Comprehensive integration: process and product
Teamcenter accelerates product innovation by enabling cross integration of PLM and ERP; integrated product suite excels
The integration factor
Demanding high-end customers, a competitive environment that is characterized by innovations at breakneck speed and increasing calls for customized products: all this means that Loewe, the famous manufacturer of up-market consumer electronics, finds itself in a rather difficult environment. The company is nevertheless undergoing a constant upturn in revenues and there are tangible reasons for this success. “The key to Loewe’s success is the integration factor,” says Reinhold Rauh, head of mechanical design at Loewe, “That means integration of the product, as well as of the product design environment.”
Loewe is the leading manufacturer in the premium consumer electronics market in its geographic sector. The company, based in the Franconian region of Kronach, Germany, develops, produces and sells home entertainment systems, televisions, DVD recorders and high fidelity systems. Loewe is very strong in the rapidly growing segment of television equipment. Television sets make up 85 percent of total revenue and the trend towards high price, large format and well-equipped flat-screen TVs continues to be robust. The inclination towards integrated multimedia solutions, which combine various forms of digital entertainment, is particularly pronounced.
Increasing demand for integrated video and audio
In a similar manner to the evolution of mobile phones – which now combine a telephone, camera and navigation device – televisions are being developed in such a way that they can be networked with other electronic products, such as camcorders, DVDs, photographic devices and game systems. The Loewe Connect product line – whereby digital photographs, for instance, can be viewed on the television screen from the PC or films and music can be accessed from the computer using a wireless network – is an example of such integration.
In the audio sector, Loewe’s Individual Mediacenter combines various music sources from CDs, DVDs, FM stereo, iPod/iPhone or the internet within one platform from which the distribution of music can be centrally managed throughout the entire house.
Challenges of quality, production and customization
“Our customers expect the highest levels of quality,” says Rauh. “We cannot tolerate any errors in our segment.” In addition, the market also demands increasingly rapid innovations. Product lifecycle management (PLM) offers a solution that controls the innovation processes. It ensures that current information is available to the right persons throughout the company. PLM enables companies to utilize transparent data and processes in their efforts to rapidly develop marketable products and to promote the re-use of existing information. This saves time and, more importantly, errors are avoided despite increasing product complexity.
Customized home entertainment systems can be very complex, constituting additional challenges for developers. Every customer has options, such as the choice of color, form and material for the housing and its mounting as well as installation from a whole catalog of distinct models. The equipment therefore has to be designed as flexible modules and in such a way that everything fits together perfectly – whatever the configuration. “If you change a component, this could affect the entire product portfolio, not just a single product,” says Harald Hofmann, CAD system manager at Loewe. “If a colleague changes one model slightly – and your product development environment isn’t integrated – the probability of errors being produced increases considerably.”
Making complexity manageable; reducing costs
For this reason Loewe is not just investing in new products, but also in improvements to the product creation process. The quality conscious company has been using the Teamcenter® digital lifecycle management solution from Siemens PLM Software to administer and control development data in order to master product complexity.
Loewe deliberately opted for scalable software that the PLM market had already deemed very reliable. Teamcenter offers comprehensive functions to ensure flexible and reliable data administration. Among Teamcenter’s capabilities especially advantageous for Loewe are document management, workflow management, change management, e-mail integration, classification and viewing.
The benefits of the Teamcenter implementation are significant.When Hofmann and his colleagues are developing a digital master model, they always have access to the very latest data. They can simultaneously work on various product development tasks, exchange ideas or produce components, diagrams, simulations and NC paths from the master model. Management notes that the simultaneous cooperation of the various individual development sectors results in marked time savings vis-à-vis a comparable step-by-step approach. Importantly, the development of new television sets and audio appliances proceeds according to company targets. Engineers can assess their design modes, their subsequent form and the behavior and costs of the products at a very early stage with the aid of detailed and authoritative information. Among savings, the number of costly prototypes is reduced.
Integrating PLM and ERP
Management decided early on that cross-system integration with SAP had to be ensured. Even with significant benefits realized, they knew the PLM system would be of even greater advantage if it was integrated with the company’s SAP technology. Essentially, the PLM market is evolving in a similar manner to the home entertainment systems market. “The trend is clearly towards integrated solutions,” explains Jürgen Seelig, managing director of TESIS PLMware, which is based in Munich. The company has been working with Loewe for more than 10 years, helping launch and continually improve its integrated development environment. Seelig notes, “Comprehensive and precise interfaces between PLM and ERP systems for manufacturing companies have now become important tools to successfully master the complex, tension-filled conjunction of quality, product diversity and reduced time to market.”
The Teamcenter Gateway for SAP has been in use since the introduction of Teamcenter at Loewe. The integrated solution, developed by TESIS PLMware, combines the Teamcenter digital lifecycle management system with the SAP Business Suite ERP system at both a data and a process-based level. This ensures that the data of both systems can be synchronized with one another and working sequences can be seamlessly realized for all the different applications. Relevant information is available throughout the company in an updated form and free of errors.
The gateway enables documents to be transferred without any difficulty from Teamcenter to SAP, producing 2D and 3D product representations in a neutral format and subsequently transferring these and other documents to the ERP system. Conversely the gateway enables the transfer of SAP material numbers, the status and other information within the drawing title block to Teamcenter. In this way, consistent data is guaranteed and errors are avoided when diagrams and other documents are changed, with data integrity ensured despite the large number of different models.
Rauh and Hofmann, who were principals in the migration decision, are clearly very satisfied with the results. “We have set the points for a high quality and comprehensive product lifecycle management system, which extends beyond the simple administration of the design data by means of our PLM/ERP integration,” says Rauh. The design manager and his team have every reason to be proud of their achievements. Loewe has realized significant advantages as a result of its integrated product development environment, among them the optimum use of data, fewer expensive prototypes and accelerated product innovation. The company has delivered sophisticated results in the field of integrated premium home entertainment systems, including continuously increasing revenues.
About TESIS PLMware
TESIS PLMware, headquartered in Munich, is a consultancy and software company that pursues the goal of creating integrated PLM landscapes. In addition to providing independent process consultancy and the sale of Siemens PLM Software products, TESIS PLMware also produces a broad range of standardized and customized software, especially for the integration of ERP systems with CAD and PLM systems. The Teamcenter Gateway for SAP (T4S) integrated solution was certified by SAP and is sold worldwide by Siemens PLM Software. The owneroperated company was founded in 1988 and is a member of the TESIS group.