Three Products, One Opportunity to Collaborate15 Oct, 2007 By: Cadalyst Staff
A scientific equipment manufacturer uses 3D modeling and PLM to push production volumes up while driving manufacturing costs down.
Timing is everything, and every manufacturer knows that time to market can make the difference between success and failure of a product. This universal truth applies at every level of manufacturing -- from the simplest consumer product to complex, high-tech equipment.
Products from Agilent Technologies fit in the highest section of this range -- the company manufactures scientific equipment for the test and measurement industry. Agilent's $5 billion in annual revenue comes from high-tech products, including systems for mass spectrometry and chromatography, two areas of science that enable researchers to identify unknown compounds based on the characteristic ions created in the mass spectrometer and the retention time in the chromatograph.
The average person has limited exposure to Agilent's high-end product line, yet it touches our daily lives in many ways. These systems are routinely used in various applications related to environmental testing, pharmaceutical analysis, food testing, and forensic applications. From drinking water analysis to prescription drugs, the products we use and consume are tested and measured by this technology. Fans of the CBS show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" can see Agilent's products at work on their television screens, and an Agilent consultant works behind the scenes to help link the fictional plot to actual science.
The production volume for specialized high-tech equipment differs from general consumer products. But that doesn't stop Agilent from creating economies of scale by leveraging design efforts across new product lines. So when an opportunity presented itself, Agilent staff members decided to jump ahead of its competition by launching three new instruments simultaneously to market: the 6100 Series quadrupole, the 6410 triple quadrupole, and the 6510 quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometers.
The Agilent 6510 quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer was one of three complex scientific systems the company wanted to release simultaneously.
"Time to market pressure was the main driver behind these three products," explained James Bertsch, Agilent's 6510 mechanical project lead. "There was an opportunity to move against competitors on this equipment, and we had to get these out into the market fast."
To gain efficiencies within its manufacturing process, Agilent tasked three design teams to work together in cross-platform development to achieve a new level in the reuse of shared components. This strategy allowed the separate products to gain cost efficiencies associated with high-volume production, while the engineering teams benefited from joint design effort.
"We shared as much as we could in order to push production volumes up, which drove manufacturing costs down. Sharing designs across products also minimized engineering times because the teams could reuse each other's work," said Ed Cirimele, Agilent's 6410 mechanical project lead.
The company used CoCreate (http://www.cocreate.com/) OneSpace Model Manager to support the process by serving as the central location for engineering teams to store and access designs. By managing ownership, revision, and state control, OneSpace Model Manager helped to orchestrate team design and ensure that everyone was working with up-to-date information.
"The majority of designs were used in more than one project, but in different combinations," Bertsch explained. "OneSpace Model Manager kept track of all the different configurations and made it easy to find and reuse designs. Without OneSpace Model Manager, every engineer would have their own filing system and way of storing parts. You would have to constantly work with three, four, or five different engineers' way of storing models."
The dynamic modeling approach of CoCreate OneSpace Modeling allowed Agilent to reuse and repurpose design data among three engineering teams.
For example, if all three instruments used the same subassembly, one team designed it and the other two used OneSpace Model Manger to track changes. Design status and change notifications let each team know when to incorporate updated versions into their instrument designs. As a result, the engineers could bring some order to the chaos associated with multiplatform, multiteam design, which in turn enabled them to focus more on their design tasks by spending less time on file management.
"OneSpace Model Manager saved each engineer an hour of design time per day in the most demanding stages of cross-platform design," said Mark Werlich, Agilent's 6100 mechanical project lead.
Using OneSpace Model Manager also eased the bottlenecks that can occur with team-focused engineering design.
"Several times we had team members out of the office, and we didn't have time to wait until their return to move a design forward. Another team member accessed the latest version of the design and made the needed changes. Revision management and change notes made it easy to roll to an earlier version if the original engineer wanted to solve the problem differently," Bertsch said.
Tapping into different engineering skills and perspectives also enabled the teams to increase quality, creativity, and opportunities for innovation -- resulting in better solutions to design problems and ultimately better products.
Agilent also streamlined its product lifecycle management (PLM) process by integrating its CoCreate and SAP environments to share information as a product transitions from development into the manufacturing phase of its lifecycle. When designs are released, OneSpace Model Manager shares the corresponding design data to the downstream system. The two environments also perform an automated check to verify that the 3D model and 2D drawings are fully synchronized with corresponding part numbers and revisions, and that the 2D drawings have a true up-to-date status.
"CoCreate's OneSpace Model Manager is optimized for Agilent's RandD environment, with a clear pathway for designs to move into the company's SAP system for procurement and manufacturing," said Felipe Rosendo, Agilent LSCA ME portfolio lead. "The biggest impact has been in the assured quality of released data, which vendors and suppliers have direct visibility to. We have gone from a manual to automatic process and now avoid hands-on transactions where we could get bit now and again when a wrong part was ordered. What took hours is now done in minutes."