ASC's key advantage: it manages and structures engineering tasks that small companies have traditionally controlled through manual methods or spreadsheets, said Paul Mackin, IBM's worldwide marketing manager for PLM aerospace solutions, in an interview.
"Their lack of an integrated, formalized control process is the essence of the problem ... manual methods don't work, and they are expensive timewise," he
said.Many smaller companies also "may not have a full-time IT manager, an infrastructure of IT skill or the money to invest in a PDM solution," all of which are essential to SMBs struggling to compete with the globalization of the aerospace industry.
ASC manages internal company communication, tracks information, controls manufacturing changes, task distribution, data release and document management and provides process models and templates based on SMARTEAM, Mackin
said.It also offers a simpler, PC-based capability that enables system customization in minutes, rather than weeks like previous solutions, said Mackin
The importance of PDM simplification can be demonstrated by the aerospace industry's changing business and technology models, said Mackin
.For example, Boeing
executed most of the design for the 777 about 15 years ago.It then outsourced 35% of the 787 structure design work to Japanese companies on a design-to-build basis, said Mackin
.This created larger work packages that required more sophisticated product data management capabilities.Partners have an extended supply chain to manage, and suppliers must bid on more complex work packages.
To win work, smaller suppliers must demonstrate that they have the capability to not only handle the design process but will do so better than their rivals."Differentiation is a survival strategy," said Mackin
."Companies need to show that they can put things in place that are more effective than the competition," he
explained."Early adoption is key ... show you've done the process work and streamlined the business and put the tools in place to get the packages.The lowest risk profile and lowest threat to OEMs will win more business."
That's where ASC comes in, and the results have been encouraging.
Following a six-month pilot implementation that began in early 2003, aerospace industry supplier Magellan Aerospace Corp.
realized a 30-35% reduction in the time engineers spend managing processes, allowing the company to spend more time developing product; a 10-20% engineering cost reduction; and a 15-20% overall profitability increase, Mackin
And, compared to earlier PDM products that take up to 40 days to become operational, ASC can be implemented within 15-20 days, which makes it more beneficial to resource-constrained SMBs, said Mackin