January 1, 2012
By Jim Romeo
Product design often entails product lifecycle management (PLM) software for the maintenance and subsequent production of a manufactured product.
As such, engineering design software must be able to integrate with other software and databases to promote workflow, cut production time, increase accuracy and ensure the supply chain supports the product. DE recently spoke with Conrad Leiva of iBASEt, Foothill Ranch, CA, to understand what its Solumina software does for PLM.
Solumina provides oversight and control of supply chain quality management,
manufacturing and aftermarket services operations.
DE: How does iBASEt work?
CL: Our software suite, Solumina, provides the execution side of the extended enterprise PLM system, providing oversight and control of supply chain quality management, manufacturing and aftermarket services operations. Solumina excels in industries where integration with engineering data and workflow is critical to product quality, such as aerospace, defense, electronics, medical devices and industrial equipment.
In Solumina, manufacturing and quality engineers define the work and inspection-process details that will guide mechanics and inspectors to produce quality products consistently. This information package is delivered to the shop floor via a completely paperless-execution system that enforces the management disciplines, including handling of exceptions, deviations and continuous improvement to the planned procedures.
The Solumina system maintains cross-referenced data to the engineering models, drawings and specifications used as the basis for planning work and inspection. The business processes for managing changes are integrated first with engineering change notices (ECNs), and flow down to inspection and work orders at suppliers’ sites and production shop floor. This assures that as-built and as-maintained configurations always match as-designed, or have explicit approvals on record for any deviations.
Quality and performance metrics help engineers identify areas where design improvements can make a big impact to the manufacturing or service processes.
DE: How does Solumina help designers?
CL: There is enormous pressure to get new products out to market quickly. This is driven by a couple of forces: customers demanding more product variants, and technology advancing faster than ever.
Solumina helps expedite the incorporation of engineering changes into work-in-process at the shop floor, and ensures the traceability of the changes to the ECNs coming from the engineering system. The end result is that as-built and as-designed are always in sync.
DE: Can you give us an example?
CL: Let’s say an issue is discovered at the shop floor, and an urgent ECN is issued as a result of the investigation and corrective action. In Solumina, the manufacturing engineer can place all the affected work orders on hold until the ECN is processed, and all of the work orders are updated with the latest specifications and updated work instructions. This process is facilitated by a wizard in Solumina that groups work orders according to their status, while assessing the impact of the change. After a few clicks, the changes are incorporated—or the wizard guides the engineer to additional steps where conflicts are found.
DE: What features would you say are most appealing to end-users?
CL: The software is designed to streamline specific processes for specific users and specific industries—mainly documentation and verification processes that are traditionally clerically intensive, tedious and error-prone. The product addresses areas of functionality that have not been addressed by enterprise resource planning (ERP) and PLM solutions. The users also find the workflow-driven, integrated-business processes among the Engineering, Operations, Production Control, Inventory and Quality Management departments very appealing.
DE: What are the greatest challenges facing product design engineers?
CL: Besides the challenges of supporting more product variants and quicker product launches that we discussed earlier, there are also challenges in meeting stricter regulatory-compliance guidelines, and working with foreign partners and suppliers, while maintaining intellectual property (IP) protection and compliance to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
The Solumina software suite provides an integrated “execution” solution that ensures regulatory compliance to the strictest quality management guidelines in highly regulated industries, including aerospace, defense, nuclear and medical devices.
Jim Romeo is based in Chesapeake, VA. Contact him via [email protected]