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Outdoor-equipment company uses PLM to translate employee expertise and customer requirements into popular products that grow the business
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., an employee-owned manufacturer of climbing and skiing equipment, operates on three continents and sells its products in more than 20 countries around the world. One of the company’s defining characteristics – and a key strategic asset – is the fact that its employees are passionate climbers and skiers themselves. They know what makes a great product versus merely a good one, and where there are opportunities for improvement.
Product innovations can be subtle and still capture this market’s attention. “We tend to compete in fairly small niches compared to say, the auto industry,” explains Dave Mellon, vice president for products at Black Diamond. “When you’re making a crampon or an ice tool or a ski, the consumer requirements tend to involve much finer detail.”
The ability to capture all the nuances of consumer requirements (along with employees’ ideas and expertise) has been critical to growing this business. “We must make sure that we can acquire the information about what our customers want, put it in a place where a skilled and energetic design team, manufacturing engineering team and production and sales teams can access it, and then use it in a meaningful way to get great products to our customers,” says Joshua Dees, Black Diamond’s vice president for MIS. This is why Black Diamond implemented the Teamcenter® product lifecycle management (PLM) solution from Siemens PLM Software. The company is using Teamcenter’s enterprise knowledge management, project management and collaboration functionality to ensure continued innovation and future growth.
“Teamcenter supports our innovation culture by providing the ability to bring many people together in the design of our products,” explains Dees. “Not only employees but also friends, and professional climbers and skiers who together give us a multitude of perspectives. Bringing all this information together and being able to use it derive our next-generation products is incredibly powerful.”
Prior to using Teamcenter, Black Diamond used a variety of approaches to manage projects and communicate product information, everything from Excel to Word, to Microsoft Project and Outlook. “The problem was you never knew where to find data,” says Mellon.
“And when we tried to share information across the organization, with manufacturing engineers and further out through production, for example, it became very difficult to manage, particularly because design data changes fairly rapidly in a progressive product line like ours,” adds Dees.
“We are a very open and creative company,” adds Ben Walker, director of R&D at Black Diamond. “But that isn’t necessarily conducive to proper file management. Teamcenter allows us to be very open and creative and yet it imposes, through a software solution, the controls that we need so that we are able to manage files appropriately. Teamcenter allows us to have the structure we need, and where we need it, without limiting the creativity and free thought that our design team really thrives on.”
Black Diamond uses another Siemens PLM solution, the NX™ digital product development system, in the design of its products. It uses other CAD and CAM programs for manufacturing engineering. Teamcenter bridges the gap across diverse applications. “One of the benefits of Teamcenter is the fact that it can support a multi-CAD environment,” explains Dees. “Teamcenter is what ties together the different programs used by our designers, manufacturing engineers and tooling engineers.”
By storing all product information in Teamcenter, Black Diamond now has the assurance that members of product teams are working with valid data, whether they’re in the company’s offices in Switzerland, North America or China.
“The benefit of having Teamcenter multi-site access in two different locations, where you’ve got designers working on CAD data practically 24 hours a day is that we’re able to increase our efficiency,” says Brendan Perkins, a design engineer at Black Diamond. “We’re saving a lot of the time we spent – a half-hour to an hour trying to download files and maybe the connection is really slow from China this morning or in the evening – as opposed to Teamcenter just handling those transfers.”
“Teamcenter allows us to maintain a level of revision control and clarity,” says Mellon. “If you open a file here that somebody worked on last night in Asia, you’re able to quickly see the history.”
“And when we move into production, we’re building exactly what we intended,” adds Dees. “That not only allows us to deliver to the customer the product we promised. It also allows our manufacturing team to operate more efficiently because they have built tooling around a certain design. Having all of this information tied together in one system that we can rely on is big benefit of Teamcenter.”
Teamcenter is also used to make critical project management information accessible to all members of product teams. “The fact that Teamcenter’s project management solution is web-based is one of the most beneficial aspects of this solution,” says Dees. “Whether it’s a Utah employee working from home or one of our colleagues overseas, they are able to track and update a project.” Walker adds, “With one tool, Teamcenter, everyone who is working on a project has the confidence that they’re not missing information and that they know where to look for it. This is a super-critical and fundamental aspect for any product development company.”
One of the reasons Black Diamond chose Teamcenter was its excellent reputation and worldwide acceptance. “Implementing a world-class piece of software such as Teamcenter makes me comfortable as an IT representative,” says Dees. “I know the system I’m implementing has a broad and deep support system behind it, and that the technologies are all standards-based. And from a business perspective, we chose software that has the benefit of many, many users’ experience to make sure that it’s satisfying a known set of user needs.”
Black Diamond benefited from Siemens support during the Teamcenter implementation. “The Siemens services team has been very helpful in making suggestions on best practices as well as helping with some of the technical details of the installation and maintenance of the different systems,” says Walker.
In addition to providing the platform for innovation and collaboration, Teamcenter is expected to reduce Black Diamond’s IT costs by reducing the number of systems that the IT staff must maintain. “Implementing Teamcenter on Microsoft SQL Server brings into our organization another system, but it’s a system with the back end that we already know how to manage,” explains Dees. “That’s a big benefit. And because Teamcenter is broad enough to accommodate our quite-custom business process, it reduces the number of systems my team has to manage.”
Dees would like to see as broad a Teamcenter implementation as possible at Black Diamond. “I’d like to see Teamcenter and the entire PLM vision, end to end, from forecasting for particular product lines all the way to our warranty and returns department,” he says. He also sees the benefit of integrating Teamcenter with the company’s ERP system. “That would save an enormous amount of work for our planning staff,” he adds. “Product information coming from a single source and being delivered to our ERP system would be extremely valuable.”
For now, though, Teamcenter already serves as a competitive advantage. “There are a lot of companies in our industry that are good competitors,” says Walker. “But as we continue to grow and implement tools like Teamcenter and NX, they give us a competitive advantage over other companies because we’re working in a way that’s much more efficient. We aren’t held back by our software. We’re actually empowered to design products that truly lead in our market.”
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Client's Primary Business:
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd. is an employee-owned manufacturer of equipment for rock climbing, alpinism and freeride skiing.
Salt Lake City, Utah
"Teamcenter allows us to have the structure we need, and where we need it, without limiting the creativity and free thought that our design team really thrives on."
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
"Teamcenter supports our innovation culture by providing the ability to bring many people together and to use their different perspectives to derive our next-generation products. This is incredibly powerful."
Vice President, MIS
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
"The benefit of having Teamcenter multi-site access in two different locations, where you’ve got designers working on CAD data practically 24 hours a day is that we’re able to increase our efficiency."
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
"Teamcenter allows us to maintain a level of revision control and clarity. If you open a file here that somebody worked on last night in Asia, you’re able to quickly see the history."
Vice President, Product
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
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