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ASSA ABLOY is a global leader in door-opening solutions, dedicated to satisfying end-user needs for security, safety and convenience.
ASSA ABLOY is the global leader in door opening solutions, and the group conducts extensive operations in all key global markets. The journey towards this leading position has been steady. In 1994 the Swedish company ASSA merged with the Finnish company ABLOY, forming a joint company with nearly 5,000 employees. Since then, the company has grown every year and today has 37,000 employees and sales of SEK 40 billion across all key world markets. This means the company is nearly twice the size of its closest rival.
Some of the growth has been organic, but ASSA ABLOY has also pursued an active strategy of acquisitions in which it has merged with competitors and partners in various product areas and in various markets. To fully leverage the built-up structure, a variety of corporate cultures and methods of working must be coordinated.
For any industrial company, the coordination of product development is vital to maintaining a competitive edge. With a large number of different products in different domains for different markets, there are tremendous advantages if product development can be synchronized and streamlined. Someone who knows a lot about this is Ulf Södergren, globally responsible for the innovation process at ASSA ABLOY. Södergren’s job is to ensure that the internal information technology (IT) systems work together and optimize the efficiency of product development.
“Coordination of different design teams in different parts of the world is crucial for product development, and it’s very important that the designers always work with the latest product version,” says Södergren. “If a product is improved by our development team in Eskilstuna, this must also happen at the same time in our design department in China.”
Södergren explains the company’s challenges: “We have grown organically and through acquisitions. With growth has come the complexity of global product development. We realized that we were not able to share product information between different design sites. Each site had a different CAD (computer-aided design) system, different PDM (product data management) system and different process. There was very little data sharing. It was difficult, or almost impossible, to find information.”
Synchronizing product development can be difficult even in a small organization. But for a widespread organization such as ASSA ABLOY, coordination and synchronization of product development can be particularly complicated. Door locks in Sweden may be developed in a particular way using certain specific components, while the door lock development process and components employed in North America may be quite dissimilar.
ASSA ABLOY took a major step towards coordinated product development a few years ago when the company decided to introduce a PDM system. All important PDM suppliers were invited to make a thorough presentation. Of the eight different systems that were initially examined, four were chosen for further evaluation, including Teamcenter® software from Siemens PLM Software, which was rolled out for extensive trials on a global scale in 2009.
During the evaluation, it was important that the employees who would later use the systems be allowed to voice their opinions. “Our company has thousands of designers all over the world, and their assessments were very important in the choice of a PDM system,” says Södergren.
The selection process ended with ASSA ABLOY choosing Teamcenter for company-wide deployment. In 2010, implementation began across the organization, with ASSA ABLOY’s production facilities in Scandinavia expected to be the first in full operation.
Södergren notes that quality and added business value were the most important aspects when the company chose the PDM system: “In our case, the long-term quality objectives are extremely important, and should be evaluated against the licensing or purchasing costs of the system. We appreciated the modular structure of Teamcenter, where new functions can easily be added.”
An important part of efficient product development is that the PDM platform works smoothly with other IT systems, particularly the group’s CAD and business systems. Södergren cites an example of how product information can be coordinated between the various IT platforms: “Locks are designed in CAD systems. Some of the companies we have acquired use different CAD systems. Our design teams in Sweden use SolidWorks and Inventor, and our design team in Czech Republic uses Catia. One of our challenges is to manage different types of CAD data, and share and synchronize it globally. We use Teamcenter to manage SolidWorks, Inventor and Catia data and then synchronize and compile product information so that our designers all over the world can always work with the latest design drawing. The visualization capabilities of Teamcenter also enable designers to visualize product data from different CAD systems and conduct design collaboration reviews across different geographically distributed sites.
“When the lock is ready for one market, it can then be packaged for various markets,” explains Södergren. “Packaging and distribution of the finished product are then managed in the business systems.”
According to Södergren, ASSA ABLOY’s implementation of Teamcenter will significantly improve transparency and insight across product development. This will considerably increase the speed of design-through-manufacture and make overall operations more cost-effective.
Södergren notes, “With Teamcenter we now have a single source of product data. Teamcenter gives us greater transparency in product information, which makes it easier for the designers to use common components in different products. This shortens our product development lead times, while reducing both our development and production costs.”