Making Money with PLM - Literally

4 May, 2006 By: Kenneth Wong

Product lifecycle management helps Royal Canadian Mint pare down and speed up coin production

Can PLM (product lifecycle management) help you make money? For Neil Hallam, CIO of Royal Canadian Mint, the answer is, "Yes." From two locations inside Canada -- one a historic castle dating back to 1907 in Ottawa, the other a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Winnipeg -- RCM churns out coins. Not just Canadian coins, but coins for several other countries as well.

Moneymaking Business
"We were just looking for something to tie our CAD systems to our PDM (product data management) system," recalls Hallam. "We looked at all the leading vendors
-- about 20 different names, each with its own different tool. It was a real education for us." In the minting business, Hallam points out, "everything revolves around real coins," literally and figuratively. "For any kind of trial marketing, we need die production, tooling and cutting."

At the Royal Canadian Mint, everything revolves around coins.
The final choice was Dassault Systemes' PLM solutions, a suite comprising CATIA V5 for product development and SMARTEAM for data management.

"We fell in love with the idea of 3D," says Hallam. "Seamlessly integrating 3D CAD with PLM solutions fits our strategic direction." RCM's vision is to use CATIA to produce and manage the design formulas required for tooling, assembly and packaging. Through a virtual production workflow in 3D, RCM hopes to produce digital prototypes that can be reviewed internally and shared with its clients via the Web before high-volume production runs begin on the floor. To design coins, RCM currently uses artCAM, a digital engraving product for NC machining. Surfaces produced in artCAM can be imported into CATIA for virtual manufacturing.

Data Diet for Lean Enterprise
Over the years, as operations grew bigger, RCM tried to become leaner -- that is, a lean enterprise. Pierre Justino, RCM's acting director of Engraving and Die Production, defines the concept as follows: "It's about delivering value to the customer. The way to do that is by eliminating steps that have no value to the customer."

RCM's data infrastructure was a collection of Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, Word documents and "things that were on people's desktops and things that existed only in some people's heads," according to Justino. Moving to a consolidated environment inside SMARTEAM is contributing to RCM's lean goals.

"We have several contracts with foreign governments to produce their circulation coins," Hallam says. "Almost in parallel to the product development process, we go through the tendering process." In the past, the process would have required a file folder to pass through a series of reviewers. Now, the document is broadcast to the right managers simultaneously, dramatically cutting down the decision-making cycles.

SMARTEAM, according to Justino, "accelerates the [soliciting and issuing of] foreign quotations by triggering only the right people." Hallam points out, "The other advantage is the ability to reuse history. We've used a similar quote for a similar product, so why reinvent the wheel every time? Just reuse the old information. In the past, there was an awful lot of word processing to create a comprehensive quote package. Now, if everybody enters their bids, we have a quote package in the end."

Intelligent Design
"Engineering designs the tooling," says Justino. "They come up with certain manufacturing tools required to strike coins. These components used to be designed individually and got attached to one another. Each and every dimension reflected the coin it's supposed to make.

"Now we have a system with built-in intelligence. So we just tell the software that we're making, for instance, a 35-mm gold coin, then it recomputes everything to create the new drawings for each part," Justino concludes. In the past, the task would have required a series of manual changes, with no guarantee whatsoever that all the affected parts were properly updated.

RCM's technology adoption, Hallam cautions, is not an overnight process. "It wasn't like, 'Just add water and you're done.' There're lots of configurations." It's implemented in phases, with consulting and training services provided by technology reseller RAND Worldwide. Heeding the advice of PLM analysts, RCM takes on the task one application at a time.

The implementation, according to Xianyao Li, RCM's director of Corporate Engineering, is fairly straightforward and smooth, but it's ongoing. The next stop is integrating RCM's PLM system with its ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, Microsoft Dynamics from Microsoft Business Solutions. We'll revisit RCM when this integration is under way to learn from its experience.