ProductCenter PLM Streamlines TurboCare’s Engineered-to-Order Product Development
Exploits ProductCenter PLM Flexibility to Create Competitive Differentiation
About TurboCareTurboCare is a leading international aftermarket supplier of support and replacement parts for nearly all turbomachinery in operation today. These are the big, high-precision turbines that generate electricity and keep our homes and businesses running.
In the U.S. alone, the electric power industry currently has more than 1,300 steam-turbine power plants in operation that are at least 30 years old. With deregulation, utility companies have had to optimize the operation of older plants and improve the performance of older steam and gas turbines to remain competitive. TurboCare provides parts, spares, and services that keep these highly complex machines running at optimum efficiency.
Challenges of an Engineer-to-Order Product EnvironmentServicing the utility industry is somewhat seasonal, with overhauls done during periods of lower demand. As such, it is important that TurboCare’s product teams operate at maximum efficiency during these cycles.
Because of the nature of these machines, TurboCare parts are also primarily engineered-to-order and are continually refined to optimize performance or refitted to account for wear. "Very few of our products are off-the-shelf," states Rich Laroche, Systems Integration Manager. "Our niche is knowing what modifications have been done on a turbine and being able to satisfy our customers’ needs quicker and more cost effectively than our competition."
Improves Customer ResponsivenessFor the fastest customer turnaround of proposals and product, it is important to have unmistakably current customer product information at the fingertips of TurboCare’s sales representatives and engineering staffs and to be able to exploit existing product designs wherever possible.
TurboCare has come to rely on SofTech’s ProductCenter™ PLM (product lifecycle management) solution to help it more efficiently manage its product lifecycle data and processes to more effectively meet customer demand.
Supports a Cross-Facility CollaborationTurboCare is headquartered in Massachusetts, with facilities throughout the United States, and in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Today, ProductCenter PLM is the central repository for all product data and is used to automate and standardize product version and release controls across the corporation.
"Before, TurboCare had eight facilities each doing their own thing" Laroche explains. "Some facilities relied on paper-based processes. In particular, our Fitchburg (Massachusetts) facility, primarily engineering, ran a number of multi-facility projects that required better coordination. One facility was already using ProductCenter so we decided to take a closer look at it, along with other competitive products, for use across the company."
Meets Need for Flexible, Enterprise PLM"Ultimately, we chose ProductCenter. It offered the flexibility we needed. It had a good track record, the product depth we needed, and the strongest integration suite, important since we have almost every CAD solution out there."
Since its deployment, ProductCenter has met TurboCare’s three critical goals for implementing PLM company-wide. First, it has successfully brought TurboCare’s dispersed groups’ design capabilities together, improving coordination when multiple facilities collaborate on projects and helping TurboCare present itself as a single, well-organized company to its customers.
Second, ProductCenter provides TurboCare the capability to know exactly what was made for each customer at any point in time. In fact, proposal teams used to rely on researchers to search out information. Now, they can quickly find out what has been done on previous jobs right in ProductCenter, reducing proposal response time considerably. There’s also greater reuse of product data to expedite projects as well.
Third, ProductCenter now provides consistent version/review control throughout the company, with mechanisms in place to communicate changes to everyone involved. Edward Gans, Systems Analyst, reiterates the importance of these controls, "Today, everyone works with current product information and knows when there are changes pending. Processes are consistent at every facility. We’ve minimized the chance for errors that could have previously caused shipment delays."
Supports a Mixed CAD EnvironmentTurboCare uses several different computer-aided design (CAD) solutions at its various facilities, including Pro/ENGINEER, AutoCAD, Mechanical Desktop, Inventor, and others. Unlike other PLM providers that are primarily CAD companies, SofTech offered the added benefit of a full set of ProductCenter™ PLM Integrators to these applications. These Integrators incorporate PLM capabilities for accessing data and managing changes and revisions right within the CAD menus so that PLM becomes almost a background task.
Convenient Access to DataTurboCare uses ProductCenter™ PLM GenView to automate creation of PDFs of drawings at release, making this information more widely accessible to anyone that needs it. The smaller PDF file size is convenient for sales representatives to access copies of drawings from the road via VPN or dial-up access.
Laroche summarizes, "With ProductCenter we can tell our customers that we know exactly what’s in their turbine right now and that’s a competitive advantage. It also helps us organize new and unique part numbers, making it more difficult for competitors to track our products."
Slashes Drawing Development TimeProductCenter provides many additional opportunities for TurboCare to gain further process efficiencies. Over time, it has become apparent just how flexible the application is. "ProductCenter is robust out-of-the-box but it’s also extremely adaptable," adds Gans, who does customization of ProductCenter utilizing ProductCenter programming toolkits. "We like doing things our own way at TurboCare and ProductCenter easily accommodates it."
In fact, Gans recently devised a unique application built on ProductCenter to automate the creation of drawings. With entry of an order, Gans’ program automatically pulls in a list of part numbers from TurboCare’s Epicor® Vantage® enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. It then deciphers the part numbers and accepts additional input from the designer, perhaps new tolerances or different dimensions. Once that is done, it automatically opens AutoCAD and initiates the creation of a set of finished drawings. Once checked, the drawings are batch loaded directly into ProductCenter. It’s all automated.
"This will be especially helpful during peak times. There’s less human intervention, data entry steps, and chance for errors in creating drawings. The time savings is considerable," adds Gans. "And at some point, we’ll likely launch drawing approvals utilizing ProductCenter™ PLM Workflow, automating the whole process. Near term, we plan to add additional CAD applications."
- Unifies TurboCare’s global design, manufacturing, sales, and service operations to improve customer responsiveness
- Supports mixed CAD environment of Pro/Engineer®, Inventor®, Mechanical Desktop®, and AutoCAD®
- Fast, easy ERP integration automates drawing creation; speeds development cycle, proposals, and customer responsiveness