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AESSEAL ® is one of the world’s leading specialists in the design and manufacture of mechanical seals and support systems. The company’s aim is to give such exceptional service that customers need never seek another source of supply.
A commitment to unparalleled customer service lies at the heart of AESSEAL Plc, a business founded on expertise that focuses on preventing liquids and gases from escaping into the environment. The company invests seven percent of annual sales revenue in research and development (R&D), and achieves exceptional delivery times for the mechanical seals and support systems that it designs and manufactures for rotating equipment, such as pumps and motors. Millions of permutations can be assembled from stock and dispatched within 24 hours, and a database founded on decades of experience speeds the development of nonstandard products.
The company’s expertise and innovation have resulted in rising customer demand and industry recognition in the decades since the company was established in 1979. AESSEAL now supplies customers in 104 countries and operates from 230 locations, including nine manufacturing sites and 58 repair facilities. Such impressive growth also presented a huge challenge. Stuart Welsh, head of IT (information technology), explains. “Our reputation is built on customer service and our speed of response, yet we have gained customers who are far from our original base in the UK (United Kingdom); shipping time has become our biggest business challenge. In order to continually improve our customer service, the business recognized that we needed to create a global design and engineering team, supported by local manufacturing capability.”
Having agreed on a business strategy, it became obvious that existing systems were inadequate. The company decided it was time to implement a more comprehensive product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. “We already use Solid Edge® and NX™, so the obvious choice was Teamcenter® because we knew that it would support a global engineering and manufacturing facility,” says Welsh. “We undertook a thorough analysis of our business with Siemens Digital Industries Software, and this enabled us to begin planning an implementation project.”
Siemens Digital Industries Software partner OnePLM provided a consultant to work alongside users at AESSEAL headquarters. “Through OnePLM, we gained one global licensing and maintenance program with Siemens Digital Industries Software and a clear, focused approach to implementation that allowed the business and users to steer the transition process.”
Chris Newton, senior designer, notes, “For the user community, it was very important to establish workflows that truly represent the different ways in which we respond to and fulfill customer requirements. These can be complex, particularly when there are multiple products and configurations associated with one order or we need to understand the history of an existing installation. For example, with our old system, we were forced to find workarounds to bypass standard rules when special situations arose. Our OnePLM consultant clearly understood the user perspective and led us expertly through the process of defining new workflows and gathering feedback on proposals.”
For AESSEAL it was extremely important to integrate Teamcenter with other business solutions, including customer relationship management (CRM), manufacturing execution system (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology, and this was built into the implementation project.
Training for key users began with a three-week “train the trainer” boot camp. This was followed by the foundation of a dedicated training network for the global user base of 150. In the spring of 2013, engineering information already released for production was migrated to Teamcenter, and over the following two weeks all new designs were originated using Teamcenter. Finally, all projects in progress were transferred over, along with computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs.
According to Welsh, this series of data migrations revealed real-world issues, such as the order in which actions need to be taken or the way in which specialist teams are notified of changes. For example, users stamp and publish design information at what they think is the end of the development process. If, however, they receive further significant data from the customer, such as detail about the type of liquid to be pumped, they must issue a revision control.
“We have continued to tweak our workflows, which are more complex but now accurately reflect our real business process. We effectively engaged our users to think more about the ways in which they interact with our customers and how they register and pass on information. This required quite a change of mindset. In return for this discipline, we have control and visibility right from first inquiry to final delivery, which saves enormous amounts of time previously spent chasing internal information from colleagues. Teamcenter gives us a platform to deliver the board’s vision of an integrated, global engineering team.”
Teamcenter is now the gateway for computer-aided design (CAD) and CAM and, as soon as anything is released for production, all relevant information passes into the enterprise business system, where it is available for any department to utilize. There are multiple points of integration between Teamcenter and other systems. When a design is released, it is given a unique part number and this automatically generates stock records and bills of materials (BOMs). In addition, the “as designed” BOM will include supporting information, such as marketing documents with schematics.
Welsh cites one example: “The handover from engineering to commercial departments is now quicker, easier and less prone to error. We previously had to enter the number and description of parts into our ERP system as a separate exercise, whereas such details are now generated automatically. The time taken up with manual processes has been cut by 75 percent and now data is both reliable and consistent, particularly with regard to terminology, the categorization of parts and the way in which information is posted through to accounts.”
“Likewise, integration of our CRM system with Teamcenter means that full customer details are associated with design information,” notes Newton. “We already notice the difference. Everyone has a complete view, and this means that they are able to make decisions more quickly, using the right information. This will improve the quality and efficiency of our development process, particularly with regard to projects that span across various sites. Teams in different locations will be able to check and review each other’s work.”
With so many resources dedicated to innovation, AESSEAL registers patents regularly, and the company regards Teamcenter as a key enabler in the protection and advancement of intellectual property. Welsh explains, “Teamcenter allows us to tightly control who has access to our technology, and this is of clear benefit in situations where our design information is passed to local manufacturers. We have the ability to provide all the necessary geometric detail, yet withhold critical information about the specific application of a product. On the other hand, we can give our customers all the peripheral data they want when we pass drawings to them.”
Newton points out: “Crucial to our success so far is the fact that we can make changes, and we can make them quickly. We have learned a lot and know that, with Teamcenter, we have the foundation for further efficiency and flexibility.”
Stephen Shaw, group engineering director, looks to the next phase of business development: “The aim of the group board was to implement a solution to support the business strategy of a global engineering team with local manufacturing support, and enable us to continue to improve levels of customer service and business growth, and we have achieved that. As a board, we can now focus on the expansion of our business worldwide, knowing that Teamcenter will provide the supporting product development platform for growth.”