Customers and suppliers tap into manufacturers' product-life-cycle-management systems

Laurie Sullivan, Contributor

April 16, 2004

3 Min Read

By the time Hendrick Motorsports' racing teams take their place on the Auto Club 500 starting line at the California Speedway on May 2, the company's engineering group manager, Jim Wall, wants pit crews to have wireless access to data on components in the race cars. From PDAs, the crews will log on to the UGS PLM Solutions database to locate information in seconds. Without instant access to information, the teams may lose precious time when the checkered flag goes up and the clock starts ticking.

Hendrick, an auto-component maker that supports six racing teams, uses UGS PLM's Teamcenter platform as a central repository for data. It eliminates multiple documents that may contain old engineering changes and protects access to view, copy, and make changes to designs. Previously, the pit-crew engineers couldn't quickly find important statistics in the mounds of data stored on unprotected servers. Now, the crews can "verify design specifications stored on servers back at our headquarters before making critical split-second decisions in the pit," Wall says.

Hendrick Motorsports' racing

Hendrick Motorsports' teams can verify design specifications before making split-second decisions in the pit.

The ability to quickly access the correct information is essential for many auto-component manufacturers. But deploying product-life-cycle-management software within a company's own infrastructure is no longer enough. That's why auto-parts makers such as ArvinMeritor, Hendrick, Magna Steyr, and Saturn Electronics & Engineering are extending their PLM systems to collaborate with customers and suppliers and automate engineering-change notices.

As PLM becomes a necessary tool in product development, the market is expected to climb steadily. Product-life-cycle-management software is forecast to exceed $20 billion in sales by 2008, growing 7.5% annually, according to CIMdata Inc.

It's a complex process to build the average car because it takes between 5,000 and 7,000 parts, with more than 130,000 product records, says Helmut Ritter, chief engineer of information management at Magna Steyr. "In one month, for one car project, we can have 12,000 engineering changes," he says. Magna Steyr is developing a software package with Agile Software Corp. that it will bring to the automotive market later this year.

Saturn Electronics & Engineering has implemented Agile's product-collaboration and product-cost-management modules at a cost of more than $1 million for licenses, hardware, and labor. A return on investment is expected within 18 months, says Paul Fleck, director of electronics engineering. The company will give a few select customers, including Whirlpool Corp. and auto-parts maker Visteon Corp., access to its platform via a Web portal to submit engineering-change notices.

ArvinMeritor, meanwhile, has given 20 suppliers access to its PLM system from MatrixOne Inc. through a Web portal. The suppliers can submit electronic-engineering-change requests that previously were made via E-mail, phone, or fax. The system routes the changes to the appropriate group. Says Yomi Famurewa, VP of supply chain and design systems, "Everything's automated, and engineering, purchasing, manufacturing, and operations all get notified at once."

About the Author(s)

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights