PLM Speeds Time to Market for Watchmaker

3 Mar, 2008 By: Michelle Nicolson

Technology aids one luxury timepiece manufacturer in meeting the increasing demand for its specialized products.

The DaVinci watch from IWC Schaffhausen is one of the company's products for the luxury watch market.

A watch can communicate more than the time of day, and luxury watches from IWC Schaffhausen mean more to their owners than a method of keeping on schedule. Considered to be sought-after collectors' items, the company's line of products — including the DaVinci family, Pilot's watches, Portuguese watches, Aquatime diver's watches, and pocket watches — have been handcrafted and known for their precision, beauty, and desirability for 140 years.

The Switzerland-based company has seen a great deal of change in the passing of time. In the 1970s, the watch-making industry experienced lean years when cheap electronic watches hit the market. "Watches with mechanical movements, which are what we make, became almost obsolete because they were seen as less accurate and not state-of-the-art anymore," explained Antonio Palmisano, process and project manager at IWC.

But in the late 1980s, the mechanical watch industry revived, and IWC Schaffhausen watches became luxury items as well as status symbols. These new market conditions provided some challenges for the company, which needed to increase the pace of its new product development while maintaining the quality of their products to befit the company's tradition of craftsmanship.

The company turned to CAD technology in 1998, using Solid Edge for its product design. After adding product data management (PDM) functionality in 2001, the company realized that the value of its data lay far beyond its repository of CAD data. So in 2005, IWC Schaffhausen launched an internal project it called Kristall (Crystal).


A Solid Edge model shows the interior mechanisms of an IWC Schaffhausen watch.

"The vision of Kristall is to have an integrated product lifecycle management (PLM) system across the entire company, including departments such as design, product management, marketing, development, quality, and the supply chain," Palmisano said.

Software Integration
The company began looking for a PLM system that could provide tight integration between the PDM/PLM software and the company's CAD program. "IWC was very happy with Solid Edge, and a change of CAD was seen as too risky -- because of the potential for delay of product launches -- at the moment of this extreme growth, Palmisano said.

These requirements led them to implement the Teamcenter Express solution from Siemens PLM Software. Teamcenter Express is the collaborative product data management (cPDM) component of the UGS Velocity series, which includes Solid Edge. "There is deep integration between Solid Edge and Teamcenter Express," explained Palmisano. "The interface to Teamcenter Express is embedded in Solid Edge so that we no longer have CAD and data management as separate tools. They are a single entity."

IWC Schaffhausen first rolled out Teamcenter Express in the design department, where it managed product data and the product structure as well as certain workflows such as the drawing release process. It has also been integrated with the company's enterprise resource planning system.

Approximately 5-10% of the company's employees currently use the full version of Teamcenter Express, mostly in the company's development, industrialization, and product management departments. Another 20% use Teamcenter Web for collaboration and data access. IWC's vision is to eventually enable everyone to work from a single, shared source of product data and follow consistent work processes.

Better Data, Faster
The advantages that the company has experienced so far are already impressive, with time savings of 20-30% in different work areas, improved data quality, fewer corrections, and more reuse of existing parts.


Capturing product data and more reuse of existing parts are just two advantages that PLM has provided for IWC.

"Data quality with our old system was not very good," Palmisano said. "A huge benefit of the new approach is the guarantee that the information in our system is logically correct. Once Teamcenter Express is fully implemented, it is going to allow us to have correct information throughout the supply chain and the product lifecycle."

All of these savings are already adding up to improved time to market, which was the company's main goal. Palmisano expects this aspect to continue to improve as other departments come online with TeamCenter. For example, the ability to view and mark up 3D digital models for employees without CAD systems should improve interdepartmental communication and prevent problems downstream.

Palmisano recognizes that the company took a risk when implementing PLM, but he's found the results have been worth it. "We integrated all the decision makers, and it really was a win-win situation for all the partners," he said. "We have an unbureaucratic method of teamwork and the willingness to make it work. It was simply the right timing to do it."

About the Author: Michelle Nicolson

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