Software Breeds Global Collaboration

The Industrial Applications business of Siemens Power Generation Group (PG) employs approximately 11,000 people based at more than 50 sites around the globe. These facilities include major design and engineering centers (with more than 800 employees at each and some with as many as 2,500 people), as well as smaller manufacturing and service competence centers and numerous regional organizations.

Case Study From: 2/19/2007 Modern Machine Shop

The Industrial Applications business of Siemens Power Generation Group (PG) employs approximately 11,000 people based at more than 50 sites around the globe. These facilities include major design and engineering centers (with more than 800 employees at each and some with as many as 2,500 people), as well as smaller manufacturing and service competence centers and numerous regional organizations.

The design, manufacture and support processes for industrial division products—gas or steam turbines and process compressors—take place across multiple continents. One constant challenge has been to turn what began as a collection of autonomous businesses in various locations around the world into a single division capable of global collaboration and rapid new product development.

Using product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions from UGS Corporation (Plano, Texas) integrated with mainstream ERP solutions from SAP, the division is accomplishing this objective.

“We’re undergoing a transformation from being a series of autonomous businesses to a virtual organization,” says Alan Walker, head of the Collaborative Product Definition Program at Siemens. “UGS’ Teamcenter software allows us to push data around in a virtual organization across the globe. The software enables us to transform a multi-site, multi-CAD operation into something much more integrated.”

To create this virtual, global organization, the company faces challenges such as the physical separation between sites as well as the different CAD, ERP and product data management solutions in use at the various locations. The physical separation necessitates a great deal of travel which, typically, means at least a day of productivity lost per person in transit each way.

“Costs such as airfare and hotels must be weighed,” Mr. Walker says. “However, the real cost of travel is lost productivity.”

As for the many different software solutions in use, the intent is not to make each site use the same system. Instead, the goal is to create a collaborative environment to support different data formats. An even more important consideration about data is the security of the electronic information as it moves from site to site, the company says.

“If this information is stored on CD-ROMs or memory sticks or similar media, then it is highly reproducible and therefore vulnerable,” Mr. Walker notes.

Other problems related to the geographic distance include design reviews that take longer than necessary, and different sites being forced to rework or recreate designs that already exist at other locations. In addition, there is a key goal to reduce non-conformance issues in the design stage, and the source of these issues could be attributed to the geographic distance between sites involved.

To overcome the challenges of global product development, Siemens is implementing Teamcenter’s engineering process management and community collaboration capabilities. Many design and manufacturing sites still use their original CAD/CAM solutions, which include Pro/Engineer, NX and I-deas NX series software. The extended enterprise of suppliers and third-party design houses also use tools such as Solid Edge and AutoCAD software. These sites work in 3D according to a collaborative product data model. The multi-site functionality of Teamcenter allows data to be stored locally in the software’s databases and linked. Consequently, up-to-date information from one site is now accessible to the other sites. This assures everyone involved in a project that they are working with correct data at all times, the company says.

A solution also being used already in various sectors of the organization is the software’s community collaboration technology, a Web environment that is integrated within the Teamcenter portfolio. It enables users to collaborate by sharing files, data and models, and then posting them to a common Web location. Users can view engineering data in a CAD-neutral format (JT files). According to the manufacturer, this provides access to those who historically didn’t have access to CAD software, or to Teamcenter’s engineering data management environment. These users can now view and mark up this data, which can facilitate quick design reviews and enhanced collaboration early in the design process. As a result, the company has been able to reduce downstream errors during production and installation.

The software is also said to bridge the gap between diverse engineering applications. Its embedded visualization capabilities combine models that were originally created in different CAD systems into virtual assemblies. A design review, for example, might combine turbine or process compressor components from various suppliers into a complete assembly, says the manufacturer. Reviewers can manipulate the assembly on screen for more comprehensive design reviews. In addition, Web conferencing capabilities can potentially eliminate the need to travel to participate in these design reviews.

Beyond the engineering environment, Teamcenter supports global collaboration by unlocking product information and providing access to Siemens stakeholders. This makes it easier for people in other parts of the organization, (sales, service, manufacturing, suppliers and third parties) to provide input throughout the product lifecycle process.

“We can now globally connect people in an instant rather than having to schedule meetings days, or weeks, in advance,” explains Alan Wilds, Director of Product Development in Siemens Gas Turbine Business. “Information is more secure and controllable as it crosses the globe, and Teamcenter affords us greater control of our intellectual property.”

“Even though the system is Internet-based, it diminishes the previous risks,” he says. “We have high-encryption delivery of information over the Internet that we can track. We know exactly who logs on and what they access.”

With people now collaborating more easily (less travel and document transfer delays) and effectively (better design reviews, more leveraging of engineering data), the company anticipates heightened productivity that will help it achieve faster time-to-market and lower nonconformance costs.

The company expects the better use of data and improved collaborative efforts that the software has fostered to yield better product quality. Siemens says that it has noticed a measurable reduction in design review time and increased reuse of designs. More specifically, with the correct data in hand, versus autonomous site development, non-conformance issues caused by geographic separation can be diminished.

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