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Case Study

Pan-European company is set to achieve “design anywhere, make anywhere” capability


2,500 engineers from five previously independent companies across four countries work collaboratively in a Teamcenter environment

Integrating activities across Europe

MBDA was created in 2001 following the merger of Europe’s major businesses in the aerospace/defense sector: Matra BAe Dynamics in the UK and France, Aerospatiale Missiles in France, the missiles activities of Alenia Marconi Systems in the UK and Italy, and more recently EADS/LFK in Germany. In 2002 MBDA began a major project to create a single unifying management and operating structure. The ultimate goal of this integration project was to be able to design missiles at the most appropriate and cost-effective location for each program, and to manufacture at the most advantageous site (“design anywhere, make anywhere”).

With 45 missile system and countermeasure programs currently in operational service around the world, MBDA has the proven capability as a prime contractor to head major projects. “As a multinational company, our objective was to be able to design anywhere and manufacture anywhere,” says pan-European product data management (PDM) project manager, Jean-Claude Puchois. “We needed to have data in the same format in each country in order to achieve that goal.”

MBDA needed to replace a range of disparate management processes and five different product data management systems, including legacy tools and proprietary in-house applications. The Teamcenter® solution from Siemens PLM Software met MBDA’s desire for fast implementation with minimum customization, offering advanced security features and a web-based platform.

Establishing a culture of cooperation

In 2002 the vision was to establish common core processes while allowing a small amount of local customization to reflect the needs of what had been different operating companies. “We referred to this as the 80/20 rule, which was adopted to make implementation realistic and achievable,” explains Puchois. “MBDA draws its talent from five different companies and five different cultures, so during development we had some big debates. We really did not want to develop a tool and then adapt processes to the tool. We wanted to create common processes and adapt the tool to them without creating the possibility of non-conformance.”

The first phase was to bring all technical document management together within the control of Teamcenter. “Since the end of 2005, we’ve had a complete set of document management processes embedded in our new system that enable us to manage the creation and evolution of the full range of technical documents,” Puchois reports.

Phase two is now well underway, with full product structure and product data management already implemented as well as interfaces to the SAP system, which hosts MBDA’s manufacturing databases. Puchois is pleased that people are now able to see the real value of Teamcenter. “We have common workflows and data models despite the fact that different countries historically have different types and formats of datasets,” he explains.

Managing people and change

“As development progressed, we decided to reduce local customization and eventually limit it,” comments Puchois. MBDA is now aiming to achieve 100 percent commonality of core PDM processes by 2009. Puchois does not underestimate the challenge. “It is a big exercise to reduce the 20 percent local customization to nil, but we have started and are making excellent progress with the change management process,” Puchois says. “We are having meetings and workshops on a regular basis to define a unique set of requirements. It is important that everyone is winning and no one is losing. Of course there have been people who still prefer the old tools. But the only option is for us to face the change and manage it. The important thing is to discuss everything with managers and users to avoid mistakes. Together we are agreeing on common processes and driving towards convergence. Now we can see that the processes of the former national companies are not so far apart.”

The development team has distinguished between differences that detract from unification and those that are acceptable. For example, France has an existing solution to manage all non-technical documents and will continue to use it. The UK does not have such a repository so it is using Teamcenter for these documents as well. There is still some variation with regard to product structure management and MBDA is resolving that at the moment. As the company moves to the current version of Teamcenter, it is taking the opportunity to maximize cooperation and minimize differences.

The development team also recognizes the need to respect national and commercial security requirements, and the security controls have been implemented to achieve them. Each user has a security profile that takes into account nationality, former company, security level and country location. “We have to support the way we need to work, whilst at the same time respecting our security obligations,” says Puchois. “For example we have British people working in France on an Italian project. We need to be able to manage and change access rights appropriately.”

Soon MBDA will introduce one standard data model and one standard user interface for Teamcenter. “All along we’ve had important help from Siemens PLM Software who supported us with the development of our PDM solution,” says Puchois. “Because this was such a big undertaking, we had four development teams: one core team and three teams addressing issues that were specific to the former national companies. Siemens had four teams as well.”

An integrated company

According to Puchois, the number-one benefit of the system is the ability for everyone to share and update information in a robust and controlled environment. “Over 2,000 users now see the same thing and use the same tool,” he says. “So MBDA can operate as an integrated company, with virtual teams of engineers able to work collaboratively on our programs. As we grow, we can manage our resources and our workloads according to the market. Each project will be where it is needed and where it can be manufactured most efficiently.”

MBDA is also gaining efficiencies from reducing errors and preventing duplication. “We can make a query and find a design that meets our needs,” Puchois explains. “We want to improve the re-use of our products and having a unique database facilitates this. It is going to enable us to respond to the market more quickly.”

Puchois is pleased with progress “We can already see that the cost of managing our product data is reducing, for example we see a double figure percentage reduction in cost per user in France compared with the previous legacy PDM systems,” he notes. “This trend is also applicable elsewhere in MBDA and we will continue our efforts to optimize the cost of ownership and maximize the return on our investment across the whole of the company.”

MBDA has become a global leader within a period of only five years. Since 2001, the company has doubled its turnover and consolidated its order book to provide the equivalent of five years of workload. The company has also launched a number of programs based on the most advanced and innovative technologies. Puchois is confident that the PDM project is making a huge contribution to the performance of the company.

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