PLM Strategies-Get Under the Hood of UGS Teamcenter

31 Mar, 2005 By: Arnie Williams

PLM solution fits design teams of any size.

Ugs is usually listed at the very top in regard to PLM—with good reason. CIMdata and other industry evaluators have given UGS top-dog PLM bragging rights for the past five years in aerospace/defense, automotive/transportation, electronics/telecommunications, fabrication and assembly.

Teamcenter modules
Teamcenter modules

A series of facts corroborate this ranking:

  • 1. 27 of the 30 top automotive OEMs have more than 100 seats of UGS software, making UGS the leading vendor to automotive OEMs.
  • 2. 90% of the companies with more than 1,000 PLM seats use UGS Teamcenter.
  • 3. The top 20 auto suppliers all use UGS CAD/CAM/CAE NX solutions.
  • 4. 60% of UGS Teamcenter seats manage data from multiple CAD programs.
  • 5. The company's 42,000 global clients have close to 4 million installed licensed seats of UGS technology.

As UGS formulates its PLM development strategy, it draws on the marketplace for a general guide, says Bill Boswell, senior director of Teamcenter product marketing. Favoring a general definition of PLM from the University of Michigan and its PLM Development Consortium, UGS sees PLM as "an integrated information-driven approach to all aspects of a product's life, from plan to design and manufacture to deployment to end of product and disposition."

This definition of PLM strikes a chord at UGS, notes Boswell, because the company stresses the importance of providing applications for the whole cycle. That's what Teamcenter is: an open foundation into which different tools spanning the entire product lifecycle can be plugged to help companies maximize profits and efficiencies at both top-line and bottom-line levels (figure 1).

Figure 1. PLM Teamcenter focuses on management and collaboration for planning, defining, building and supporting products throughout their entire lifecycle.
Figure 1. PLM Teamcenter focuses on management and collaboration for planning, defining, building and supporting products throughout their entire lifecycle.

PLM attacks top-line problems by helping companies decide which ideas are the best ones to develop into an actual product, then how to get these ideas from design to sales faster, improving on speed to market. Finally, PLM helps manage global distribution through the supply chain and planning of ongoing maintenance. All of this contributes to top-line growth, notes Boswell.

On the flip side, PLM helps focus business processes around product portfolio support, including such things as regulatory compliance. The cost-cutting efficiencies that derive from PLM help ensure lower expenses, better margins and better control over what is outsourced, for example, and what remains inside the company.

Teamcenter and Its Components

A company that employs a complete installation of Teamcenter has a PLM system made up of nine modules that address all aspects of a product's lifecycle (see "Teamcenter Modules" at left).

If you work in one of those large automotive or aerospace enterprises, all of these components with their suggestions of large-scale enterprise problems and solutions no doubt seem a smart way to go about your business. But what if you work on a team of ten rather than 10,000, and what if your business is short-life consumer products and not multiyear, global supply chain-heavy aerospace or automotive? Is using Teamcenter like going after a fly with a smart bomb instead of a fly swatter? Not at all, claims Boswell.

"Potential users need to think about PLM from a process perspective," he says. "They need to ask themselves how they're doing in new product development. They should also consider how they can manage their business better. Regulatory compliance is a big concern today, and it's industry specific. For example, in the medical devices arena there are FDA regulations. In other industries there are strict environmental regulations. If you develop a product across multiple sites in the world, do you have the correct quality programs in place? How are you dealing with supply chains? How do you connect people and processes?"

These issues have traditionally been of concern in heavy industries, notes Boswell, but they are now arising in areas such as consumer-packaged goods and retail and apparel.

In that regard, PLM provides a number of entry points, says Boswell. Teamcenter provides the most common levels of capability. It's not just an �a carte add-a-module approach. A typical company might have data archiving needs and then move to process management. A company focusing on product planning and development with Teamcenter Engineering might logically extend to requirements and execution management.

With that in mind, let's take a more in-depth look at some of the primary Teamcenter components.

Teamcenter Engineering

A key strength of Teamcenter's approach to PLM is its open, multiCAD architecture. Its Engineering module allows product teams to capture knowledge created with various CAD systems, including NX, Ideas, Solid Edge, AutoCAD, CATIA, SolidWorks and Pro/ENGINEER. Key data can be integrated into product definitions for use in automated release, design management, digital validation, engineering change management and team collaboration processes.

Digital mockup capabilities (figure 2) create virtual prototypes that assist with interference checking, clearance requirements, human factors studies and parts-in-motion studies. Validation teams can take advantage of the module's "always on," repeatable digital validation capabilities to continuously evaluate current work against all a product's variants and options.

Figure 2. Teamcenter Engineering provides product prototyping and digital mockup capabilities in a CAD-neutral environment with data drawn from multiple CAD platforms, such as NX, I-deas, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, CATIA and Pro/ENGINEER.
Figure 2. Teamcenter Engineering provides product prototyping and digital mockup capabilities in a CAD-neutral environment with data drawn from multiple CAD platforms, such as NX, I-deas, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, CATIA and Pro/ENGINEER.

Engineering change management is crucial to ongoing design, and Teamcenter Engineering allows change managers to return to their native CAD authoring system when design revisions are made. This is possible due to the CAD-neutral 3D visualization (JT file format) used by the module. Extended product design teams can compare components and assemblies and identify engineering changes authored using multiple CAD tools.

Visualization and Other Modules

The Open JT file format is also the underpinning of the Visualization module. This allows full-team access to 2D and 3D visualizations in a CAD-neutral environment for viewing extremely large detailed assembles. Native CAD systems often can't handle this amount of data for full-assembly viewing. This module also supports 2D markup, measurement and comparison as well as basic 3D view functionality. A professional version of this module adds 2D/3D analysis, including measurement, dynamic cross sectioning, comparison and user-defined coordinates.

The Enterprise module extracts information from a variety of authoring tools (MCAD, ECAD, CAE, CAM, word processing and document management) and shares that data throughout the enterprise. Features include vaulting, check-in/out, security protection and higher-level product representations drawn from multiple applications.

The Community module puts vital product data on every PC desktop, in the format that makes most sense to team members. Executives, marketing, engineering, manufacturing and suppliers can participate in real-time collaboration. Modeled on Microsoft Office, the module is designed to plug into a Web-based environment to provide the widest scope of data exchange in nontechnical format.

Designers and manufacturers facing compliance regulations will be especially interested in the Requirements module. Bringing product requirements and quantifiable constraints together with performance, safety, maintenance, recycling and other compliance-related metrics, the module helps translate all requirements into design elements that can be traced across product configurations and lifecycle states.

The Inevitability of PLM

A multitude of factors are driving the move to PLM by design and manufacturing companies of all sizes. Whether it's the mounting number of regulatory compliance factors that must be considered, even with short-lifecycle products, or just the need for companies in competitive markets to grow top-line revenue while cutting bottom-line expenses, PLM is emerging as the umbrella technology most suited to widespread management issues.

At UGS, as well as at other PLM developers, the customer's need for open applications that accommodate multiple product design and authoring tools has become a key driver in product development strategy. That's why Teamcenter developers have focused on creating a scalable portfolio of applications that serve the smallest firm just as reliably as the largest, notes Boswell. This strategy will continue to guide UGS for some time to come, he adds.

Because regulations and compliance loom large on the radar for companies large and small, next month we'll consider a broad range of requirements and how PLM can help with compliance.

Arnie Williams, former editor-in-chief of Cadence magazine, is a freelance author specializing in the CAD industry. E-mail Arnie at

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