Alfa Laval speeds time-to-market through global product development
A three-country, two-continent development process gives Alfa Laval more hours in a day
Geographic distances between employees used to delay the product development process. Alfa Laval wanted to turn its globally dispersed workforce into a competitive advantage.
Turning a disadvantage into a strength
Alfa Laval provides heat transfer, separation and fluid handling systems for oil, water, chemicals, foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. The company’s operations in Kolding, Denmark are focused on fluid handling for food, biochemistry and pharmaceutical applications. In these industries, safety and hygiene requirements put strong emphasis on safe and efficient fluid transport. Reliable pumps and valves must ensure that the right fluid reaches the right processing facility at the right time. Alfa Laval leads the world in this field.
Alfa Laval has been using CAD extensively throughout its organization since it pioneered the use of 3D CAD in Denmark in the mid-1980s. Design work for the Kolding operation is done by a team of more than 50 people who work from three globally dispersed sites. “Design work gets done at three places in the world: Kolding, Eastbourne, in England and Richmond, Virginia in the USA,” explains Ib Rasmussen, systems administrator, Fluid Handling, Alfa Laval. “But the product design team is still a single entity.”
In the past, collaboration among designers was problematic, to the point of causing delays in the product cycle. Designers in England and the United States were dependent on the main center for drawings and other work files. These were sent between the three countries on CDs. “A desire to work more efficiently from a resource standpoint and also to reduce our time-to-market was the main driving force when we started sketching out a solution proposal in April, 2002,” says Rasmussen. “We have to be on the absolute cutting edge technologically to continue to stay a step ahead of our competitors, which for us means the use of Teamcenter® product lifecycle management (PLM) software from Siemens PLM Software.”
Collaborative implementation, successful data migration
The Siemens PLM Software project manager for the Teamcenter implementation was Björne Näslund, who brought with him Siemens employees from Denmark, the USA and England. Together with the project team from Alfa Laval, which consisted of one person from each respective country, Näslund and his colleagues began developing potential solution proposals. “Rigorous management and very careful planning from start to finish are needed to succeed in this type of project,” says Rasmussen. Alfa Laval used the Stage-Gate project method, which it thought gave good control over the various phases of the project.
The ability to migrate legacy data into Teamcenter was a critical part of the implementation. “Assembly models are commonly used in a design context; they are like exploded diagrams, but with hundreds of different parts,” Rasmussen explains. “The database must deal with how parts fit together or relate to one another.” The migration was considered a huge success when out of 75,000 items, only 334 had to be managed manually. “The actual migration process took only 24 hours,” Rasmussen adds. “No employee went without access to metadata for more than a couple of days, which was as good a result as we had hoped for, especially given the size of the project. Thanks to Siemens PLM Software’s coordination, everyone was able to start using the new database almost simultaneously.”
One of the advantages of Teamcenter is that Alfa Laval can now practice true concurrent engineering across its three global sites. Even better, the company can now make the global distribution of its design team work in its favor instead of as a disadvantage. “Thanks to Teamcenter, our designers can now exploit the advantageous time differences between their workplaces and get 16 to 18 hours out of each workday,” says Rasmussen. “In the past, we often worked only half that many hours because of the cumbersome version and file management we used to have to do. The project has paid off financially on that basis alone.”
A profitability analysis was conducted after the project was completed showing that costs were recouped long ago, particularly in terms of man-hours and the higher level of security and reliability achieved as a result of excellent version management. “And that doesn’t even take into account the major earnings item – faster product launches,” Rasmussen adds. “Teamcenter quite simply has the ability to separate winners from losers. Nowadays it is increasingly important to be first to market with new products and functionalities in order to land an order, but it is hard to estimate precisely what it is worth in monetary terms.”
Rasmussen is eagerly looking forward to future enhancements to his company’s global product development system. “Our vision is to follow the roadmap laid out for consolidating I-deas™ software into NX™ software and to maintain the position we have achieved by always using the latest products from Siemens PLM Software. That is our strategy for product development work at Alfa Laval Fluid Handling,” he concludes.