reuse has been a point of contention within the GM for the past several years—Bob Lutz complained loudly that while the Saab 9-3, Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu shared the Epsilon underpinnings, they could not be built alongside one another because they were too unique—the automaker is pushing hard to have its next-generation vehicles share components that will not impact customer perception and brand themes. GM’s IT systems have been tailored to identify parts currently in the automaker’s bin and potential sharing opportunities that exist as vehicles are developed. While other automakers have been progressing on deploying global BOMs, Bielohlawek says he’s received first-hand accounts from his counterparts at Volkswagen that GM’s further along in the global BOM process than they are. “They were very, very surprised how far we are on this,” he says. GM will move its global BOM program into high gear with the development of its Zeta rear-drive car platform, which is being co-developed at design studios in North America, Asia and Europe. All of these initiatives are key to GM’s plan to develop vehicles faster, with better quality and on budget, according to Bielohlawek, who coins them the “key breakthroughs” for the automaker’s future.



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