Heidelberg, August 15th, 2022

Digitised engineering processes mean a shorter time-to-market thanks to PLM integration

The industry is facing challenges: speed and flexibility are called for because customers expect more and more from their products and take high-frequency innovations for granted. This is unlikely to be achieved without an end-to-end digitisation strategy.

A strategic approach is the integration of engineering tools such as CAD and simulation systems into a central PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) system. A multi-CAD PLM not only reduces a company's data silos but also helps to break down the increasing complexity of new products and bring transparency to relationships between the product characteristics and product data of different departments.

Joint product development across locations, functions and disciplines is much easier to implement when centrally controlled. It is also agile. At the same time, downstream processes can be involved earlier, which leads, among other things, to a smooth start to production because time-consuming and cost-intensive reworking is unnecessary.

The question remains as to how the data can be entered into the PLM system with as little effort as possible and whether it can be organised according to the differing requirements of the individual development disciplines.

1. Automation means greater productivity and flexibility for data-driven end-to-end innovation

PLM systems integrate all relevant information that arises in the course of a product life cycle. Interfaces ensure that this data finds its way into the PLM system.

Designers benefit particularly from intelligent direct integrations. With a wide range of functions, they process native engineering data on the basis of individually defined templates and automatisms and store them at a defined point in the data model. This means that they not only derive the desired objects and documents from the CAD tools but also process, combine and distribute the engineering data in a user-friendly manner for the different target groups in the value network. Examples are the pending approval process for procurement or internal or external production.

This means that ready-assembled information packets migrate from the CAD systems via the integration platform directly to the correct location in the PLM system. These intelligent integration platforms therefore free designers from time-consuming routine work.

2. Fast, error-free data and process management without needing to know how the PLM system works

Designers do not need to know how the PLM system works because the intelligent direct integrations are embedded as a plug-in in the navigation of the CAD tool  in order to be able to access the native engineering data. In addition, users trigger all PLM functions directly from their familiar CAD environment.

This increases the acceptance of a central PLM system, which is the only system capable of the integrated management of mechatronic products or assemblies and of the interdisciplinary control of engineering workflows. This eliminates the need for a manual, error-prone exchange of information via Excel or email.

3. Examples of savings potential in terms of time and money through multi-CAD PLM

With each additional tool integrated into the PLM, innovative and therefore competitive strength increases, for example through the following automatisms:

Opening and check-in of projects

  • Creating new projects based on templates stored in the PLM system or by copying a project managed in the PLM system. Documents and objects are automatically named correctly according to the stored naming convention.
  • Creating the data model for new projects. The structure follows either the specifications of the engineering domain in question or the mechatronic product structure.
  • Establishing and maintaining relationships between the objects. Variants are managed without redundancy by referencing the adapted parts to the associated product. Data is never stored redundantly.
  • "Save to PLM" can trigger workflows, such as
  1. Converting native data into defined neutral or exchange formats and storing it at the defined location. The recipient may receive a message to inform them of this.
  2. Creating defined data packets and storing them at the defined location. The recipient may receive a message to inform them of thisApproval process: info to the release team with links to relevant files.
  3. Approval process: info to the release team with links to relevant files.
  • PLM supports version and change management with automatic maintenance of the title block. In the development network, the other departments concerned are automatically informed about adjustments to a product or an assembly. This ensures that they check in a timely manner whether measures are due for their area.

Component Management

  • Bidirectional synchronisation of the component libraries in CAD and PLM, triggered manually or by batch process.
  • In addition to their technical properties, the components provide relevant commercial information, such as delivery time, price, validity status, etc. for targeted selection within the design.
  • If PLM is the leading system, it is possible for the designers to create new purchase parts, including automated assignment of the identification number according to the defined string.

BOM Management

  • Automatic generation of the EBOM in PLM, also as a mechatronic parts list
  • BOM items carry desired information
  • BOM comparison for quick identification of items without associated components, association of non-approved components as well as the identification of modified and unmodified items. The information can be filtered.

Integration of product and simulation data

The innovation process should be fast, flexible and cost-effective. The short time-to-market expected by the market makes virtual prototyping more relevant. For more transparency in the development history and for the consistent development of the digital thread, the product data in the PLM system can be linked to the simulation results.

The simulation is started via a plug-in in the EDM system. This is connected to the simulation tool to manage the extensive analysis results. A plug-in in the navigation of the EDM system also automatically establishes a connection to the PLM system in order to link simulation results to the corresponding project.

For the user, the integration simplifies and shortens a complex and time-consuming process and contributes to the development of the digital thread.

4. Individual data models and result data appropriate to the working methods of the individual disciplines

Even if the various engineering disciplines manage their data in a mechatronic data model, the individual teams can structure their data according to their way of working and individually control their workflows, for example:

Short project lead times due to parallelised production processes in electrical engineering

If the work preparation tasks are completed in parallel or if individual tasks are assigned externally, the ECAD integration stores the corresponding evaluations for assembly and production separately and generates corresponding neutral formats, such as:

  • Connection lists / device connection diagrams, also for use on wiring wizards
  • Machine-readable cable assembly data
  • Terminal layout plan for pre-assembly
  • CNC data for cabinet processing

Required production data for different suppliers

Regardless of whether the printed circuit boards are produced internally or externally, wholly or in part, production often specifies the structure, format and, in some cases, the naming convention for the data. It helps to optimise the manufacturing process, especially with multi-layer printed circuit boards.

Intelligent direct integrations generate the production data differently, according to the specifications of each supplier. This means that they generate the following packages fully automatically:

  • A choice of Gerber, ODB++ or IPC-2581 data is generated for the design
  • Different hole data, for example, can be structured for the layout, i.e. for through-plated and non-through-plated holes as well as for different hole types
  • The data for the conductor pattern, solder resist masks and components can also be structured

Numerous processes can be digitised via the automation of intelligent integration solutions. A centralised multi-CAD product lifecycle management system offers tremendous potential for building a highly efficient value network. The goal: end-to-end processes that provide all departments with automated engineering data. Because time is money.