One thing doesn’t fit all in engineering and manufacturing. Every manufacturing company is trying to innovate and differentiate the way they design and build their products. It comes in variety of ways and PLM system can play different roles depends on the type of manufacturing. PLM vendors are trying to deliver software tailored to a specific situations. One of the way to do so is to differentiate system according to industries. In general, the approach is good and can establish good understanding between software vendor, implementation partners and customer. However, even so, there is a high level of differentiation between companies in the same industries such as aerospace, automotive, industrial equipments and others.
Manufacturing environment is another way to differentiate companies. You can classify manufacturing environment according to 3 main types – Make to stock (or build to stock), Assembly (Configure) to order and Make (Engineer) to order sometime called Build-to-order. These three types of manufacturing environments can bring different challenges for product lifecycle management and require different functions and capabilities.
Make to Stock (or Build to stock)
This is probably the simplest manufacturing model if you think about product lifecycle management. The key focus on this manufacturing model is how to keep right level of inventories. The interplay between engineering and manufacturing environment is under formal control and, in most situations, will impact next model, product or changes in manufacturing environment. The main role of PLM environment is to provide formal configuration management control and customer focus. In this environment, interaction between PLM and manufacturing product control is relatively distant.
Assembly (Configure) To Order
One of the biggest challenges in this manufacturing model is high level of configurations. You cannot predict and create bill of materials to all possible configurations. On the other side, manufacturing needs to create a smaller set of components to manage manufacturing environments and production schedule. One of the main roles of PLM in this environment is to create configurable architecture of components between engineering and manufacturing environments, which will help engineers and planners to work together. This environment creates one of the biggest challenges for integration between engineering and manufacturing. The PLM role is make it simple and configurable.
Make (Engineer) to Order (or Build to order)
This is the most vertically integrated manufacturing environment between engineering and production. Basically, every product in this environment created according to specific customer order. Engineers are on the critical path in this environment. The ability to manage engineering environment alongside with production and supply chain is one of the biggest challenges. The interplay between engineering, manufacturing and customer is the key for success and customer satisfaction. PLM system can play a significant role in this success by sharing information and orchestrating processes.
What is my conclusion? The focus of PLM system is different in every type of manufacturing environment. Formal process control for MTS, management of complex configuration in ATO and vertical integration between engineering and manufacturing in MTO environment. What is common between all of them is the ability to share information and transparent process management. Just my thoughts…