“In addition to system performance and user acceptance... SofTech’s concern, responsiveness, and turnaround to our requests have been outstanding.”
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Product Development Lifecycle Reduced 60 Percent with ProductCenter PLM

SofTech’s ProductCenter PLM Chosen in Competitive Evaluation, Displacing Data Management System Plagued by Slow Performance and Data Inaccuracy Problems

The Company

This SofTech ProductCenter customer is a recognized leader in flight simulation systems and training. The company develops and produces military and commercial fixed wing and helicopter flight training simulators, along with extensive flight training programs that are delivered in 42 global training centers. As the world’s largest aviation training organization, the company also maintains and produces equipment and offers training to over 50,000 pilots and maintenance technicians a year for airlines, business, governmental, and military clients, as well as flight attendants and flight dispatchers.

The company’s flight simulation systems are highly customized and complex. Each model is unique to mirror the variety of aircraft they are designed to simulate, which creates millions of parts and assemblies to precisely control and manage. As such, improved management and reuse of the volumes and variety of product information produced can have a major impact on cost and time-to-market, and hence, the company’s competitiveness. Add to this the further complexity of 3D solid models, and a top-notch product lifecycle management (PLM) solution is key to efficiently and accurately managing this data.

The Situation

The company’s product design organization was transitioning from a 2D to 3D design system and with this turned to a SmarTeam data management system to help it better organize and manage both its more complex SolidWorks, as well as AutoCAD data. However within the first year of deployment of the SmarTeam solution, there were numerous problems encountered, the most serious being performance and data inaccuracy. At that time, the system also lacked key features that were committed to but not delivered in the timeframe required, mainly workflow, which was crucial for automating product data reviews and approvals.

At an impasse, the company began a meticulous evaluation of available PLM systems, re-evaluating their existing PLM system and others, including SofTech’s ProductCenter™ PLM solution.

Key to this evaluation was to have real users involved in the selection criteria from all facets of how they would be accessing and utilizing that data. Using actual data in real life scenarios, ProductCenter outperformed the other systems in terms of performance, usability, functionality, and data accuracy. SofTech’s solution integrated to SolidWorks, as well as AutoCAD, and also had the needed workflow capability so it was the ideal solution to replace their failed system.

The Solution

With the first phase of their deployment of ProductCenter now complete, the company has migrated approximately 45,000 SolidWorks files to ProductCenter. That’s just the latest revisions of those files; legacy data will follow, along with the migration of AutoCAD data, another 350,000 files. The SolidWorks data is now vaulted and under configuration control in ProductCenter, providing secure, accurate and centralized accessibility to this data, along with revision/version control.

There are 65 SolidWorks users on ProductCenter now, with 130 AutoCAD expected to be online shortly. Users have transitioned to the new system very well. One individual at the company commented, “I gauge it by how quiet it is — and right now our users are very, very quiet. It means there are no problems, and they’re happy and able to do their jobs.”

On the deployment this individual also comments, “In addition to system performance and user acceptance, we’re also exceptionally pleased with the caliber of people we have dealt with at SofTech. There are no ‘cookie-cutter’ implementations. SofTech’s concern, responsiveness, and turnaround to our requests have been outstanding.”

But even more impressive, early benchmarks show that the company is on track to reduce product development lifecycles by 60 percent with ProductCenter, encompassing engineering time from data check-in to product release to manufacturing. In addition, prior to implementing ProductCenter, it was estimated engineers could spend an unacceptable one third of their day searching for data. With ProductCenter, the company is well on its way to reducing this number to less than 15 minutes per day, a considerable amount of engineering time that can be used more productively for example to accelerate new product design further and lower costs.

The Future

Migration of AutoCAD data to ProductCenter, and implementation of ProductCenter™ PLM Workflow and the ProductCenter™ PLM Bills of Material (BOM) Editor is next on the agenda. The goal is to automate design review processes and BOMs to be able to directly link engineering BOM item master data to the company’s enterprise resource planning system. This will save re-keying of BOM data between the engineering and manufacturing, keeping these systems in sync, saving even more time, and providing greater data integrity.

ProductCenter Benefits:

  • Successful replacement of troubled data management system in place previously
  • Overall 60% reduction in product development lifecycle time accelerates time-to-market and improves profitability
  • Smooth, rapid deployment, expedites return on investment
  • High levels of user satisfaction, reducing administrative and support burden
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The Case Study