Industrial Strength Business Process Management for Manufacturers
Manufacturers have a wide range of business processes that can be complex like: product lifecycle management and engineering change requests; or simple like vacation requests. All of these processes have one thing in common: They are hard to control; They are hard to track; It is difficult to see the status of any process; And, it is difficult to find information used or created by the process.
PLM, PDM, etc.
For many years, manufacturers thought controlling engineering documentation was all they needed to do. However, if you stand back to really see a product lifecycle you will notice that it begins with the customer [customer requirements]. Marketing gathers the customer requirements and works with engineering to come up with the engineering requirements. Engineering designs can now begin against those requirements. Many companies skip the step where finance actually reviews the requirements to see if the manufacturer can make a profit. Most manufacturers know how to manage engineering and manufacturing information. What about billing, customer support, warranties, etc? Real product lifecycle management crosses most departmental boundaries of a manufacturing company and therefore, their processes tend to be very complex.
Engineering Change Requests
Engineering documentation is your company’s intellectual property [mission critical]. People in your company have an expectation that when they check out engineering documentation, it is the latest released version. A shared drive does not manage versions, nor does it do a terrific job of managing access, particuarly process based access which is critical to providing context sensitive access to partners in the extended enterprise or supply chain.
Changes to your bills of materials are a critical part of engineering documentation. It is critical to know that you have the latest released bill of materials to work with. If the wrong one should get to the factory floor, the error could cost $ hundreds of thousands.
Many manufacturing companies have paid consultants to come in to their company to identify their most expensive process. The result is always the same - the most expensive process for a manufacturer is the engineering change process. If you are currently managing this process manually, you can be incurring costs of $2,500 per change request just to manage the process. Most manufacturers complain that the process is taking too long. How many of you have figured out ‘work arounds’ to get a change request approved in a day or two? If your engineering documentation is mission critical, isn’t the process that creates, changes and manages that documentation mission critical?
Unified Bills of Materials
When a companies are on a roll, it is easy to make profits. When profits are rolling in, people don’t spend a lot of time determining how efficient their processes are. When things are not so good, the initial reaction is often to look to layoffs to improve the bottom line. Realizing that they cannot cut headcount anymore without hurting themselves, companies are now looking at their processes to see how improvements can impact their bottom line.