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10/15/2004
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PLM Helps Varian Semiconductor Improve Product Development

The company is using PLM software from Aras to measure development against business goals.

Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc.'s machinery is used around the world in more than 3,000 sites that churn out about 5 million wafers each day. To more efficiently deliver its complex high-tech products, the $390 million-a-year company has turned to product-life-cycle-management software from Aras Corp.

Aras PLM is designed to help companies manage engineering projects and product data and measure product development against business goals. Aras PLM's underlying framework, Aras Innovator, is based on standard Internet protocols including HTTP, XML, and Simple Object Access Protocol, which can cut the time and expense of deployment, says Marc Lind, VP of corporate marketing at Aras.

Aras PLM is helping Varian Semiconductor manage all its product data in a single system and then easily share that data among numerous employees, says Jim Sutton, manager of IT engineering support at Varian. The software also helps the company keep track of projects to ensure that product delivery schedules are met in a timely manner. "We needed a tool that would help us control the automation of getting the [product] information to the right people," Sutton says.

Varian Semiconductor has been testing and reviewing Aras PLM since April, and Sutton says he's already seeing several benefits. Varian Semicondutor's manufacturing execs and managers can measure progress using visual representations such as graphs, reports, and scoreboards built into Aras PLM. He also says the software is helping the company address challenges such as the automation and management of customized orders. "It is helping us achieve cycle-time reduction by unifying and streamlining the engineering change-management process. The benefits also include improved quality and availability of product information throughout the company," Sutton says.

Aras PLM works with other enterprise apps--an important feature since Varian Semiconductor uses a variety of systems, Sutton says. Varian uses SAP's ERP, Eigner's Product Definition Management software, and IBM's Lotus Notes. "With Aras PLM, we set the parameters and specify the information that we want it to look for," he says. "This way, our executives and management can track all the phases of production."

AMR Research analyst Kevin O'Marah says many manufacturers such as Varian are aggressively looking at PLM today. "It is one of the fastest-growing application sets in the software sector. Most manufacturers have done little with PLM to date, but the intent to invest is clear," O'Marah says.

The benefits of PLM include faster time to market and simplified design processes, such as parts reuse, that can lead to lower direct-materials costs and higher levels of quality, O'Marah says. Typical total PLM impact on a manufacturer can amount to 1% to 3% of total revenue in higher pretax profits and can even impact top-line revenue growth, he says. Aras PLM is a strong offering for companies that have intense tooling and complex engineered products because it can support a variety of engineering workflows, O'Marah says.

Aras will begin offering a new version of Aras PLM next week. Version 6 is built on Microsoft .Net technology and has metrics that are based on a standardized set of key performance indicators. These metrics focus on improving five areas: product innovation, engineering efficiency, designing to goal, engineering optimization, and time to manufacturing. Paul Gilmartin, VP of product management and marketing at Aras, says the update has built-in best practices for product configuration and change management, which helps midsize companies such as Varian Semiconductor tailor Aras PLM to their business needs.

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