It’s well understood, and long-practiced – but not usually well integrated. The transition from product design to production can often be the most expensive, time-intensive aspect of delivering products. The complexities and extreme specifications of military products make that doubly true, and the growing popularity of concepts like spiral development, and through-life management that includes redesign and upgrades, will tax corporate systems even further. Product life-cycle management (PLM) systems exist, and manufacturing execution systems (MES) exist, but integration is often the missing link. If the resulting back-end systems aren’t agile enough to keep up with accelerating customer demands, the result can be costly mistakes, or even development bottlenecks.
MBDA is a joint venture of EADS, BAE and Finmeccanica, and the European firm has become one of the globe’s top 2 missile suppliers, alongside Raytheon. The firm took advantage of capabilities in Apriso’s July 2007’s FlexNet 9.4 MES update to streamline processes by passing data to their Siemens Teamcenter PLM package. The effect was a system that lets them track manufactured product specifications against paper specifications in a way that’s accessible throughout the supply chain. The firm’s next step was to feed that history into MBDA’s SAP ERP uber-back end system, which adds data about materials used and orders placed before flowing the information back.
This kind of integration creates more than just quality control and tracking; it ends up letting MBDA use work instructions from tracked processes as templates for new ones, which helps them bring their best practices into new production processes. See Manufacturing Business Technology’s “Manufacturers can hit product innovation targets with PLM/MES integration.”