Operations Managers Wear a Lot of Hats

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Kid wearing hatIn the parlance of the Hollywood television industry, a TV “showrunner” is the person most responsible for the quality of the product; he is the executive producer, head writer and script editor—all in one. A showrunner’s fingerprints are everywhere when it comes to defining the show’s spirit, themes, look and feel. There’s a reason why this many-hat-wearing impresario is called a “showrunner”—hey, he runs the show.  Likewise, in the manufacturing world, operation managers wear many different hats and have a big impact on the success of a company’s new product development (NPD) and new product introduction (NPI) processes

Operation managers are responsible for manufacturing the products that marketing defines and engineering designs. Today, this requires managing a supply chain of contract manufacturers and distributors. S/he needs accurate build packages and change packages from engineering. S/he would like “no wall” between operations and engineering. 

Operations also cross checks for pricing with procurement because any money saved in the cost of goods drops directly to the bottom line as profits. Operation managers understand the need for product lifecycle management (PLM) and do not need a justification. It’s just a matter of choosing which PLM system to use.

We sat down with a bay area operations manager, who wears many hats, to get his perspective on how an all-in-one solution makes a good hat rack. If you’re an operations manager, you probably wonder if other team members truly understand the scope of your job. Take long-time Arena user Ben Hsu, former VP of Operations at NVT and current Director of Hardware Operations at Swift Navigation in San Francisco. Swift’s mission is to make GPS positioning technology more accurate and affordable.

Hsu helps make the innovative products that businesses are built upon. At NVT, he oversaw the development of video transmitters, receivers and power supply systems primarily for the security industry’s video surveillance system market. At Swift, he provides support to Swift’s OEM partners including general hardware and software support, custom hardware development based on the company’s modular design, custom software and on-site testing and integration.

Companies that free engineers to focus on the demands of tight development cycles are rewarded with high-quality, low-cost products. Unfortunately, Hsu was hamstrung with the administration challenges of archaic manual tools, such as Excel spreadsheets, to manage his bill of materials (BOM). 

In the past, Hsu was bound by paper-based engineering change order (ECO) procedures that resulted in time-consuming complications of managing unwieldy change order packages. Rarely up to date between one function and another—let alone one continent and another. The version control issues were debilitating. This distracted Hsu and his fellow engineers from their core duties—namely, design. 

“I did not have a readily accessible record of product history,” said Hsu. “Without the capability to formalize our engineering change request it resulted in frustrating miscommunications, conflicting revisions, product errors and launch delays.” 

Hsu turned to Arena PLM to automate manufacturing processes. He chose Arena because of the cloud benefit, which removed lengthy, expensive initial IT consulting necessary for on-premise implementations, including server sizing, procuring and installation—not to mention the additional ongoing IT staff required to stay behind and feed the beast in perpetuity. “The cloud meant ease of access, 24/7 availability and removal of the need for internal IT infrastructure and support,” said Hsu. 

Arena’s cloud-based solution allowed Hsu to store critical documentation in an easily accessible central repository. In addition, Arena’s database made keeping track of vendors easy. 

“Arena’s all-in-one product development platform provides a single centralized repository for information where we can obtain product information without digging through boxes of paperwork,” said Hsu. “Additionally, Arena provided a comprehensive and flexible database for our BOMs and approved vendor list. Arena has really helped us streamline our engineering considerably.” 

According to Hsu, who has used Arena for over 15 years at multiple companies, Arena offers superior PLM functionality. “Arena provided a superior collaboration solution to what we previously had to manage our product data,” said Hsu. 

If you relate to Ben Hsu’s story and wear lots of hats getting your product to market, consider our all-in-one product development platform to help manage your BOMs. When it comes to product lifecycle success, Arena puts a feather in your cap. Contact us today.

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About the Author

John Papageorge
John Papageorge has worked at some of the biggest names in the high tech industry, launching products and programs for companies, such as Oracle, HP, Cisco, and Microsoft. John's passion ... Read More 

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