Critical Paths: Connecting Manufacturing Process Planning to the Digital Thread

If “Data is the new oil,” then a PLM platform capable of connecting related data across organizational functions, like manufacturing and engineering, is the new pipeline—delivering critical, accurate information where and when it's needed.

Better known as the “Digital Thread”, these real connections among related product information can easily be visualized and traversed in Aras Innovator. For manufacturing teams, this means access to information outside their domain that is nevertheless critical to their roles, helping them achieve goals for product and process quality, meet program and project timelines, visualize parts, understand requirements, collaborate with others, and so much more.

Aras Innovator offers this Digital Thread to manufacturing users standard, providing links from the Manufacturing Process Plan to the wealth of knowledge they need to achieve these ends. But these connections don’t end with engineering data: they only start there. In Aras, vital connections between manufacturing process planning and 3D CAD viewables, Parts and BOM Structure information, Requirements, Discussion threads, Project status updates and Process Quality data are just a few of the built-in connections that come standard on the platform.

Check out how easy it is to traverse the Digital Thread from the Manufacturing Process Plan in this brief, 4-minute video:  

 

Meeting the Need for Data

The previous blog in this series, Unlocking Engineering and Manufacturing Data for Aerospace and Defense Companies, discussed the challenges many industries face when seeking to manage their EBOM/MBOM (Engineering and Manufacturing Bills of Material) data in a coordinated way.

One way Aras Innovator handles this challenge is through standard functionality, delivered with the product, to connect EBOM information—and more—with the Manufacturing teams who need it. Here’s a quick run-down of data available to the manufacturing team directly from the Manufacturing Process Planning application in Aras Innovator, as demonstrated in the video above. Each critical path offers knowledge and insights that benefit manufacturing by keeping them connected to the Digital Thread of product information, improving the work they do:  

  • Parts and BOM Data: Every manufacturing process plan in Aras Innovator connects directly to its produced part. This live link lets the user click through the process plan to the latest engineering information about the part being produced, including its catalog of sub-assemblies and components at every level, its Bill of Materials structure data, the status of engineering changes against it, and more. As the product changes, this vital connection ensures that the manufacturing team knows about it – helping to keep engineering and manufacturing teams aligned.

  • Changes: Engineering changes are critical to manufacturing teams. Will manufacturing create a new version of the process plan to reflect the new design; will they update the current process plan to reflect the engineering change; or will old and new products be produced in parallel? It’s up to your unique business process needs, so all three scenarios are possible with Aras, with separately revision-controlled Engineering Parts and Process Plans.

  • Requirements: Visibility into the Parts data directly connected, at the lowest levels on up, with the associated requirements written against them is unique to Aras Innovator. Identifying individual requirements against a part, along with the associated documents where those requirements appear, concatenated in their entirety, is revolutionary among PLM platforms. In Aras Innovator, users navigate from lowest-level requirements on up, visualize where they’re reused, and traverse the thread between requirements and their associated parts – and that goes for users across Manufacturing, Engineering, Quality, Requirements engineering, and other teams throughout the organization. This advances accountability, to ensure requirements are met, by improving traceability and visibility to the performance targets that every produced part was designed to achieve.

  • CAD Visualization: When the goal is to realize engineering design intent in a produced part, the first step to correlating the two may just be visual. It’s easy to navigate from Manufacturing Process Planning in Aras Innovator to the engineering CAD data, rotate and view it, zoom in, hide items, and all the 3D functionality you’d expect from a CAD viewer – without the CAD software overhead. Manufacturing can improve the way they capture design intent using a wide range of visualization tools to drill down through the CAD model and envision the part in context, including tools like measure, explode, and markup, to save views for critical collaboration with other teams. More on that below …

  • Visual Collaboration: Have you ever wanted to just ask your colleague a question while you were in the middle of a task? Did you grab the phone (who answers that anymore?), shoot off an email (instantly lost in the in-box clutter), or throw a note up on an office collaboration tool (alongside coffee break chatter)? We humans love the convenience of all these methods, but working outside PLM instantly breaks the Digital Thread. Aras captures the tribal knowledge, Q&A, and complete range of collaboration types–including the social kind–that are essential to building products. “@” tag your colleagues with the assurance that security set against the part is enforced on the discussion thread, and get your questions answered in context. Attach those easy-to-make markups you just gathered in CAD, and keep the record – and vital engineering work of your organization – securely recorded as you move toward production.

  • Project Plan: If the Process Plan is a deliverable on a project or program, this can be captured in Aras Project Management. Direct links between the project plan, manufacturing process plan, and other deliverables against the plan keep manufacturing personnel and their colleagues up-to-date on progress, with a shared understanding of completeness, readiness, project status, and more.

  • Process Quality: So critical it has a full future demo and blog devoted to it, manufacturing process quality in Aras Innovator leverages an interconnected PFMEA (Process Failure Modes and Effects Analysis), Process Control Plan, and Process Flow Diagram to offer three different views on the same, critical-to-quality manufacturing process control information. This is linked to the Manufacturing Process Plan not only at the highest level, but via connection points between data elements that appear in both the Quality and Manufacturing applications. Change the Process Plan, and see the Process Quality Plan update, to flag Quality users to the need to stay aligned with Manufacturing.

Taking it Even Further

The next demonstration in this series will show how a Manufacturing Process Plan and MBOM are authored, including different approaches to Process Planning across the feature-rich user experience in Aras Innovator.

Plus, the Aras platform is designed to be configured and customized by our community, to meet the specific needs of their businesses. To demonstrate the possibilities, our own team has been customizing the user experience to meet the requirements of a benchmark study conducted by CIMdata’s PLM Action Group of top Aerospace and Defense companies. Both the standard functionality shared with the CIMdata team, and how Aras customized our own offering to demonstrate the flexibility and configurability of the tool, will be the subject of future blogs, and accompanying videos, in this series.

 

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