The manufacturing sector is changing faster than ever. The increasing multifaceted nature of processes is associated with maintaining operational efficiency and high quality. The need for transparency and efficiency of operations is increasing and product innovations need to be implemented more and more quickly. Effective planning is the key to the business success of the organisation. In the Industry 4.0 era, IT technologies dedicated to product lifecycle management (PLM) have become even more helpful.
WHAT IS PTC WINDCHILL SOFTWARE?
Windchill is a flagship PTC product designed to optimise all product lifecycle management (PLM) processes. It has nearly 1.5 million users worldwide. The software was created by PTC, an American company leading in the field of IT services. One of the main tasks of the system is to collect and share knowledge about the product and operations in which it is involved within a given company and external partners. Windchill is a multidimensional, process-oriented source of current data, i.e. models, structures, documents, information about changes. A well-implemented PLM solution helps control processes, optimise production, transform BOMs, efficiently plan and implement changes and reduce production time and costs. The system allows for work based on the roles of users – it supports designers, engineers, managers, service technicians and every employee involved in the product lifecycle. Windchill supports the development of new projects in many aspects, including through integration with CAD applications, access to archived projects and advanced tools for product configuration.
How has Windchill changed?
The first version of Windchill 4.0 was launched in 1999. Since then, with the development of new technologies, the system has evolved significantly. The currently available version is Windchill 11 – continuously being improved by PTC. The last update was introduced in December 2019, the next one is planned for 2020. Windchill 11 offers new features: role-based applications, optimised tools, an advanced search engine, intellectual property protection, as well as access from anywhere and via mobile devices (Android, Windows, iOS). More than 20 years of work devoted to the development of the Windchill system have enabled us to become the world leader in product lifecycle management solutions.
Implementing PLM software brings many measurable benefits to organisations. In the following article, we will explain why it is worth implementing Windchill 11 and the present key capabilities of this system.
Windchill 11 – faster and simpler data search
Searching for data may seem to be an insignificant process. However, when a database has thousands of indices, searching becomes meaningful. You are quite likely to have once tried to find a previously viewed page or read article on the Internet and failed. It takes a lot of time and can be frustrating. In the case of production of any kind, delays or inefficient operations entail losses for a company. From the point of view of a PLM system user, a fast and easy to use search engine is one of the key tools. At every stage of the product’s lifecycle – from conception, through implementation, production, to change management – system users need easy access to data. An intuitive search engine significantly affects the speed and efficiency of actions and the comfort of staff. PTC has made Windchill 11 even more functional and user-friendly. The system offers the possibility to search by keywords, indices, names, attributes, relationships between objects. It is also possible to save different search criteria available to multiple users. The database can also be viewed by Windchill PartsLink classification and by product attributes. Windchill will generate a list of documents and files containing the specified criteria. You can filter and customise your search results to find exactly what you are looking for. The advanced search function allows you to delve into the details and define multiple dependencies and relationships between objects. One of the objectives for improving the search engine was obtaining similarity to and functionality of popular web browsers, which we use every day.
Windchill 11 and management of the multidimensional BOM structure
BOM (Bill of materials) is a comprehensive list of raw materials, components and subassemblies necessary to produce the final product. Effective BOM management is critical to the success of production, whether the product consists of just several or several thousand parts. Windchill 11 provides more efficient management of the component list (BOM). The software offers the possibility to create extensive material structures that can be configurable depending on the type of product and user needs. BOM can be integrated with other systems, e.g. SAP. Windchill also collects all project documentation and 3D models. Whether you need basic BOM management or advanced configuration with more flexibility and scalability, Windchill will give you better control and production efficiency.
EBOM to MBOM transformation
BOM is divided into two types: EBOM (engineering bill of materials) and MBOM (manufacturing bill of materials). EBOMs are the responsibility of the design office. The so-called engineering BOM is a list of components of the final product. In order to produce a finished product, it is necessary to structure BOM according to a number of criteria, such as production plants, supply chain, means of production, production processes, etc. For this purpose, the MBOM (manufacturing BOM) is controlled by the personnel responsible for production, in close cooperation with logistics and purchasing. MBOM may additionally include solvents, adhesives, greases, seals etc. that are not included in the engineering bill. Both types help companies maintain order and process logic throughout the product’s lifecycle. Engineers and designers responsible for the design process work in a different methodology than production managers. The more complex the production process, the more people and locations it involves. Sometimes it requires coherent action on two different continents. Windchill integrates both areas, enabling you to transform EBOM into MBOM. It allows both designers and production personnel not only to modify the bill of materials on an ongoing basis, but also to maintain its correct structure. Any changes made at project level are communicated to production engineers who can react immediately. MBOM is a place to record the impact of engineering changes and ensure that changes are properly managed and reflected in the production process. This minimises the risk of production downtime and potential errors.
Windchill 11 and change management in the production process
Production management is a complex process that requires excellent organisation. The implementation of each change shatters the old order and requires reordering of the processes. The reasons for changes can range from the need for optimisation, component defects, changing trends, to a change in the supplier of a given raw material. Change management in the production process is a complex concept that applies to every stage of implementation. It may involve modifying the product design or the type of raw material used. Sometimes the concept of change comes up at the stage of modification of the finished product according to the customer’s wish (product personalisation). The process of implementing changes can be divided into two stages:
- Engineering Change Request consisting in analysing and gathering information about the planned change: what you have to change, how to do it, what needs arise. This stage may involve all departments in the company that have an impact on the final product. Windchill 11 fully supports change management thanks to the possibility of controlled introduction and supervision of changes in products in a dynamically changing environment, the possibility of assigning roles to individual employees and the division of tasks, control of links between processes, objects and documents.
- Change Notice is a stage devoted to the implementation of the change – adding new objects, updating the connection structure, approving the change, introducing corrections in the BOM structure, distributing new instructions and documentation. For example, a change may require a new version of the construction drawing linked in the system to a specific index of the manufactured article. Such a correction requires not only a change of status and notification of those involved, but also checking the link to the index and BOM structure drawing and updating the technological processes.
Windchill 11 is a complete source of knowledge for the entire organisation. All persons responsible for the production process, regardless of location, receive consistent information at the same time. This prevents downtime, mistakes and misunderstandings.
Windchill – effective project management
Leading companies with many years of experience know that effective teamwork, new ideas and better information flow are essential for optimal product lifecycle management. This sounds simple in theory, but during the implementation of very complex projects, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. What’s more, the pressure to continuously reduce costs and shorten the time necessary to put new products on the market must also be taken into account. Efficient teamwork might also be hindered by poorly selected or configured tools. These are just some of the challenges that you can solve with Windchill ProjectLink – a project management support module that offers:
- easy access to project information – directly from a web browser;
- team cooperation and flow of information related to specific responsibilities, organised in a logical, project-oriented manner;
- discussion forums, scheduling, automatic change notifications, design templates;
- integration with CAD systems, simple object verification with 3D thumbnails;
- streamlining of decision-making processes.
The module provides a virtual workspace that allows all team members to access up-to-date project information. ProjectLink allows manufacturers to take product development to a higher level of performance, innovation and quality.
ThingWorx Navigate Platform – get clear and easy access to data
Making the right business decisions should be based on reliable data. That is why it is so important to have easy access to them at every stage of the product development process. PTC offers a package of ready-made applications called ThingWorx Navigate that provides users performing various functions in the organisation with an easy-to-use tool. ThingWorx Navigate enables:
Access based on user role
To efficiently perform the tasks assigned, employees must have easy access to current values, reports and plans. The ThingWorx Navigate platform enables access to Windchill resources based on the function performed by the user in the organisation. In addition, it makes it easier to focus on a specific activity and improves navigation through complex structures. ThingWorx Navigate simplifies this process by allowing you to separate from the process only those tasks that are performed by a given user. Viewing documents becomes simpler and more efficient.
Intuitive use that eliminates the need for training
The ThingWorx Navigate integration platform was created for Windchill users who underutilise PLM capabilities. Not all new users are engineers, so they do not need time-consuming training on how to use the PLM system. With precise data at hand, ThingWorx Navigate helps increase the capabilities of all departments of the company: service, sales or purchasing.
Easier access to product data thanks to convenient navigation
ThingWorx Navigate can be freely modified to suit your organisation’s unique needs. The application is clear and simple to use, and a friendly interface ensures easy access to data. The collection of ThingWorx Navigate applications allows you to:
- View drawings;
- View 3D models;
- View documentation;
- View the structure;
- View parts lists
Access to the repository from any device and any location
Smartphones and tablets accompany us all the time: at home, during leisure activities, while studying and playing sports. These multimedia devices have changed our habits. So why not use them to work with PLM? ThingWorx Navigate allows you to browse Windchill resources from your phone or any other device.
Windchill 11 – CAD data management
Windchill 11 enables integration with the CAD environment: Pro/ENGINEER, CATIA, SolidWorks, Unigraphics, UGS NX, Autodesk (AutoCAD, Inventor) and many other programs. Windchill allows for easy visualisation of 3D designs without the need for additional software. When project files are modified, Windchill records changes that are then visible to other users, enabling group collaboration.
The Auto Associate function allows you to automatically find and link an existing part to a CAD document, and if no matching part currently exists, to create a new one and link it to the CAD document. Windchill makes it possible for you to manage CAD data through objects that represent parts containing metadata on the product and its properties (attributes). Virtual parts can be linked to a 3D model or assembly, but also to other file types (e.g. Ms Word, Ms Excel project-related documentation).
Working on CAD objects in the PLM environment brings measurable benefits:
- it facilitates concurrent teamwork on the project;
- CAD objects are described in the PLM system with information and data and connected with project documentation;
- 2D associative documentation is created based on one common standard of the organisation;
- a formal process of checking and approving the documentation using “workflow” is being carried out;
- 3D models are available for all departments of the organisation;
- The ability to change CAD data management to Product Data Management (PDM).
In addition, CAD data management in Windchill is supported by statuses of the construction documentation, e.g.:
- in work – development work is being carried out;
- under review – the object is being reviewed;
- design released – object approved, prepared for use;
- obsolete – the object is withdrawn from use.
What is Windchill Quality Solutions? Manage quality during the product development cycle.
Windchill enables a strategic approach to product quality, reliability, safety and risk management at every stage of the product lifecycle. Implementation of innovative products requires excellent communication within project teams and easy access to current data for all users who have an impact on the final product. Windchill is a system that supports activities aimed at the business development of the organisation. It supports data management, work organisation and systematisation of quality control processes.
The high quality of the product is determined by many activities that improve the execution of everyday tasks of specialists:
- process monitoring with notifications of changes or new procedures;
- audits, controls, operation in accordance with standards such as: ISO9000, Six Sigma, APQP, CMMI and medical device standards such as FDA 21 CFR Part 820;
- closed loop feedback: collecting product failure and performance data from testing and production;
- customer experience management: collecting feedback and analysing customer satisfaction;
- carrying out corrective and preventive actions based on CAPA standards;
- generating real-time statistics, reports and charts.
Thanks to the Windchill platform, it is possible to keep track of what has been tested, by whom, which tests were successful, it is possible to collect and analyse data, distribute procedures and track progress on many project levels. Windchill helps you implement and meet all the standards required in your organisation and achieve full compliance.
In conclusion, Windchill 11 is a complete PLM system with a wide range of capabilities that support product development. It provides a solid basis for the digital transformation of the company, enabling the implementation of IoT and AR technologies for even better process optimisation, increased efficiency, reduction of production costs and building a long-term competitive advantage. Interested in Windchill and would like to know more? Contact us!