_Schaeffler’s RFLP traceability – first step into digital thread
- Systemic task overlap
- Obscure development oversight
- Scalability and reporting issues
- Streamlined operations across platforms
- Enhanced product development efficiency
About Schaeffler Group
The Schaeffler Group, a leading global supplier to the automotive and industrial sectors, has been driving forward groundbreaking inventions and developments in the fields of motion and mobility for over 75 years.
With innovative technologies, products, and services for electric mobility, CO2-efficient drives, Industry 4.0, digitalization, and renewable energies, the company is a reliable partner for making motion and mobility more efficient, intelligent, and sustainable. The technology company manufactures high-precision components and systems for powertrain and chassis applications as well as rolling and plain bearing solutions for a large number of industrial applications. The Schaeffler Group generated sales of approximately EUR 13.9 billion in 2021, and has around 83,000 employees.
The automotive spare parts market is on the verge of a significant transformation. To remain competitive in increasingly dynamic and complex environments with changing customer needs, companies have to keep developing and become even more innovative, agile, and efficient. Trends such as: e-mobility, digitalization, sustainability, autonomous production, and data economy should be addressed as a strategic opportunity for the future success. To meet expectations for the market Schaeffler needed to develop new business models in the data economy. This is an area where the company can make its own processes more efficient and create real added value for its customers.
STEP 1 – creating integrated platform
In 2020, Schaeffler began cooperation with TT PSC on digital transformation in the areas of product development and building an integrated, comprehensive IT environment. The aim of the project is to create an integrated platform based on the RLFP model, which stands for the Requirement Logical Functional Physical. Developing a new product or changing it (change management) can pose several challenges. One of them is scattered IT systems, where working on things such as functional or logical models or a physical structure of a product are being carried out independently within separate IT systems. This generates an additional workload which extra resources are needed to manage, coordinate and implement the results achieved in each of those individual systems and workflows. The main aim of the RFLP model is a dynamic connection of the requirement management system Windchill RV&S, MBSE platform, Enterprise Architect to manage logical and functional models, and PDM-PLM-platform Windchill. This connection forms a network containing logical, physical, and functional elements. By creating those traces, we are able to visualize the entire network of digital assets and also track changes in connected items (suspect flagging).
STEP 2 – building baselining and reporting tools
After establishing RFLP traceability, the next goal would be to build baselining and reporting tools based on Thingworx solution. Baselining would allow Schaeffler to track the history of the traced network and changes made in the traced objects. Reports are meant to show the amount of traced entities among different platforms.
It is mandatory to keep this value at the level defined for ISO 26262 and ASPICE. The next project phase will provide the functionality to manage one process instead of synchronizing multiple workflows spread throughout several platforms. As a result, TT PSC will provide a tool and a methodology for structured and centralized product development. It will ensure visibility of the entire product lifecycle and creates the basis for the digital thread.
Manufacturers must invent products of ever-increasing complexity, test them faster and deliver them to the market before the competition. While developing, there are many scenarios and processes supported by various, distributed systems. To stay agile and responsive to changes, Schaeffler needs to find solutions for the below challenges:
1. Duplication of work
Working in distributed systems, there is a higher risk of repeatedly performing the same operations. Managing of change demands to run several processes on each of the platforms separately. Approval in one system does not imply readiness, as the product must be approved independently in other systems, often by the same group of people. Additionally, work may be blocked by a lack of approval in one of the platforms which may as a result be causing delays.
2. Unclear view of the entire work on the product
Working as hermetic groups on distributed platforms, users and management may not have a complete picture of the effects of their actions. Blocking one process in a specific application may not seem like a big problem. However, if it blocks the work of everyone, it is posing a high risk of delays. It’s similar to changes that may seem consistent and correct within one system. Unfortunately, they could be inconsistent with other systems, and it will be necessary to remodel the entire item.
3. Lack of scalability
With the development of the organization and technologies available on the market, IT platforms will change. The implementation of a new technology is an incredible challenge with asynchronous integrations or no integration at all. New sources of information must be integrated into the overall business operations however these are time-consuming and costly projects.
4. Unreadable history and reporting
Working in distributed systems, it is difficult to recreate a decision-making process overall. In cases where there is a need to revert to a previous version of a product or audit, each platform must be investigated separately. All decisions in between would have to be documented. The situation is similar with reporting. To get a full picture of the situation, it is necessary to generate reports from each platform separately, and then analyze and compile them.
The company recognized the need for change. Partnering with TTPSC, it is soughing to implement an agile, scalable, and employee-centric operating model that would place its workforce at the heart and drive results.
Establishing RFLP traceability using TraceAPP and TraceGraph IoT solutions
Together with Schaeffler, TT PSC developed a solution to integrate the ALM, MBSE, and PDMPLM-platforms into Thingworx, which allowed us to build applications using the resources of all these systems. The project was called PLM Workplace and is currently being introduced as a pilot phase. The first two applications have already been developed as part of the PLM Workplace project: TraceAPP and TraceGraph. TraceAPP is a tool that allows Schaeffler to establish and manage RFLP traceability.
It also has extended TraceGraph to present the existing network of traces in real-time, as well as presenting changes in traced objects. All in one, user-friendly interface, without need of using 3 different platforms.
The data from various systems are directly accessible and visible, without the need to obtain it externally. Using the OSLC/REST protocol will result in a direct connection ensuring that we always display at current versions of assets. In addition, the “Suspect Flagging” system informs whether there are changes in other systems to information. Also, the way those traces are presented makes important impact on Schaeffler way of working. End users can see complete network of connections between all assets that make up the product, gaining full awareness of what really contributes into “product.” Using the same OSLC/REST API standard, grants scalability. New platforms can be added to the existing solution without having to rebuild other R&D platforms. Additionally, Thingworx, as an integration platform will enable connections for platforms that do not support OSLC.
Reporting is also created as part of TraceApp. The system will tell us in clear way, how many assets are already traced, and which one still requires user attention. The tool will allow to have over 80% of the traced assets, which is a milestone for setting Schaeffler’s Digital thread.
Future will bring more functionality
PLM workplace is a complex project whose end-to-end implementation is scheduled for years. Currently both companies are still developing this solution to provide baselining, and further management functionalities. Baselining functionality will allow Schaffler not only a way to track current RFLP network, but also a way to analyze how traces and product change over
the time. Ultimately, companies are planning the implementation of one, centralized process managed tool. It will result in the fact that some operations will be performed only once for all platforms, which in turn will allow for a smooth transition to the next stage of work. Solution will significantly shorten the time to market and improve the efficiency of processes.
It should be noted that this project is still in progress. However, at this stage of work, the solution is positively evaluated by Schaeffler. Thanks to the application TraceAPP implementation, data from various systems is directly accessible and visible, without the need to obtain it externally.
• improves the cross-functional collaboration of teams,
• cuts down the risk of errors,
• boosts the quality of work,
• reduces rework,
• expedites new product development.