New methodologies and standards can make the difference between a relatively smooth-running, flexible infrastructure or a maelstrom of competitive and proprietary systems that can only be modified by vendors at an annual cost running in the millions.
Lance Murphy, Process Optimization : Fine-Tuning the Manufacturing Enterprise,
Supply & Demand Chain Executive
This is important because many management teams don’t understand that their current operational infrastructures may have reached critical mass because most of their so-called heterogeneous environments consist of patchwork layers of new and legacy applications and systems, often hard-wired, point-to-point integrations designed to perform yesterday’s tasks with an every-changing array of co-conspirators. Even though, in manufacturing, there has been an almost exclusive focus on powerful design and collaboration tools to stay ahead of escalating product complexity and global complication this has just further complicated the interopability challenge.
So, what can be done to improve the situation? Process improvement based on “business flow” and not just function. Apply Product Lifecycle Manufacturing (PLM) methodologies to manage not just the product development, but the process behind it. Identify and evaluate critical path processes and focus on streamlining and managing those while eliminating any process not on the critical path that does not provide any added value.
Furthermore, you can take advantage of advances in XML standards, application programming interface (API) design, web services, business process management (BPM), and service oriented architecture (SOA) frameworks to develop and integrate the PLM processes you need to streamline and manage your critical process flows.
And it works. According to Lance’s article, a Canadian company that has led the market in the design and manufacturing of state-of-the-art aircraft engines that employed PLM-based process optimization substantially improved their process for managing corrective action requests. Seventy-five percent of these requests, which have averaged around 5,000 at any one time since program inception, are now processed in minutes rather than days – a savings of hundreds of man-years annually! In addition, the resources required to manage these requests has continued to plummet and standardization has reduced risk and streamlined processes, making most operations easier to modify and adapt to changing conditions.