Advancing “the concurrent enterprise”
Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta
Pietro Beretta leverages PLM to manage 54,000 production items and establish a streamlined, knowledge-driven product development workflow
Over the past 15 years, small arms and light weapons manufacturer Pietro Beretta has developed a product lifecycle management (PLM) system based on Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter® software and NX™ software. The PLM solution manages data associated with more than 54,000 production items, starting with information derived from the company’s engineering department and gradually extending into information gleaned from its subsidiaries and suppliers.
Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta began as the earliest and biggest company held by Beretta Holding S.p.A., an industrial group owned by the Beretta family, whose holdings include major factories that produce firearms for sports and hunting. Based in Gardone Valtrompia near Brescia, in Northern Italy, the company’s history traces back to the 16th century. Since that time, it has been guided by 15 generations of the Beretta family, who have turned the company from a handicraft workshop into an industrial corporation and have expanded its business through the introduction of some of today’s most advanced information technology (IT) processing and machining systems. These innovations include cutting-edge design and data management solutions from Siemens PLM Software, which Beretta selected as technology partner back in 1995.
Graziano Fornari, the computer-aided design (CAD)/product data management (PDM) manager of the company’s Engineering Services group, has witnessed Beretta’s IT evolution since he joined the company in the early 1990s. Recalling those early days, Fornari brought with him extensive experience in the use of distributed software acquired from his previous jobs. “I was employed by Beretta to consider how we could use CAD,” recalls Fornari. “Variational parametric CAD was emerging, so I carefully examined the current market research and even went to the United States. We had prepared an extensive questionnaire to begin our software selection process by considering five vendors.”
With the questionnaire completed, potential suppliers were asked to deliver a proof of concept in front of a team of Beretta engineers. After that, each of the technology vendors were carefully evaluated by an internal workgroup that included IT, design, logistics, manufacturing, quality, and methodology participants. “The final result was an evaluation that included a detailed analysis of the availability, standardization, reliability, operating costs, performance, look-and-feel, and ease-of-use for each software alternative – with Siemens PLM Software emerging as the winner,” says Fornari. “I am proud to say that we were the first company in Italy to implement a product data management solution with engineering data management functionality that could streamline the flow of information across the company – and this was in 1998.”
The company’s selection of the new software and IT architecture provided significant benefits to its operations and procedures. In contrast with the sequential workflows that were used with its prior approach, the newly adopted CAD solution facilitated concurrent engineering practices with simultaneous design and development cycles. Fornari explains, “Using the master model concept that was unique to Siemens PLM Software, we were able to develop equipment and carry out other operations downstream, while our designers were still working at the product definition. We chose NX and Teamcenter mainly because they supported our requirement to shorten time-to-market through the parallelization of these processes.”
With PDM put into practice, Beretta implemented an approval workflow where designers, after creating the product model, share it with the technology department to produce working cycles and equipment. When the model is released with all required modifications in place, it is submitted to managers, who review and approve it. Subsequently, official portable document format (PDF) printouts are generated automatically and JT™ data format files are produced from 3D models. “All of our employees work concurrently on the ‘one and only’ master model, which produces clear cycle time, efficiency and reliability benefits,” says Fornari.
Safeguarding the company’s know-how
The company’s PLM approach has evolved to support an industrial enterprise that currently handles more than 54,000 product codes and more than 80,000 drawing and modeling components. The end result is an extraordinarily large and diverse production solution that is divided into standard products for the consumer market, as well as make-to-order series for the defense sector and custom orders for special “hand-crafted” firearms.
In 2005, Beretta started a new phase by reorganizing its product development activities, with the objective of establishing robust design capabilities and streamlined, simplified workflows for all of its operations. In 2006; Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta launched a “corporate know-how” project to collect, classify and organize the company’s knowledge and intellectual property.
“As happens in many companies, we realized that our centuries-long experience and know-how were scattered among many individuals,” notes, Fornari. “This highly valuable knowledge cannot simply be stored in the desk drawers or minds of people; instead, we needed to collect and organize it within a database that contains all kinds of information, while enabling us to understand ‘why you build a weapon, how you design and manufacture it,’ and so on. Know-how like this must reside with the company, and not just with single individuals – so that we can make the most of this knowledge and its synergies and re-use; so that we can consolidate and leverage the experience of people who have worked in Beretta for a lifetime.”
Siemens PLM Software’s solutions have played a key role in facilitating this initiative; they have enabled the Beretta to slash development time, to re-use components, systems and subsystems and to embed the critical knowledge of experienced staff, while at the same time improving collaboration, cutting response times and increasing the satisfaction of all employees who are now able access to and share these decade-long experiences.
From PDM to PLM
Fornari explains the evolution of the company’s PDM technology: “Our innovation project started from PDM, but it was limited to managing our drawing and model workflow. Then, it was extended to manage other documents and product development specifications. Now, the next step is tighter integration of Teamcenter with our other business systems, such as our enterprise resource planning (ERP) and quality assurance management systems. In this way, we will create a real business dashboard, offering access to all sorts of information in accordance with the specific needs of each user. That’s how you move from PDM to PLM.” Fornari notes that completing the business dashboard is currently the company’s key goal for 2011.
By leveraging the system’s document management capabilities, Beretta will have a single version of every product-related document – not just its technical drawings. This will enable the company to eliminate its information duplication and proliferation issues. Once a document is put into PDM and released, it can be distributed as a simple email link to a list of recipients, who can then access this information in accordance with their permission rights. Since Teamcenter is built on a relational database, the document itself can contain links to drawings, JT files, solid models, and other objects that the user can then easily and quickly view with just a click.
“At Beretta, besides drawings and models, Teamcenter currently manages marketing documents, business plans, technical specifications, quality plans, test procedures/ reports, and calculation reports,” says Fornari. “We do all of this by leveraging specific features and functionalities; we can work with natively integrated data and unique data. We can use link-based notifications, eliminate local copies and reduce our storage space requirements; we can secure our data and organize our entire corporate know-how in a classified repository. All of this information is fully traceable thanks to automated revision management, document history and attribute-based classification and can be accessed through Google-like hypertext search capabilities. And just as importantly, only released and shared documents can be viewed.”
Establishing the concurrent enterprise
Continuously aiming for shorter cycle times, Beretta is now completing its transition from concurrent engineering, where processes are performed in parallel within the engineering department, to a state that Fornari calls “the concurrent enterprise,” where all product development processes are managed in parallel. The next stage will be to integrate the company’s subsidiaries and suppliers into the PLM system. Fornari has a clear vision: “We will have a web-based PLM dashboard, where we can collect and view CAD/CAM drawings and models, stored documents from Teamcenter, bills-of-materials from the ERP system, quality-related documents, and many more items that can be collected and organized within the dashboard independently of their origin and physical location. This dashboard will be open to suppliers and subsidiaries of the Beretta group.”
According to Beretta’s three-year strategic plan, the dashboard will also support a part production approval process (PPAP), a tool designed to provide suppliers with all of the useful information they need to understand a product’s industrialization and quality control. “This tool will include a real, electronic folder containing all documents that must be delivered to a supplier, including drawings, BOMs, processing and machining cycles, packaging specifications, assembly times, compliance verification, purchase prices, process failure modes and effects anlaysis (FMEA), reports, and so on,” says Fornari. “By integrating our suppliers into the PLM environment, we will extend our process, accelerate its speed and synchronize benefits to our entire supply chain, providing them with fully updated information.”
The new PPAP project will be deployed in gradual steps, starting with Beretta tutors and users, who will be responsible for supplier relationships. “Then we will move to a semi-automated system with a file transfer protocol (FTP) server from which suppliers can download their documentation,” says Fornari. “And, finally, we will have a web-based architecture, where documents will be accessible in real time to all authorized partners. A portion of this architecture will be built using the community collaboration capabilities of Teamcenter. This will enable all of our subsidiaries, such as Beretta USA in Washington, to directly access all of the information they need.”
Add synchronous technology
That’s not the end of the story. After implementing the latest NX release, Beretta will also introduce synchronous technology, which is expected to provide huge benefits to its designers when modeling new products. With synchronous technology, the user no longer has to choose between constraintdriven and history-free modeling, and the design process can be dramatically accelerated. Fornari notes, “With the adoption of synchronous technology, we will be able to model new products very quickly and easily, re-using many parts of an existing firearm for a new one, since modifications are very easy and intuitive.” Fornari concludes, “After 15 years, let me tell you that I am proud of our decision to choose and rely on Siemens PLM Software.”