Uniting Multiple Engineering Data Systems
Multi-site and multinational manufacturing is no longer just for the Fortune 500. Even the smallest or most specialized players must coordinate with distant engineering contractors and extended supply chains. Merger and acquisition is now more common as well, bringing new complexity to product data management.
A recent report by Deloitte took a close look at long-distance value chains. “The clear majority of manufacturers’ value chains lack the capabilities to effectively generate new products and sustain them over their lifecycles. One major reason is the rapidly increasing complexities of global markets and value chains. To reduce costs and pursue global markets, companies are dispersing engineering, design and manufacturing, as well as marketing, sales and service activities around the world. This has made it significantly more difficult to coordinate the value chain and manage products effectively across their lifecycles.”
The Special Case of Multi-Site PDM
Not all product data systems are created equal when it comes to multi-site capabilities. Whether the system is primarily product data management (PDM) or product lifecycle management (PLM), your specific installation must be designed from IT roots up for multi-site use. Razorleaf has more than 15 years of experience in helping manufacturers of all sizes unify disparate product data systems, and can steer you through the many options involved.
There are three key variables to master when bringing together multi-site data systems, including:
- Location of database records, files, and/or vaults;
- The specific data needs of each PDM/PLM platform;
- The IT mechanics of sharing.
Before the rise of cloud-based systems, it was a much more complex process to orchestrate multiple data systems. If you have the freedom to install new technology, it will be a much smoother process using cloud, virtualization and other new IT environments. But not every manufacturer is ready to move to cloud technology, even though corporate IT may be pushing for it.
Whether using legacy LANs and WANs, a mix, or all-new cloud architecture, the goal remains the same: engineering data needs to be available throughout the organization to all engineering and manufacturing sites, operations and supply chain associates, with complete fidelity in real-time.
The top challenge in becoming globally competitive and fully collaborative is to keep the data accessible and accurate. The modern engineering and manufacturing infrastructure is fully concurrent and collaborative. Concurrent design means users throughout an organization are always able to view objects relevant to their own work. Collaborative design means users at different sites should be able to view objects, the relationships between those objects, and how connections play out throughout the extended enterprise. The rules associated with these relationships must be clear; the behavior required by those relationships must be fully supported. Users must be able to build products recognized as valid throughout the organization.
Critical Infrastructure Checklist
When Razorleaf helps a client create a seamless product data environment across multiple platforms and locations, there are crucial elements that must always be addressed. Consider this your checklist for reviewing these critical requirements:
Security: A “big wall” approach to security is an outdated notion. Each IT element must have its own multiple levels of security.
IT Versatility: The backbone IT infrastructure must support a mix of old and new; LAN, WAN, cloud, mobile. The right user interface, the right performance characteristics, and full connectivity must be available to all users all the time.
Performance: Just as you want a workstation to pass certain benchmark tests with fast scores, the complete data infrastructure must perform at peak efficiency no matter the workload. One legacy IT element in an otherwise modern system can bring global efficiency to its knees.
Data Integrity: The “single source of truth” must always be paramount. The system must ensure only the master instance of an object can ever be modified.
Fault Tolerance: An IT outage at one location—even at headquarters—should not stop other locations from functioning.
Scalability/Flexibility: The data IT enterprise should always be able to grow the network incrementally. There must be room for an ever-increasing number of users and an ever-increasing data load; such elements as real-time visualization, simulation lifecycle management, virtualization, and virtual or augmented reality data visualization will continue to drive demand for processing, storage, and bandwidth.
There are so many questions, so many details to track when upgrading, consolidating, or replacing your product data infrastructure. Razorleaf has the knowledge to answer these questions, the skills to perform detailed architecture planning, and the experience to differentiate “suggested requirements” from the real needs of specific enterprise systems. Razorleaf consultants can help plan the infrastructure needed to support a successful system implementation, whether you require defining system architecture, hardware resources, cloud computing units, or software platforms (like operating systems, databases, application servers, reporting servers, etc.).