Profitable linking of product data and processes ‒ in the central SAP system

Greater competitiveness, profitable growth, and a further expansion of the international lead position – these were the aims of a manufacturer of high-performance materials for the automotive industry, equipment and mechanical engineering, energy and environmental engineering as well as medical technology and electronics. Against this background, the serial and individual producer wanted maximum efficiency all through the product creation process. An SAP integration of product data from engineering and design would create the basis for consistent process improvements, in particular regarding the high compliance requirements for manufacturers of medical products.

Distributed data management as a brake on efficiency

Before the new solution was introduced, product data from engineering and design was managed independently of SAP ERP. For example, CAD data was stored on a separate PDM system – without integration in the overall process of the value-added chain. That meant many media breaks and a lack of consistency of product information. Moreover, the decentralized data storage was not subject to any uniform rules and was therefore neither transparent nor unambiguous. That made it extremely difficult to see the current state of required product data, which caused great problems for those involved throughout the company: from project management and purchasing to work preparation and production to customer service.

Product data integration as optimization approach

To improve process efficiency, an integrated solution was wanted – with the SAP system as central hub and single source of truth. This is where product data and document management as well as process management and control would converge. The material specialist’s concrete objectives:

  • Better integration of product development and design as information supplier for all downstream processes and departments
  • Regulated, transparent management and distribution of data using workflow-controlled processes for versioning, release, etc.
  • Consistent process improvement in serial and individual production thanks to company-wide consistent, up-to-date and unambiguous data
  • Simpler fulfillment of documentation obligations and traceability conditions – in particular with medical technology products
Implemented with standard software from DSC

To implement the desired solution, the company decided on Engineering Control Center. As an integration platform, ECTR provides not only the basis for the SAP integration of authoring systems. It also offers an intuitive graphical user interface that makes work with SAP PLM amazingly simple. Thus all kinds of product data and documents can very easily be managed in the SAP system, viewed as required, and conveniently linked with other SAP objects and business processes. For a seamless CAD connection, they chose SAP PLM Integration for NX. This enables CAD users to access SAP objects and functions directly from their familiar work environment. Additionally, the materials specialist chose various add-ons from the broadly based DSC portfolio: for automatic drawing maintenance and neutral format generation, for more convenient cloning of assemblies and components, as well as for the controlled export and import of CAD data. The MS Office connection and specific process automations were achieved with add-ons.

Compliance requirements in focus

With respect to the development and production of medical products, various aspects had to be considered in the new solution. Among other things, the software used had to be validated and certified – whereby subsequent changes or adaptations are not unproblematic. So everything had to be right from the beginning. DSC worked out the necessary concepts together with the producer. These included the following measures:

  • Defining a storage system for product data and CAD documents as well as designing a uniform information model with hierarchic folder structures
  • Defining an information model mapping the individual production steps: from raw workpiece to finished part – including resources
  • Defining CAD structures supporting the creation of all relevant drawing types: rough sketches, draft versions, and finished parts drawings as well as sales detailed drawings
  • Mapping the required history with all modifications to change masters to complete documentation of the development process of customized and serial products
  • Managing documentations in the quality area, which includes among other things complete software validation – also of the PLM system
Specific adjustments to meet the customer’s wishes

DSC’s specialists implemented the compliance-relevant concepts not just technically. With the help of additional programming, they also made further system adaptations – in complete accordance with the customer’s requirements. The underlying process and solution definitions were initially worked out in workshops with the departments and specialists involved. Some of the customer’s wishes:

  • Customized material creation dialog in ECTR with settings and presettings that can be maintained by classification
  • Structured project folders for storing all project-related documents and easier tracking of project progress
  • Different document folders for purchasing, structured according to particular criteria such as supplier, pattern, or project
  • Automatic acceptance of classification values for objects during their sorting into particular folder structures/folders
Complete service from a single source – including enablement

Altogether, DSC supervised the project from the requirements analysis and conception to development and installation to rollout and user training. To check on the feasibility, a local pilot implementation was run prior to the global rollout. DSC was also responsible for migrating the NX data as well as the initial installation of the integration software and all extra components. During rollout, DSC provided mainly project support, including particularly the migration of CAD data on several company sites. Thanks to diverse enablement measures on the part of DSC, the customer was now to a large extent able to roll out the new solution without further help: i.e., to adapt, configure, and start it up.

Well equipped for new market successes

In retrospect, it can be said that all project aims were achieved. Product development and design are seamlessly connected to the central SAP system. Product-related data and documents are managed in structures and according to process orientation. Thus the entire value-added chain profits from the solution, and everything runs more efficiently – thanks to a tailor-made integrated solution. All in all the best prerequisites for sustainably strengthening the market position. The biggest project successes:

  • Considerably easier retrievability and reuse of data
  • More efficient, simple handling of product data and documents
  • Company-wide accessible, consistent data – reliably up to date
  • Fast, precise provision of relevant data for follow-on processes
  • Clear process optimization through workflow-bases automation
  • Better traceability of relevant product and project data
  • Simpler fulfillment of compliance requirements for medical products
  • Substantial simplification of certification thanks to system reduction

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DSC Software AG
Am Sandfeld 17
76149 Karlsruhe | Germany

Phone: +49 721 9774-100
Fax: +49 721 9774-101