Integrated DNA Technologies is the largest supplier of custom nucleic acids in the United States.
Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) is the largest supplier of custom nucleic acids in the United States, serving academic, government and commercial researchers in biotechnology, clinical diagnostics and pharmaceutical development. The uses for IDT’s products, which are essentially small portions of synthetic DNA or RNA, include diagnostic tests for genetic diseases such as breast cancer and cystic fibrosis, diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, research to discover new drugs and treatments, and producing safer and more plentiful agricultural products.
In a highly competitive business, IDT has achieved annual double-digit growth over the past 10 years. Today, the company synthesizes and ships an average of 36,000 custom oligonucleotides, as its products are called, each day to more than 77,000 customers worldwide. IDT manufactures the oligonucleotides using chemical DNA synthesis machines that are designed and built in-house. The machines and the manufacturing process are tightly guarded secrets that give the company a competitive advantage.
“We’ve refined the process to the point where we can receive an order as late as 3 p.m. and deliver the oligo to the researchers by the next morning, although more complex products require a longer turnaround time,” says Bob Schafbuch, assistant vice president of enterprise applications at IDT. IDT’s manufacturing locations include facilities in Coralville, Iowa; San Diego, California and Leuven, Belgium.
About four years ago, when IDT’s engineering team was using Autodesk Inventor as its computer-aided design (CAD) system, IDT decided to pursue ISO certification (the company has since achieved it). This raised the requirements for design and document control. “The engineering team had been fairly freelance about its design and document control prior to that,” explains Schafbuch. The company tried a version control application, but “it just did not work for design engineers; it was more for software developers,” he says.
“We needed a version control system for CAD and other types of files, such as Office documents,” Schafbuch continues. The company also wanted the system to be lightweight and easy to use. Because the engineering team was using Inventor at the time, they initially looked at product data management (PDM) options from Autodesk. “We did not have the comfort level with the products Autodesk provided,” Schafbuch says.“But we were really impressed with Siemens’ PDM software, mainly Solid Edge Insight and SharePoint design management system.”
IDT made the decision to switch to the Solid Edge® CAD solution and implement the Insight™ data management solution for design management. This met the company’s PDM needs, but as market conditions forced the company to find ways to further reduce lead times, management realized that more PDM capabilities, such as collaboration tools and engineering process management controls, were needed. “Solid Edge Insight was successful, but when we realized we needed more functionality, we started looking at Teamcenter,” Schafbuch says.
Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter® software, preconfigured for rapid deployment and fast return on investment, was selected by IDT for a number of important reasons. With Teamcenter, IDT gained the additional functionality it needed, as well as seamless integration with Solid Edge. “The Solid Edge Embedded Client is an incredible asset in Teamcenter,” says Schafbuch. “It allows designers to create and modify Solid Edge documents directly in Teamcenter, which offers flexibility in our design process. It also means that we easily capture Solid Edge data for re-use in future projects without placing an additional burden on the CAD user.” IDT has implemented Teamcenter across its entire design team. Other stakeholders within the company, such as purchasing, the internal machine shop and maintenance, also use Teamcenter. In this way, all product data is managed within a single system that includes Office documents as well as CAD data. IDT also uses Teamcenter to manage five workflows (prototype, release, revise, obsolete and discontinue) related to the status of an item.
One key benefit of Teamcenter is better information access company-wide, which translates into less time spent on the part of the engineering team providing information to other stakeholders. “Our mantra is to provide the right information to the right people at the right time,” Schafbuch explains. “With Teamcenter, our design team doesn’t have to provide this information; people can self-serve. So the design team spends more time designing.”
“Those internal stakeholders are our customers and they now have access to information and can provide valuable input as the machines are being designed,” Schafbuch says.
The biggest success, however, has been the ability to accelerate the machine design process through increased re-use of existing design data. “Since we installed Teamcenter, designers are leveraging existing work instead of starting from scratch. They are also sharing data across our three facilities, which wasn’t happening in the past,” adds Schafbuch. Overall, there’s better communication and collaboration throughout the company. “The real business value here is more efficient processes, such as getting items ordered more quickly because the right people have the right information,” he adds.
Teamcenter helped IDT gain ISO 9001 and ISO 1345 certification by allowing the engineering department to demonstrate adherence to the standards’ design and document control specifications. Teamcenter also positions IDT to move into new markets such as therapeutics for human and medical applications that fall under the purview of government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. “It will be much easier to meet the FDA’s documentation requirements now that we have Teamcenter,” Schafbuch notes. “This has been such a huge leap for us.”