This is the second in itelligence’s two-part blog series exploring how enterprise resource planning can streamline engineering and manufacturing communications and processes. Part one of this blog examined common workflow problems between engineering, manufacturing and other departments that stem from a lack of integration and delayed flow of information.
The current state of engineering disconnect occurred quite naturally. Engineering departments wanted robust CAD tools, so they purchased tier-one CAD systems, which shared no information whatsoever with the back-end informational infrastructure. This fundamental gap led to the current lack of communication between engineering and the rest of the organization, but luckily, there is a solution.
To prevent internal disconnect between departments, everyone needs to share the information. To accommodate this, companies must ensure that there is one single source of information. The solution is to integrate the CAD system into the ERP system. With this approach, the ERP system is the PDM. PDM capabilities must be routed through the ERP system. In effect, companies must integrate the integration (CAD to PDM to ERP).
Companies are beginning to integrate CAD directly with ERP PDMs, and many now use internet-based collaboration tools with external engineering partners. The immeasurable benefits of this integration not only include streamlined new product introduction, but also a healthier organizational culture, which allows collaboration and teamwork to thrive in a completely organic manner.
Once the engineer designs a component within CAD, the interface assigns each new material with a material number, stores the drawing file, creates a link from the drawing file to the material, generates a BOM, and creates a link from the drawing file to the BOM, all within the larger software solution. Purchasing receives an automatically generated email with the new design, and—along with manufacturing, quality, and cost accounting—has all the information needed for RFQs or RFPs.
While CAD is an incredibly powerful resource, its capabilities remain muted within a silo structure. Unless material numbers and design revisions reach manufacturing, purchasing, and the rest of the organization quickly and efficiency, CAD serves only the engineering element and confuses and complicates new product introductions. However, when combined with ERP, CAD immediately becomes a tool that enhances every department within the enterprise, seamlessly providing one source of product information, and significantly reducing the chances of the organization delivering no product introduction.
Within this structure, information becomes ubiquitous. The engineering process—now truly transparent—allows purchasing and manufacturing to understand at a glance what they need and where the overall organization stands in relation to the introduction of any given new product. Enhanced visibility in turn leads to cultural progression and confidence that the integrity of the product structure will be maintained throughout the organization and the extended organization (vendors). Rather than operating as disparate units, access to information allows all departments to share one common goal and demonstrate compliance to ISO and regulatory agency traceability requirements. Frustration from communication breakdowns dissolves, replaced by a single harmonious vision.