Unlocking Engineering and Manufacturing Data for Aerospace & Defense Companies

"Data is the new oil” and “Unshackle our designs and free our data,” are two significant directives from the Aerospace and Defense industry to PLM software vendors, as explored in our 2018 blog about the CIMdata Aerospace and Defense PLM Action Group. Seeking to address these and other PLM challenges common to the industry, the Action Group, founded in 2014, unites traditionally competitive A&D companies to, among other commitments, “Set the direction for the aerospace and defense industry on PLM-related topics.”

For one of these ongoing projects, Multiple View Bill of Materials, the Action Group recently invited top PLM software vendors to participate in a benchmark demonstration of pre-defined Multi-view BOM Accountability use cases. The use cases require rigorous, highly granular EBOM / MBOM accountability, harmonized change management across engineering and manufacturing views of the same information, BOM restructuring including substitutions and effectivity, and seamless supplier / partner collaboration.

Although the use cases are derived both from research carried out by the action group and real-world BOM transformation scenarios, they all stem from a broader question: How can A&D companies best meet the needs of product development and manufacturing teams for their own, unique view of the authoritative source for product information—the bill of materials? In other words, how do engineering and manufacturing teams unlock their own data to maximize its value to the company in light of the functionality offered (or, perhaps, the limitations placed on them) by their PLM software?

This blog series will demonstrate how Aras answers that question, starting with our view of the industry challenges.  

The Challenges of EBOM/MBOM Management

On one hand, BOM information must be an accurate, up-to-date, change-managed, and trustworthy source for the product’s definition. On the other hand, different teams throughout the organization each need a view of the BOM that represents their own unique, domain-specific data, including different ways to organize existing information as well as new information that doesn’t impact other teams. The ability for a software solution to successfully balance both the structure and the flexibility required from the BOM can impact a company’s productivity, compliance, and product quality.

A&D companies typically use one of two approaches to manage these diverse needs. The first, a “Single BOM,” includes both engineering and manufacturing data and uses filtering and calculation to generate different views of the same information depending on the user’s role. To accommodate this approach, the two organizations must first agree on how the product structure will be broken down, how information will be added and organized, and how changes will be managed. Then, for consistency’s sake, they can’t deviate from agreed-upon structures and processes throughout the lifetime of the product.

The second approach, a “Dual BOM,” leverages two separate BOM structures for engineering and manufacturing. Both organizations can manage their own, unique information and data structures, meeting both engineering’s need to facilitate design reuse and manufacturing’s need to optimize factory operations. However, for the sake of product quality and compliance, every part in the EBOM must be continuously reconciled with parts in the MBOM to be sure the design will be accurately realized in production. And when data is replicated between two separate structures, managing traceability and change between them involves a cumbersome process that cannot easily be modified or upgraded in most PLM software tools.

For A&D companies pursuing either approach, effectivity management is key—that is, assigning when a set of information is accurate based on engineering and/or manufacturing conditions. So, in addition to managing engineering information and data structures alongside their manufacturing counterparts, the complexity of when each set of information is effective—or, accurate for the produced product—must be accounted for, easily understood, and flexible enough to accommodate change.

The Aras Approach

Aras agrees with the Action Group position paper for the Multiple View Bill of Materials project, found on the CIMdata website. It proposes a best practice approach allowing for multiple views of the same information, with each view enabling new information and data structures to be managed by each team. The two views should be reconciled by logic, rather than existing as duplicate data managed in disconnected tools or systems, so that changes affecting downstream views are flagged for resolution. The Aras platform offers shared services for change management and effectivity across engineering and manufacturing applications, enabling seamless change management that includes both teams’ data and processes, and complex effectivity calculations to account for both teams’ decisions.

Standard functionality in Aras Innovator allows companies to realize either of the two most common approaches to EBOM / MBOM management, as well as effectively evolve their current approach to match the recommended Multi-View BOM best practice. And while not required as part of this benchmark, the Aras platform offers standard capabilities to uniquely integrate manufacturing process planning with manufacturing process quality—including control plans, process flow diagrams, and risk management—to keep quality and process planning synchronized.

Finally, to fully realize the complex business processes required by the benchmark use cases, the Aras approach leverages built-in platform capabilities for creating low-code customizations without compromising upgradability. While some PLM users still shudder when they hear the word “customization”, Aras subscribers know that the platform is built to be customized, ensuring that a company’s data and processes are not “locked in” by the tool being used. Instead, the Aras platform is flexible enough to meet the needs of companies’ ever-evolving business processes—however complex they may be. With each software upgrade, which Aras performs for its subscribers, custom functionality introduced by the company is retained and available to users again, as soon as the upgrade is complete, alongside new platform features.

What’s Next for the Benchmark?

Future blogs in this series will demonstrate both the standard and customized capabilities of Aras Innovator that were leveraged to demonstrate the use cases of the Multi-View BOM project initiated by CIMdata’s A&D Action Group.