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How Cloud PLM Ensures Continuous Improvement in Product Development

Clean Energy Storage Navitas Systems is a cleantech innovator engaged in designing, developing, and manufacturing advanced lithium cells and energy storage products and systems for commercial and U.S. government customers.  Navitas is unique in that they have the capabilities to do their own research and development of new battery chemistries. They have strategic sourcing relationships with numerous industry-leading systems engineers to design and manufacturers assemble these cells into robust battery products and systems.

“Navitas Systems means ‘Energy’” is the tagline you’ll see on their website. And, when I spoke with Chad Neumann, Senior Mechanical Engineer for Navitas, he shared his company’s energy and passion for designing innovative battery storage solutions. Not only did I learn about their advanced energy storage products, but I also discovered there’s always room for improvement in the product development process.

Growing Into Full Product Lifecycle Management

As the lithium-ion battery market grows, so does Navitas Systems’ business process needs. They were at a pivotal point in their growth when they were ready to move beyond simply managing bills of materials (BOMs) and product documentation with their product lifecycle management (PLM) software. Navitas needed to better manage their suppliers, quality, and operations processes. “I wanted to see how we could better leverage the power of our PLM system from a product development perspective,” explained Neumann. “Initially, we were only using Arena PLM as a one-stop-shop for documents and BOMs, but we needed to leverage the full capabilities to streamline and accelerate our change review processes, including passing the entire product assembly structure to our ERP system immediately upon release.”

In addition, Navitas’ recent ISO 9001 certification required the creation and tracking of product development processes to improve quality and be prepared for audits at any time. They also needed to meet International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) compliance requirements for their government customers to ensure the research and development (R&D) team was not sharing protected information. “I immediately saw the benefits that Arena PLM provided to address our regulatory challenges. We were able to access the necessary documents and prove our processes during any audit to meet regulatory requirements,” said Chad.

Collaborating With Supply Chain Partners

Navitas’ manufacturing strategy includes working with select contract manufacturers (CMs) to produce electrical systems while handling their own electronics board manufacturing in-house. Using a single cloud-based PLM system allows Navitas to collaborate in real time and react quickly to customer demands throughout the product development process. Navitas is now able to track their design and development process more effectively and eliminate reliance on an individual’s tribal knowledge, which used to result in errors and delays. According to Chad, “Arena ultimately makes it easier to control the design, perform cross-functional reviews, and transfer critical product information—so we can respond to customer requirements as fast and efficiently as possible.”

“We didn’t fully appreciate how Arena PLM could improve product development until recently,” Chad continued. “We’ve taken a step back to evaluate other areas of improvement such as putting more formal change review procedures in place to streamline the release process. The automated routing of engineering change orders (ECOs) accelerates our approval process and eliminates unnecessary delays. Our integration between Arena and Expandable ERP enables us to pass the full BOM, thus improving accuracy and eliminating manual entry mistakes.”

Navitas is planning to expand its PLM usage across more quality and manufacturing teams now that they’ve seen how collaborating around the latest product design eliminates confusion and speeds product launch cycles. By working to establish internal procedures, the quality of Navitas’ product information is better, and the entire team is following Navitas’ standards.

Navitas Starlifter Battery

 Navitas Systems Starlifter UL Listed Lithium Forklift Battery Family

Importance of a Scalable PLM System

Having a scalable cloud PLM system has accelerated NPD processes at Navitas Systems. Since their initial adoption of Arena PLM, they’ve been able to drive continuous improvement by:

  1. Establishing more efficient product development and release processes.
  2. Meeting ISO, ITAR, and EAR compliance requirements.
  3. Accelerating the passing of parts and assembly records into ERP.
  4. Responding rapidly to customer demands.
  5. Leveraging continual communication with suppliers and customers.

“We keep learning new things we can do. We’ve empowered our teams to get high-quality and innovative products to our customers faster,” said Chad. “Arena PLM is easy to configure and continues to scale as our business requirements evolve.”

Analyze and Improve Your Product Development Processes

Have you taken the time recently to evaluate how you can improve your product development processes? Whether you’re using manual processes, point tools, or spreadsheets, it’s good to review new ways to speed time to market and improve product quality. For more information on PLM, read how other innovative companies achieved optimal product design and development processes with cloud PLM.