A global Fortune 500 manufacturer leads the field among its competition, but its U.S. Motors and Generators business unit wanted to do more.
This company offers an enormously wide breadth of configurable products. It was a challenge for them to maintain stocked product and nearly impossible to maintain the flow and integrity of one-off orders.
It was taking the company 10-12 months to build a product that would only be purchased once, and often, six months into the build process someone had to speak up to say, “we can’t build this product.” Thus began a debate between functional units. Who calls the customer? Who pays for the lost time and materials? And most importantly, how did this happen?
It happened because engineering, manufacturing and sales operated in different silos. Engineering relied on one configurator to help design products, but production relied on a different configurator, and sales relied on yet another configurator. The result was confusion, errors and fights between departments. That meant costly mistakes and an incredibly high time to market. In a global manufacturing environment delivering 1.5 million products per day, this landscape was financially and operationally unacceptable.
The business unit knew that solving this problem was necessary to move forward in the future and so they began an initiative called Smart Simplicity. The project aims to unleash the full potential of existing Industry 4.0 initiatives, but to do that, the company had to first solve the configuration challenges.
With Configit’s help, the business centralized all configuration rules into a single repository that feeds multiple ERP, PLM, sales and customer systems.
Each department came together to define all elements of a product. These elements are then standardized into a central location. With this setup, an element is authored once, defined once, and stored once, then accessed by all other systems.
For example, a feature is authored and defined once then stored in Configit Ace. Once its been created, the feature is then consumed and becomes a standardized option or choice. That option or choice can then be pushed to SAP and becomes a characteristic or value. That characteristic or value is exactly the same as what was defined and stored in the very beginning, it’s simply been pushed into the appropriate system and given the appropriate nomenclature.
This pattern continues on to feed a product configurator. Now, a salesperson is creating a quote. Because the rules were established up front and have been consistent throughout each system, the salesperson is selecting options that have already been validated. It’s impossible for the salesperson to quote a product that manufacturing can’t build, or engineering can’t design.
The benefits are now gigantic. With a centralized repository of rules, a customer is given an accurate, real quote the first time. For this global manufacturing leader that meant that teams were able to reduce time from configuration to manufacturing from six months to four weeks. They’ve experienced zero order errors and realized a 45% improvement in collaboration between R&D and sales.
But the Smart Simplicity project aims to do even more. With its new configuration solution in place, the business unit can implement Digital Models. Teams will be able to look at a configured product from design to production and have visibility into the product as it’s made by a Doosan machine. Everyone will be able to see the flow of products through the floor and the manufacturing team can now re-order the flow based on product configuration, allowing for the most efficient build and assembly processes possible.
Beyond this, the Smart Simplicity project plans to implement the digital twin, an initiative that was previously impossible. There were simply too many engineered-to-order products sold to effectively introduce the digital twin. But now, because all configuration data is standardized, centralized and connected, a digital twin can be created at the time of quote.
With both a digital twin and digital model in place, the global manufacturer can realize huge efficiency gains. Engineering no longer wastes time designing an impossible product, manufacturing no longer stops the assembly line because a product can’t be built, and sales no longer calls the customer to say that his order has to be updated and will now be six months late.
By starting at the beginning of the product lifecycle, this manufacturing leader was able to lay the foundation for its Industry 4.0 initiatives to be as successful as possible.