Process Optimization — Fine-tuning the Manufacturing Enterprise

An in-depth look at how one company combined vision with execution to gain insight and control of its critical-path processes


One company that knows how to combine vision with execution is well on its way to gaining insight and control of its critical-path processes but, like its market success, it isn't happening overnight. For more than 75 years, this Canadian company has led the market in the design and manufacture of state-of-the-art aircraft engines. However, global demand and breakthrough technology have increased the complexity of engine designs and the supply chains needed to build them. To stay ahead of the innovation curve, manufacturer-suppliers must produce more sophisticated engines in less time while seamlessly managing development partners spanning cultures and time zones.

As early as 2002, this organization began exploring new methods and product lifecycle management (PLM) technologies for streamlining engine development, with the goal of drastically reducing time to market. Today, the company is on track to become the first in aerospace industry history to develop engines using digital technology throughout the entire design and manufacturing lifecycle. This program represents one of the major components of the company's digital initiative, the goal of which is to enable all stakeholders to work on engines concurrently in a virtual development environment.

For this industry leader, driving innovation in power, fuel efficiency and cost of maintenance provides a critical competitive advantage, so in order to make major improvements while preserving time to innovate — and to market — critical-path processes had to be identified and evaluated. While the overarching goal of the digital program was to reduce development time and costs, to realize dramatic gains the company needed to target and virtually eliminate "non-quality events" across the entire organization — from design and production engineering, to the field, customer support and service.

A larger vision soon evolved out of the product development initiative: To make this manufacturing organization more agile and efficient, it needed to transform itself into an "e-culture" with a shared commitment to automating and optimizing enterprise processes. However, to achieve this transformation would require far more than a compelling vision and sound strategy. Like most large manufacturers, this is a complex, distributed organization employing thousands of people, producing tens of thousands of engines for customers in almost 200 countries. But it is also evolving into a global development "engine" with a new PLM program that provides leading-edge tools and process management technologies designed to support and extend the company's quality process initiative gradually — and with minimal business disruption.

As with most business transformations, there was one individual in particular who understood the potential of the PLM technologies and knew enough about quality processes across the enterprise to act as both guide and project leader. This unique individual was a "quality guru" with over 20 years experience in disciplines ranging from advanced design and analysis, to quality assurance testing, through service center management. She currently heads up the company's E-PM (Enterprise Process Management) quality process management program, a critical component of both the digital engine and e-enterprise improvement initiatives. The digital quality process strategy will leverage ENOVIA V5 E-PM from software tools from Dassault Systèmes to design, manage and optimize enterprise business processes impacting quality, maintenance costs and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.

While enterprise implementation of E-PM is central to this initiative, the path that led to this realization began with a much simpler problem. The quality guru had employed a customized ENOVIA application called Product Manager (PM) to track and report on non-quality events almost eight years ago. But tracking alone couldn't explain why they occurred or prevent them from occurring again. Using only the PM tools and "sweat equity," the "quality team" invested three months researching and analyzing the root causes and processes driving engineering change orders (ECOs). Based on the results of this project and her deep knowledge of quality issues and systems, she began to see applications for the Product Manager beyond ECR/ECO reporting. She theorized that any event or process that could be captured and analyzed could also be evaluated for improvement and, if appropriate, standardized for continuous quality assurance. It made perfect sense to use the same business rules, flows and methods to treat product and process management as they were inextricably linked.

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