Integrate ECAD with PLM to achieve full product definition

ECAD BOM in Windchill

As PLM Business Director, I meet with companies from different industries daily. It is apparent that all products include electronics nowadays, but the management of electronic CAD data (ECAD) is not as mature as the management of mechanical CAD data (MCAD). In this blog, I will go through my take on why companies, regardless of their industry, should take ECAD data management seriously and include it in their PLM roadmaps.

Today, companies need to document full product definition in an enterprise system like PLM. Enterprise visibility to complete product data helps companies be more efficient, not only in product design but also across the enterprise.

Common challenges with ECAD and PLM today
Shortage of components, as seen today, puts extreme pressure on companies to find alternative suppliers and parts. Different ways to manufacture or procure parts from various locations make efficient procurement, manufacturing, and change management a challenge if data is managed in network folders and changes in emails. Furthermore, someone needs to document the product changes to enable product support, aftermarket, and different life cycle service. When the frequency of changes increases, documentation and change impact analysis might get neglected if there are many manual steps in the processes.

An increase of product regulatory demands on OEMs increases the need to know and document the products. Today, it is no longer enough to rely on part suppliers’ certification to comply with different regulations such as REACH or RoHS. The regulations change frequently, and new ones are imposed on OEMs. The more markets the products are put on, the more regulations to comply with. Knowledge of chemical substances in the product makes it possible to anticipate needed product changes in advance to minimize the risk of banned market entry or not being compliant with new regulations.
The full product definition includes complete BOMs and related documents to both bought and own-design parts. World-class manufacturers include product chemical composition alongside other documents in the product definition in one way or another.


[caption id="attachment_29395" align="alignright" width="300"] ECAD data model in Windchill[/caption]
Benefits of integrating ECAD with PLM
Improved part life cycle visibility across design, procurement, and manufacturing makes it possible to react quickly to component availability or pricing changes. Sourcing alternative parts and changing the product can start earlier and keep all the functions aware of each other’s progress in the change process.

Improved part supplier management also makes changing suppliers easier. In extreme cases, it is impossible to change PCB supplier because the current PCB supplier has the knowledge of available and approved component manufacturers. When OEMs have the information in their own hands, they are less dependent on the current suppliers.

Improved collaboration of design domains through data exchange between ECAD and MCAD tools enables interference and heat exchange analysis multiple times during the design cycle. With the traditional approach using neutral file formats such as DXF, IDF, or STEP, the iteration rounds take a lot of time and are not done frequently enough. Different domains are synchronized easier and quicker with a solid and version-managed data exchange process. This helps companies get the products to the markets on time with less risk of delayed product launches.

Efficient product compliance reporting is possible when the product information is in one system and is up to date. When the compliance engineer pulls out the data, s/he can at the same time see if there are ongoing changes that affect the regulatory compliance. This reduces the risk of a product hitting the market based on old documentation. If this is discovered later, it can lead to costly product recalls or withdraws.

[caption id="attachment_29397" align="aligncenter" width="366"] ECAD BOM in Windchill[/caption]
Altium NEXUS and PTC Windchill
Every OEM is interested in gaining the above benefits. But collecting all the data needed, and keeping it up to date, requires so much work that it is not practically possible to manage. This is what a good, transparent, and intuitive ECAD data management system, such as Altium NEXUS, makes possible. Getting all these benefits is possible when data collection is part of daily work without added labor. Utilizing online services like Octopart and enabling enterprise access to data through native PLM integration, such as integration with PTC Windchill, does not add to the design team’s work. Quite the opposite, Altium NEXUS reduces manual steps in the process and makes design teams more efficient.

Stay tuned for a follow-up when I tell you about Altium NEXUS capabilities. These capabilities enable companies to achieve the benefits that I have discussed here.

Best regards,
Perttu Korpela


Read more about Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and explore the possibilities with PTC Windchill – here.

KeyShot 11 – Now Available!

The world of visualization infinitely expanded with KeyShot 11 – now available via PDSVISION
KeyShot 11 is the core of creating eye-catching experiences, taking your visualization capabilities to the next level, introducing new ways to explore details, expanding how you present your ideas, and bringing balance to the art of creating 3D visuals.
KeyShot provides users of all abilities with unmatched ease, simplicity, and overall accessibility to a range of visual and physical enhancements. It provides complete creative freedom and a level of visual agility that allows you to explore your design at the speed of thought.
With a range of new features and improvements, Keyshot 11 brings you complete creative freedom. Some of the new features include:

3D Paint – allows you to further customize your product’s material and finish by painting or stamping directly on the surface of your model
Material Management & CMF Output – KeyShot 11 adds both Material Management and Color, Material, and Finish (CMF) Output
Physics Simulation – allows you to record the physics of an object and apply it as keyframe animation
KeyShot Web Viewer – easy sharing of 3D scenes with the new KeyShot Web Viewer

For more information on KeyShot – Click here 

Enterprise Visualization in the Product and Service Lifecycle Business – one unified automated publication pipeline

Automated publishing from Windchill

As part of digital transformation roadmaps, industrial companies explore enterprise visualization to enhance business-critical processes. They explore harnessing 3D CAD data for training workers, capturing and standardizing workflows, and enabling collaboration in entirely new ways based on visual rather than verbal and textual aspects. Augmented Reality is often explored in these endeavors, lacking an understanding of how the technology would support the users and the business as part of the solution.

But organizations that have pursued digital transformation confront new challenges and discover gaps with dispersed unconnected systems and siloed organizations. These gaps result in poor enterprise-wide integration, lack of workforce agility, slow business processes, and dependency on expensive third-party subject matter expert services. Heavy manual tasks are required to keep information flowing and up to date. Overcoming these challenges requires new ways of thinking and understanding the relationship between technology and improvements in business processes bridging organizational siloes and connecting business systems. It involves decision-making within new and unknown areas. And if made correctly, allowing for a breakthrough in transformation resulting in business opportunities staying ahead of the competition.

In this blog post, I will talk more about the possibilities of enterprise visualization and the first steps in implementing automated and templatized enterprise visualization.

Content is king
For enterprise visualization to be a valuable asset in an industrial setting, content must be effortlessly managed, published, and available for users. The content needs to be up to date to provide actual insight into both products and processes. In many cases, if the content is outdated, it will form an immediate security risk for the workers and the business. There is a risk of incorrect and slow decisions, cost increases, loss of business opportunities and revenue. In the worst case, inaccurate and outdated data might jeopardize the users’ health and safety, negatively impacting the business and the people.

For many industrial enterprises, these have been the main obstacles to overcome. And for many, the journey ended there, on an experimental level, due to time-consuming heavy manual tasks preparing, optimizing, recreating, publishing, and republishing data for visualization purposes.
Different users have different needs
For decades, companies have invested in automated processes to reuse product and service lifecycle data for various downstream use. Disrupting what seems to be well-working and optimized processes might not attract everyone. But every quarter and every fiscal year, the pressure to show more significant business results is set higher and higher on organizations and individuals. Suppose the systems and processes do not meet the needs of the set business goals due to the way of working being set 10, 15, or even 20 years back. Then, the only focus will be solving critical daily tasks to put out the most urgent fires. Having workers trapped doing non-productive activities does not allow for creativity and productivity or achieve the proper business outcomes. And the questions to put on the table are,

“Do we manage the value potential of our existing data?”
“Is the data that we possess functional for intended use?”
“Where else and who else would benefit from our data?”

But various users and use cases have different and varying needs,

“Will our existing data in its current form and format meet the users varying needs and requirements?”
“Can we utilize mobility and head warn devices?”

Raising productivity based on data access and comprehension might not seem easy when users could be on mobile devices, desktop computers, smart glasses, or headsets. The type of user depends on where they work, how they work, and how they are comfortable working. Is it in the field requiring both hands-free, in a factory or an office, experienced or novice, a C-Suite, a sales rep, a customer or a partner e.t.c.? Everyone has unique needs that often require data from multiple sources to make things happen correctly and efficiently, with the ultimate goal of meeting or exceeding business targets. Avoiding people’s movement to search, acquire and report relevant data becomes a business advantage and impacts health and safety. In many industrial settings, every human step is a security risk – providing access to extensive and outdated documents is not viable!
Industrial grade complexity
With complex industrial-grade process and product structures, detailed and extensively heavy datasets, a mix of business systems, metadata, immaterial property rights, and cyber security come challenges in delivering relevant data for the users. It is a question of combining, optimizing, and providing the appropriate data from various sources in a secure and user-friendly manner – the data needs to be “good enough for the purpose.”

Many of the business systems in use today are constructed to support a textual description rather than a visual. Textual descriptions are often extensive, complex, cumbersome, and hard to interpret, creating collaboration-obstructing silos, slower than desired business processes, and less than desired business outcomes. In short, there is more value potential to be explored in the existing data!

[caption id="attachment_27420" align="alignright" width="300"] Automated publishing from Windchill PLM to various formats and user interfaces[/caption]
Prioritize and automate where feasible
To automate just for automation’s sake might be a dangerous play. Many digital transformation efforts languish and fail cause there is no connection to tangible business value.

Companies that succeed have identified and prioritized their unique opportunities for significant value creation by utilizing and reusing their data in entirely new ways. Combining and visualizing data from various sources is one compelling way to transform how people work and organizations operate. Visualizing and making data available will often force organizations to realize shortcomings in their products, processes, and communication. These weaknesses force them to rethink and document their products and processes in entirely new ways. This shift in thinking and operating will improve overall communication utilizing step-by-step visual elements and visual guidance. One main objective of this transformation process is to positively impact outcomes (products and processes) to be more customer-oriented and user-friendly, bridging language barriers and overcoming organizational siloes. Success comes with positive business impact and new opportunities covering the ever-growing customer requirements for transparency and customized, easy-to-use, easy-to-understand step-by-step information!

Enterprise visualization puts pressure on the capabilities to efficiently make changes and updates to the visual information. Reflecting content updates and configurations smoothly throughout the process allows the visual content to be actual and up-to-date. When this process is under control and there is a balance between manual efforts, automation, and scale, it provides opportunities to optimize and customize the data flow for various users and use cases.
Many stakeholders of visualizations
[caption id="attachment_27421" align="alignright" width="228"] PLM automation makes actual and up-to-date visual content and experiences available for the user[/caption]

Sales might need high-quality 3D renderings in still-image and video format for presentations and the web. There is an increasing need for interactive experiences to place 3D virtual products in their intended environment so sales can conduct relevant discussions with their counterpart or customer. For the counterpart, it is easy to relate the conversation to what appears to be a custom visual appearance in a known environment. It is easy to document what is agreed upon and communicate it back to the organization to process the opportunity forward.

Service and maintenance are carried out based on visual 3D step-by-step procedural instructions. The instructions contain information from various business systems where product design, technical writers, domain experts, and product/service lifecycle management are central. The step-by-step procedure will automatically capture user and performance data for effortless reporting promoting transparency, real-time progress, and continuous improvement.

The staff can quickly sharpen their domain expertise and task-related knowledge during training based on similar visual experiences. The difference is that the data is optimized for learning and connected to the Learning Management System to document and certify compliance. Learning happens independent of time and place and may also occur on the job. On-the-job learning or visual guidance allows for worker agility. It promotes continuity as it minimizes the skills gap by transferring expert knowledge and promotes workers to be productive from the onset freeing up experts from training sessions and shadowing unskilled workers.
What is your roadmap?
Automated and templatized enterprise visualization might not be feasible for everything and everyone. It is a balance between cost, scalability, and prioritized business outcomes determined and dictated by the individual company’s strategic initiatives. Is it to reduce quality issues, penetrate new markets, find new business models, produce less scrap, or be customer-oriented? Whatever it might be, there is a custom roadmap for every company where automation meets the needs of cost, scalability resulting in business opportunities!

Digital transformation and enterprise visualization will touch upon every aspect of the business requiring people and organizations to rethink their way of working. Partnering with the right stakeholders is key to success. PDSVISION is part of a winning global ecosystem with the proper industrial heritage and winning culture. We possess and master tools, solutions, and technologies that transform and disrupt businesses at a constant high phase. We innovate and implement according to your specific strategic initiatives, and we provide opportunities for long and short-term positive business outcomes. The local PDSVISION office and representatives are ready to take you through what we call Visual Transformation i.e. one unified automated publication pipeline through PLM for product pictures, animation videos and interactive 3D experiences to be used on the web, in PC applications, mobile apps and print!

Kind regards,