When Customer Success Manager Kraig Clark joined a recent innovative product company, the company was developing tens of new product per year, but needed to quickly ramp to hundreds. The problem was the company was working with spreadsheets and email, which meant defining and keeping track of product specs was difficult and all but impossible in real time globally.
“This was one of our biggest problems as a business: the initial definition of the product that we were building would change on a daily or weekly basis,” says Clark. “So if you're trying to deliver 50 different prototypes and your information is stored in hundreds or maybe even thousands of disjointed emails with a number of attachments, data and changes would all get lost and you’d ultimately end up with the wrong version or nothing at all.”
Another problem was the product company’s on-premise product lifecycle management (PLM) system complicated the process of granting PLM access to globally dispersed teams in real time.
“What good was a system if we couldn’t easily grant access to our global employee base, and suppliers? With Arena PLM you put in an email address, send an invite, that person clicks a button, puts in a password, and they now have access to what they need. Boom.” says Clark. “So involving your supply chain with Arena PLM is cost effective, incredibly easy and as a consequence was a huge motivator for me. Personally believe it is also consequential for a lot of our customers as well.”
In part five of our interview with Clark, he explains how cloud PLM helps companies do business in international markets; in the case of this recent product company the specific global market was China.
Arena: Was having your supply team dispersed globally, especially China, a product development challenge?
Clark: The majority of our products were built in China, and we had employees on site at our contract manufactures to help drive product development and commercialization. They were responsible for development of the products at the factory, based on the specifications and requirements drafted by our US product team, and they needed real-time access to up-to-date product information.
Arena: I presume the difficulty with the on-premise PLM system was that it required special configuration from IT to open up a firewall or set of IP addresses. I’m also sure the factory had their own requirements.
Clark: Yes. And the language barrier didn’t help either. Getting one person into the system could take weeks of back and forth troubleshooting, and often required management approval to make IT configuration changes. It was an absolute nightmare!
Arena: It sounds like the globally dispersed team building these prototypes needed a much faster way to understand when and what was changing, correct?
Clark: Yes. We used Arena PLM to manage all our change control processes. And when we had a major change that we wanted reflected in our next round of prototypes, we would include our Chinese counterparts and members around the globe who would be responsible for materials ordering, testing and photography. We would include all of our suppliers and partners in the change process so that they knew what was coming before it was delivered.
Arena: Having a PLM solution to manage your change management processes was very important. What other PLM-related solutions were necessary to manage your product development processes?
Clark: The Arena Projects tool was instrumental in helping us stay organized, on top of our priorities and issues, as well as define our best practices for launching a new product. If there were a number of people involved we would assign tasks and milestones so as to capture key notes as the project progressed. We reviewed project dashboards and new product introduction (NPI) metrics with our executives every few weeks, and relied on the tool to clearly communicate the real-time status of every new product we were working on. The whole team used it every day.
Arena: When Arena PLM became your source of record, I assume at that point your team stopped relying on emails, correct?
Clark: We made it very clear from the outset that if you want to know what to build, look at what's current in Arena PLM. If any changes needed to be reflected in the next set of prototypes, they would need to be processed in Arena through an engineering change order (ECO) so that there was a high level of visibility and everyone was on the same page. The single source of truth became a rallying cry for us.
Arena: Integrating an approved vendor list (AVL) is another critical aspect to NPI, especially when vendors are dispersed globally. How did Arena PLM help with onboarding vendors and suppliers?
Clark: If I'm buying a resistor, I don't want to be locked to a single manufacturer or a single vendor to buy from there’s too much risk. I need to be cost competitive. I may want three vendors to choose from. Arena PLM out of the box is going to allow you to have your ADL (automatic data link) in there so that you have all your manufacturers and vendors at your fingertips. You can rank them, you can put notes on them, and your operations team then knows who to buy from.
If you have a globally dispersed supply chain team, Arena has shared some ways to make things more cost effective, speed things along and remove friction from the process.
This concludes our five-part blog series on Kraig Clark. If you have any questions for Kraig or any of our PLM experts please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kraig is one of the most knowledgeable PLM experts in the industry and can answer questions, ranging from implementation to part numbering to determining the PLM system that meets your business needs.