Case Study

Charting the optimal path to improved competitiveness

Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei Automobile

Independent R&D process using Teamcenter pays off with increased automotive success; company improves designer productivity, saves development costs and shortens product lifecycle

Establishing a common vehicle program platform

Located in Shenyang, China, Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei Automobile Co., Ltd. was well known in its native land. The company’s Brilliance passenger cars and Jinbei Haise minivans are popular in China, the world’s fastest growing auto market. But Brilliance Jinbei’s executives had set their sights higher. They wanted to compete in the global automobile marketplace and decided to implement Teamcenter® software to drive the company’s product development improvement initiatives. Brilliance Automotive Engineering Research Institute is affiliated with the Brilliance Automobile Group. The research institute is responsible for product development, engineering design and product improvement for all models in the group’s key Brilliance and Jinbei brands. The institute also functions as an automobile research and development (R&D) center, addressing product development, production technology services, product quality and information management.

Product R&D is crucial to the success of automakers looking to seize a sustainable advantage in today’s fiercely contested markets. In turn, Brilliance Jinbei’s product data management (PDM) solution, which is driven by Teamcenter, is the R&D system chosen to integrate and manage all of the data for all of the automotive company’s product lines. In essence, the PDM system functions as an information technology-based R&D platform that drives the company’s core initiative to improve its competitive position. Most importantly, by enabling the company to reduce its costs and minimize its new product development cycle, Brilliance Jinbei’s PDM system was chartered with significantly improving the company’s overall competitiveness.

In mapping out PDM’s initial charter, Brilliance Jinbei’s management identified a number of areas for improvement. In particular, management wanted to streamline its R&D process. Company executives wanted to bring new vehicles to market sooner and hold down costs so that Brilliance Jinbei’s vehicles could compete on price as well as quality. In addition, executives wanted better access to product knowledge to improve the quality of their strategic decisions for greater product innovation.

At the time, the company did not have a common platform for product information. Each vehicle program functioned mostly independently. A low rate of information re-use affected part sharing, extended the development cycle and increased costs. Other inefficiencies, such as a paper-based design review process and lack of a formal system for capturing knowledge, needed fixing before the automaker was ready for the global arena.

Management realized it needed to implement a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution with PDM capabilities to support its long-term development plan. “We needed a leading-edge information system that was not only powerful but also flexible enough to integrate with executive-level information, thereby helping us make better decisions in a highly competitive market environment,” notes the senior management team of Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei Automobile. After evaluating different solutions, Brilliance Jinbei chose Teamcenter to drive these initiatives.

Teamcenter selected to drive R&D efficiency

The overall business growth of Brilliance Jinbei is a typical example of the success experienced by China’s independently-developed automobile brands. This includes introducing Haise technology in 1989, starting R&D for the Brilliance sedan in 1997 and its production in 2002, launching Brilliance M2 in 2003, building the platform for Level-A vehicles in 2005, and launching Brilliance FRV in June 2008.

2001 was an extremely busy time at Brilliance Jinbei’s R&D center. The company had generally been using Excel® spreadsheets for bill of material (BOM) management. All types of product data were managed through different table attributes. Not surprisingly, this approach had severe functional restrictions. As the company’s business continued to grow, Brilliance Jinbei realized that it urgently needed an effective management tool to solve the problem. This realization triggered the company’s initial requirements for PDM.

The PDM project came to Brilliance Jinbei quite naturally. The company’s product engineering director once worked in the Pan Asia Technical Automobile Center (PATAC). As a result, he recognized the importance of using a PDM platform to improve R&D efficiency. With his support, the PDM project was put on the company’s agenda. Initially, Brilliance Jinbei’s requirements were rather simple: it needed a team with rich experience and a consulting vendor that had implemented PDM for European and American companies. In addition, the software for the company’s PDM platform needed to be relatively mature in terms of functionality. With this in mind, Brilliance Jinbei asked Siemens PLM Software to quickly organize a dedicated implementation team for its PDM project and Teamcenter became the PLM platform that now plays a crucial and expanding role in the company’s future growth.

JT super lightweight data format ensures multi-CAD compatibility

Brilliance Jinbei uses Teamcenter to share 3D CAD data across its product development operations. Guo Sihan, director of the Data Information Office at Brilliance Automotive Engineering Research Institute, explains how this works: “During the R&D process, we use 3D CAD software to design the mathematical model and then we can save the DA file in our PDM database through a 3D conversion application interface that comes with Teamcenter. The application interface automatically converts the hierarchical relations of the 3D file into a BOM structure. Meanwhile by converting the 3D DA file into a lightweight visual file using the open JT capabilities of Teamcenter, we are able to save this for future re-use.”

Given the excellent compatibility of Teamcenter with other CAD software, the company’s PDM platform is able to play a vital role across multiple Brilliance Jinbei operations. For example, during the original vehicle design process, engineers can either use 3D CAD software under the Teamcenter platform, or perform the design externally and then import data at key points.

Easy switch from eBOM to mBOM

Today, it is extremely easy for Brilliance Jinbei to switch from its engineering BOM (eBOM) to its manufacturing BOM (mBOM) using the configurable BOM management capabilities of Teamcenter. After completing its initial Teamcenter implementation, the company expanded the software’s scope by using it to integrate enterprise resource planning (ERP) into the PDM environment. Here, Brilliance Jinbei uses an application interface between Teamcenter and the ERP system to facilitate its eBOM to mBOM switching. As a result, Teamcenter now manages materials, product structure and engineering conversions as configurable products and mBOM data sources for ERP. While transferring data/BOM to the ERP server, Brilliance Jinbei only has to create a modified datum in the Teamcenter system and implement an automated workflow. The ERP data administrator controls the time for uploading. In this way, the data consistency between the two systems is maintained through a simple interface, thereby avoiding data mixing.

Significant improvement to dimension and quality management

Several years after implementing Teamcenter as its PDM-driven product development backbone, Brilliance Jinbei was confronted with a new challenge – how to control its manufacturing process. With this in mind, the company now uses data controlled by Teamcenter and its simulated analysis workflow to establish a process for strictly managing product size and quality and to ensure that the functions, assembly and appearance of each part meet established product requirements.

Working in conjunction with Siemens PLM Software, Brilliance Jinbei has established tools and processes for four key tasks: basic analysis, optimization analysis, manufacturing data simulation/analysis and PDM integration. In essence, these tools and processes established a set of dimension management capabilities for Brilliance Jinbei’s product design and manufacturing operations. Since implementing these initiatives, the dimension and quality management aspects of Brilliance Jinbei’s manufacturing process have improved significantly.

Great results and continuous improvement – a matter of choice

With the application of PDM, each of Brilliance Jinbei’s business departments has gradually phased out its use of drawings. Before 2008, 400 copies of drawings were printed every day; today less than 10 are printed. In the early PDM implementation period, Brilliance Jinbei’s Information Management group had to persuade each department to try the PDM system. Today, business departments voluntarily ask for more PDM clients.

In his role as director of the company’s Data Information Office, Sihan has been deeply impressed by the changes PDM has brought over the past six years. He notes, “Teamcenter has driven many improvement initiatives. Its value has greatly exceeded our initial R&D scope and it is now increasingly reaching across more and more company functions.”

Sihan recalls, “Brilliance Jinbei began its Teamcenter implementation with a three month pilot program that was so successful that management decided to extend the benefits company-wide. Our gains have been remarkable ever since. For example, Teamcenter reduced basic design time by 20 percent. This led to substantial cost reductions and significant parts and information re-use. Teamcenter enables us to centrally manage our product data, reduce our workload through design re-use and increase the efficiency of our data retrieval and application processes. As a result, we have improved the productivity of our designers, shortened our product lifecycle, saved development cost and strengthened our company’s independent development ability and competitiveness.”

Brilliance Jinbei now has one of the largest PLM/PDM implementations in the Chinese automotive industry. The company’s future development plans are to incorporate suppliers and partners into a digital collaboration process managed by Teamcenter, as well as to create an enterprise-wide knowledge base. Sihan notes, “We’ve only spent a few years doing something that foreign automakers have been doing for more than a decade, so we feel we have room for improvement. We plan to use Teamcenter as the backbone for our product development platform, wholly standardized and systematic. Using Teamcenter, continuous improvement is simply a matter of choice.”

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