Case Study

Customized training maximizes PLM’s business value


Southco leverages Siemens PLM Software’s trainers and tools to drive multi-site deployment without business disruption; implementation exceeds ROI expectations and continuous training goals

Driving engineering and operational excellence

For more than 60 years, Southco, Inc. has specialized in the fastener and latch business and now through a strategy of innovation, strategic acquisitions and overseas investments, it has turned itself into a global leader in engineered access hardware. Thousands of people interact with Southco products everyday as they use the company’s locks, latches, captive fasteners, hinges, handles and other innovative products.

The company’s universe is diverse with customers in the marine, automotive, off-highway/construction, RV/caravan, industrial machinery, enclosures, HVAC, medical equipment/networking, telecommunications and computer industries. Southco helps its customers solve and overcome engineered “touch point“ challenges so that its customers’ products are easier to sell and effortless to use by their ultimate end users.

To thrive in critical areas, such as quality, performance, aesthetics and ergonomics, Southco strongly invests in its technical, sales and marketing organizations. The company is known for its engineering and operational excellence.

Upgrading NX, implementing Teamcenter – simultaneously

A key investment included an upgrade to its CAD design technology. According to Jeff Wunderler, global engineering systems administrator, “We knew we had to make a move to new design software and we also were expanding through acquisitions, as well as growing organically.” In addition, by 2006, Southco had 14 sites located in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions that design and manufacture access hardware. Wunderler explains, “We were looking to consolidate several of our design tools across these facilities and decided to work with Siemens PLM Software to get this done as efficiently as possible.”

In all, Southco has more than 150 engineers and technicians performing design-related tasks. The company decided to implement NX™ software as its CAD solution and Teamcenter® software as its product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. Both offerings are from Siemens PLM Software. Southco management considered the next step to be especially challenging – implementing these solutions without losing productivity.

“We needed to implement NX and Teamcenter and train our users,” says Wunderler. “We were short staffed on the administrative side. We knew how important it was to support our new solutions, but we also wanted to retain our engineering focus without deep-ending on training. We looked into the possibility of adopting an internal train-the-trainer scheme and tried a pilot. But we learned early on that we didn’t have the resources. We’re lean with no free time and just couldn’t pull our resources away from their primary engineering jobs.”

With that in mind, Southco decided to have Siemens PLM Software put together a blended training solution. This approach combined onsite instructor-led classes at Southco facilities with online, self-paced web classes that leveraged Siemens PLM Software’s low-cost Learning Advantage tool.

Goals of customized training

“We wanted to ensure that our users didn’t have to struggle trying to figure out how to use new technologies, but we also wanted them to be fast, fluent and at ease straightaway,” Wunderler says. “It was extremely important for us to make certain that the coursework and materials contained the right content.”

Several key steps were taken to make this happen. “First, the classroom instructor learned about our business ahead of time, which made the classes much more effective,” Wunderler explains. Since the same instructor conducted classes at all of Southco’s sites, continuity was maintained across the entire classroom part of the program. In addition, Wunderler attended all of the instructor-led classes to make sure that its content was correct.

Another key success factor was the customized nature of Siemens PLM Software’s course materials. For example, Southco workflows were inserted into the courseware used during the instructor-led training sessions, showing the actual Southco product release process.

Learning Advantage for continuous improvement

Siemens PLM Software used its Learning Advantage tool as an integral part of Southco’s training program. “The self-paced training approach of Siemens’ Learning Advantage prepared us for our instructor-led classes,” says Wunderler. “People who utilized Learning Advantage first got a lot more from the classroom training. It was very helpful because we had little experience working with a full-blown PLM system.”

Beyond this, Learning Advantage played a key role in Southco’s continuous education strategy. As Wunderler indicates, “We use Learning Advantage as a way to provide affordable day-to-day training. It increases the value of our engineers as individual employees, as well as their contributions to the company’s bottom line.”

Proper focus pays off

Southco’s management understood from the beginning that training was a resource issue. “Management supported our project plan with trainers and tools from Siemens PLM Software,” Wunderler says. “Our management team agreed that each of our cost centers and pillars of excellence needed to dedicate their resources to engineering rather than teaching. They knew that using these resources to teach rather than engineer would have been a mistake. The lost engineering time would have greatly outweighed the cost of preparing a curriculum, traveling, conducting classes and dealing with other logistics.”

“We had a group of 12 specialists scope out the benefits of our implementation approach,” Wunderler notes. “This team included tool designers, product designers, design managers and our director of technology. While we didn’t formally calculate the numbers, we found the return on investment of bringing in Siemens PLM Software to be huge.”

“The program has been and continues to be highly successful,” says Wunderler. “We’re using Siemens PLM Software’s Learning Advantage for continuous improvement and now measurement. There are some departments that are utilizing Learning Advantage to track and assess PLM skills and development goals and hope to use these assessment tools more in the future. We know they’re becoming a more valuable asset to the company, which is vital to our competitive edge in delivering high-value touch point solutions. We find it is also very important to the individuals completing the training on a personal level in terms of skills, knowledge and ability to make a difference.”

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