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Arena Solutions Introduces Request Management

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Foster City, Calif., Nov 18 - Arena Solutions, Inc., the leading provider of online Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, today announced expanded functionality for Arena PLM with the introduction of a new Request Management module. The Request Management module enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to quickly capture suggestions, and identify and address product issues -- from problems with existing products to opportunities for new product enhancements -- by managing engineering change requests (ECRs) and other product feedback in the same centralized, online PLM environment as engineering change orders (ECOs) and other product data. This new functionality enhances communications between engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales and customers, and helps OEMs improve products faster, more easily, and with fewer mistakes than ever before.

“Request Management in Arena PLM gives OEMs a powerful new tool to capture and assess ideas or issues throughout a product’s lifecycle, then direct the engineering team to act on them,” explained Michael Topolovac, chief executive officer of Arena Solutions. “It helps companies identify and track product issues from the very moment they’re recognized -- during what I call the “Houston, we have a problem” stage when people realize there’s an issue, but don’t know what to do about it. With Request Management, OEMs can take a vague, undefined problem that involves a large number of people and get to a specific solution involving a much smaller number of people -- faster than ever before.”

The Arena Request Management module expands the Arena PLM change management functionality to manage large numbers of product “change requests.” These requests include feedback from customers, suppliers, salespeople, shop floor workers, and others who first identify issues with product quality, manufacturability, new features, and more. This “data” is incredibly valuable to the OEM, but very hard to capture because it is unstructured and often communicated informally outside the PLM tool. Although some of this data may eventually become formal ECOs, more often it exists only as transient tribal knowledge that is inaccessible to the engineering team, the group ultimately responsible for product management.

To help OEMs take advantage of this unstructured data and speed the resolution of product issues, the Request Management module provides a central repository to capture and track change requests from different sources. Using the module’s automated and configurable workflows and business processes OEMs can filter requests, narrow the issues and people involved, and ultimately provide the engineering team with the information they need to address each issue.

“Product problems are often amorphous at the start. Anyone can find them -- people on the shop floor, suppliers and partners, or customers,” said John Jacobson, founder and president of Beyond-the-Box, Inc., an outsourced operations service provider to Topspin Communications and other Silicon Valley startups. “The question is, how do you collect all this information from disparate sources and assimilate it into a coherent closed loop corrective action process? The Arena Request Management module addresses this challenge.”

The Request Management module makes it easier for OEMs to capture, manage, and communicate change requests to the engineering team by offering such features as:

  • Request evaluation and resolution workflow - a flexible, sophisticated and configurable workflow for Request Management. Users may create change requests and associate them with specific assemblies, components, or documents. A pre-defined request evaluation group, which is notified when a request is submitted, may raise, discuss, and close issues associated with the request and then make recommendations for how to resolve the request. Once evaluation is complete, request administrators may rapidly review and promote, close, or defer submitted requests.
  • Controlled supplier participation - the Request Management module is tightly integrated with the Arena PLM access control model, and companies may offer selected suppliers the ability to submit change requests for evaluation by the OEM. These suppliers may review summary and status information for the requests that they have submitted, but are not exposed to the OEM’s internal discussions about their requests.
  • Full traceability for ISO 9000 and FDA purposes - by providing a centralized database of all product-related requests with tight integration to the Arena Product Definition, Change Management and File Management modules, the Request Management module permits OEMs to demonstrate that every product request has been properly evaluated and resolved. This capability is critical for companies that are subject to strict quality requirements.

These features are accomplished through the introduction of a “Requests World” in Arena PLM, where change requests may be created, searched and managed. Employees, partners and suppliers may create and submit new change requests, which are reviewed by assigned evaluator groups (and any additional participants) and overseen by request administrators. An “Evaluation View” provides a place for users to raise (and respond to) issues related to a request and to make recommendations for how it should be handled. A “Recent Activity View” shows user activity on a change request. And the integration with the Arena Change Management module allows “promoted” change requests to be associated with formal ECOs.

Reporting capabilities in the module provide access to metrics on requests, giving product managers and others real-time visibility into the resolution of problems or the enhancement of products to meet customer needs.

“We see the Request Management module as an incredibly valuable tool for savings us time and money in product development,” said Sherry Evans, Product Development Support Manager with Radio Systems Corporation. “The module not only lets us track all product and technical document change requests in a single environment, but lets us measure each step in the change management process, develop reports that provide executive management visibility into product lifecycles, and optimize our business processes to develop better products.”

Request Management is currently available to Arena PLM users as an optional module. Customers can access Arena PLM from any computer with a web browser; there is no traditional software or hardware to install, maintain or upgrade. New Arena customers can be up and running within days. For pricing information, please call the Arena Solutions sales department at +1.866.937.1438.

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