Arena – Taking PLM Deep Into the Supply Chain Part I

When we last covered The Arena Solution in 2007, we stated that Arena were the providers of an effective, on-demand, PLM solution that could manage the information associated with the entire lifecycle of a product from conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal, which, for a low margin manufacturing organization, could be the difference between costly inefficiency and profitable efficiency. One of the unique features of the solution was its support for collaboration between the buying organization and the supplying organization through an online portal.

Since the release of their first on-demand solution in 2007, which was focussed around BOM (Bill-of-Material) Management, Item Management and Change Management, over the last few years they added (better) Document Management, Quality Management, and Compliance Management. The Document Management capability, built on their change management and collaboration tools, streamlines the document management process, manages the revision process, supports privilege-based access for anyone who needs to access the document, be they employee or supplier representative, and supports the meta-data categorization required for advanced search and rapid retrieval.

The Quality Management capability supports your CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action) process and allows the organization to track progress on quality improvement processes over the long term. The Quality Management capability allows for the creation of issues, corrective action requests, and tasks necessary to resolve the issues identified by the corrective action requests. It also associates the issues to requests, BOMs, and associated documents and allows the process to be managed from beginning to end and the entire history to be archived for the institutionalization of knowledge.

The Compliance Management capability was designed to allow an organization to meet regulatory requirements and track compliance information for products and processes with BOM-level control to allow an organization to comply with medical, environmental, regulatory, safety, and process standards and regulations. From import restrictions to quality standards to safety standards to reporting regulations, a manufacturing organization often has more regulations to adhere to than it has items in its largest BOM (which can be quite large, especially if it’s manufacturing automobiles, airplanes, or automated control systems for nuclear power plants). This is not an easy task when the organization often has to track the materials in every item in its BOM, the insurance certificates for each supplier, and the third party certifications for each product. But with a proper solution that allows the suppliers to upload the relevant documents, and manage them, the process is a lot easier.

And, finally, they added more Enterprise Integration. A PLM solution that doesn’t integrate with your ERP/MRP solution has almost as many disadvantages as it has advantages. And those disadvantages revolve around data, and data entry. At some point, orders have to be placed, and those orders at some point have to flow through the ERP system that manages the payables, the inventory, and the demand tracking. If there is no integration, the BOMs for all of the existing products will have to be manually entered or loaded into the PLM solution and the BOMs for all of the New Product Introductions will have to be manually entered into the ERP. Not a pretty picture. That’s why Arena spent a lot of time integrating with all of the major ERP and MRP systems out there over the last few years. But Arena didn’t stop there. Realizing that, as they progressed up the supply chain capability curve, that demand needs to get into sourcing systems, that regular orders need to get into procurement systems, that compliance information needs to get into reporting systems, etc., they figured out that no matter how many systems you integrate with, it will never be enough so, in their current release that just came out this quarter (which contains a number of new capabilities on top of the capabilities discussed so far), they built a new Open RESTful API that can be used to push data into Arena from any system and pull any and all data out of the Arena solution that needs to be pushed into other organizational systems. We’ll discuss this more in Part II when we talk about the four new capabilities that were just released as part of the new Arena solution.