Engineering and manufacturing concerns are challenged to collaborate with various suppliers and vendors on projects. Such collaboration can be either fruitful or problematic.

In this blog, we’re looking at the different ways suppliers and vendors or OEMS and Tiers can collaborate successfully using 3DEXPERIENCE PLM to improve the process.

Challenges for Tier Suppliers

When Tier suppliers are brought into a design project with an OEM, we see two main scenarios for how the project might be structured: The supplier is to work off an existing design, i.e., manufacturing to print or is jointly developing/collaborating on a design, requiring the work to be fairly interactive.

Each of these scenarios comes with challenges, such as:

  • Working with disparate software systems making sharing of projects in real time nearly impossible
  • Categorizing differing levels of project access
  • Instilling change management and identifying how to communicate changes
  • Responding to Bill of Material (BOM) issues
  • Creating consistent ways for engineering teams to work together
  • Managing customer part numbers and information vs. internal part numbers and information
  • Various players/OEMs updating data without including previously proposed changes by the supplier
  • Retrieving and passively controlling data, e.g., from CAD files, from BOMs from another vendor or a subcontractor
  • Ensuring proper security is in place to protect intellectual property, so that only the specific data can be accessed or changed by the appropriate team members and ensuring that malicious actors cannot corrupt or take over data
  • Managing the supplier or OEM intellectual property where shared data may need to be revised so that the owner’s IP is protected
  • Ensuring data isn’t overwritten

Is it the Right Data?

Typical problems in this multivendor scenario relate to the data itself. Sometimes team members end up designing against the wrong data, overwriting data or spending time trying to actually find the correct data. And once they find the correct data, how do the team members know it is the right data? Is the correct data being sent or received from the OEM and is it placed in the correct location for the supplier? Answering these questions takes time and resources.

Collaboration Best Practices

What is the best way to collaborate to ensure that data is smoothly transferred between OEMs and Tiers/vendors and suppliers in the most efficient way to reduce costs and errors and increase innovation? To mitigate these challenges, it’s critical to use the right tools and processes.

Companies want to know that the data produced will be managed properly with a high level of quality. At the end of the day, the client wants to know that it will get a good product that has proper data management and quality controls in place.

While there is something to be said for a vendor having the same data management software in place as the client, it’s not completely necessary, especially if you are able to demonstrate that you are following best practices for data management.

It’s important to identify the type of data and how it will be exchanged, the type of partnership or collaboration scenario required for the best results, and the business processes of the companies involved in the collaboration.

Bottomline is this: There is no one-size-fits-all process.

How the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform Fosters Collaboration

We see three main ways to foster collaboration in 3DEXPERIENCE:

  • Users can set up 3DEXPERIENCE to allow access to vendors and suppliers so that all users, whether internal or external, can work on the same project data at the same time with one single source of data truth. It is fairly easy to set up 3DEXPERIENCE to allow this access either in the cloud or on-premise, although companies running 3DEXPERIENCE on-premise will need to also ensure the proper network security is in place for any external party to access its servers.
    Allowing other vendors access to your 3DEXPERIENCE platform eliminates the challenge of circulating copies of files. You’ll no longer be playing file roulette, never knowing if the file you are working on is the most up to date. On the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, users can control not only who has access but which data and files they have access to, so that they can work on the project seamlessly without accessing any sensitive data you need to protect. Vendors can complete their design work in your system, against your data, that is always live and up to date.
  • When suppliers and vendors/OEMs and tiers have an established partnership where they have been collaborating and exchanging data for a long time, it’s possible to build a specific integration between your 3DEXPERIENCE platform and the other vendors to facilitate a supplier/vendor-specific integration. Here we see a specific process built to foster the integration and meet any unique processes the companies need to support.

    The 3DEXPERIENCE platform has a role called XPDM which is used to support such integration scenarios. The XPDM tool extracts data in certain formats, which then can be imported into another system, as well as the inverse. The tool offers a full gateway orchestration method to seamlessly control the movement of data and the ownership of the data and even transform from one system to another.

  • The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allows users to extract and import 3DXML files that represent CAD and meta data. In such a scenario, one company can extract the data to be shared as 3DXML and the second company can import the data into its system. While this is a fairly easy collaboration scenario, it can pose a challenge as there is no real control on managing the “exported” 3DXML files. Various copies could be created without the proper revision or access control of what gets shared among the various project groups. The danger comes from having different copies.

In conclusion, we know that PLM systems and tools make collaboration much easier.

As data becomes more complex, companies will continue to contract outside vendors and suppliers to help with design and manufacturing. They need the right tools and processes to streamline collaboration. A PLM system like 3DEXPERIENCE can help foster collaboration and interactions by providing various options for data exchange.

As we always say, the devil is in the details. It is critical to understand the types of collaboration required and any unique process requirements for the collaboration to work smoothly.

xLM Solutions offers services and solutions for PLM implementation, integration, customization, data migration, and collaboration. Contact us today.

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