Challenges with Product Data Exchange Between Engineering and Manufacturing

By Bluestar PLM by PDM technology

Collaboration, transparency, centralized and easy-to-access product documentation and drawings, short time-to-market, fast product configuration, traceable engineering change orders, etc…

If you work within Manufacturing, you are aware of the importance of the terms and processes mentioned above.

Especially now, when companies need to reduce working hours, work in shifts, and still make sure products are ready to be manufactured.

It is not a secret that daily Engineering and Manufacturing teams experience several challenges in connection to sharing and tracking product data, which often leads to costly mistakes for the company and delayed customers’ orders.

But what does it look like from their perspective?

The Siloed Engineering Teams

The Engineering department within a manufacturing company is the hub for product design, innovation, and the place responsible for delivering compliant products, aligned with customers’ wishes.

However, this department can be considered as a single entity, co-existing with the rest of the departments, as they work in detached systems, causing dispersed data.

Out of 240 surveyed companies, Tech-Clarity found in their latest research about “Empower Engineers with Cutting-Edge Design Tools” that 45% stated that the top challenge in today’s design environments is the lack of integration and data flow across tools. Coming in a close second, 39% experienced difficulties finding and managing design data.

What does this mean?

Usually, the Engineering part of a company uses local folders or separate data management systems (PDM) to keep their engineering information in one place. However, often these systems are detached from the company’s legacy system — ERP. This creates silos within the company, leading to design bottlenecks due to lack of access to manufacturing data from the ERP in the moment of need. As a result, the delayed design processes lead to supply chain interruptions.

Another research from Tech-Clarity (“Avoid Non-Value Added Work for Engineers”) showed that engineers spend more than one-third of their time on non-value-added activities. Such activities include recreating design, searching for parts, manually entering data into the ERP, and gathering information for other departments.

Today, manufacturing companies own big amounts of product data, which is difficult to be re-used as engineers spend a lot of time finding the needed information. In fact, the product information is available in different formats and on various locations, which makes engineers’ jobs more tedious.

These practices contribute to longer design bottlenecks and the lack of unified operations between departments, which reflects on customers’ order fulfillment.

Manufacturing and the Cost of a Mistake  

While engineering teams struggle with finding the right data to deliver design drawings and the latest product configurations on time, manufacturing is the department responsible for making sure that all up-to-date product information is available and compliant before proceeding to production.

Like the “siloed” design department, Manufacturing often lacks fast access to the latest engineering data. And not only that. Today, manufacturing companies are demanded to respond to customer requests in the most efficient way, which requires fast product configurations and full revision control.

Furthermore, these product configurations go through several engineering change cycles before final approval, which is handled manually by Engineering. These standard processes are time-consuming as the Manufacturing team does not have an overview of the ongoing product changes, nor revision control, and has no traceability of the latest product documentation. Consequentially, Manufacturing spends a lot of time gathering product information without being certain if they have the latest revision.

From Siloed Manufacturing to Unified Operations in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (D365F&O) 

As mentioned earlier, most Manufacturing companies use separate systems for managing their product-related processes. Usually, Engineering uses PDM/PLM systems where all product designs and drawings are stored in local vaults. Manufacturing, on the other hand, works in the Dynamics ERP where they operate with orders, inventory, and receive the manually entered product data from Engineering.

But how to avoid redundant data, trace the latest Engineering changes, and use the right product documentation for production?

To improve collaboration between Engineering and Manufacturing, a common playground has to be implemented where product data is automatically exchanged between PLM and D365F&O and is available without the need for exporting/importing data manually.

Dynamics 365 connects different departments across the enterprise. However, it does not handle the Engineering part of the company. They are still left out of the ERP.

The manufacturing industry relies on unified operations, and this can be achieved by bringing Engineering onboard with Dynamics.

Although there already exist a lot of PLM systems that provide a wide range of features, they still fail to provide a link between PLM and Dynamics 365. Some systems provide partial integration but none a full cycle PLM within it.

A full Dynamics-based PLM can be the perfect way to unite Engineering and Manufacturing.

Learn How on June 16!  

SHEA Global and Bluestar PLM by PDM technology will demonstrate how Dynamics 365 can facilitate the Engineering team. The webinar will show how the product data challenges between Engineering and Manufacturing can be solved for good. Sign up for the webinar here.