Today’s high tech electronics products are increasingly complex as they leverage hardware, electronics, and software. To create a single product might involve sourcing hundreds or thousands of components from multiple suppliers. Keeping a grasp on component information, continual product changes, and quality issues is difficult—especially with dispersed teams and silos of information. So, how can companies avoid production mistakes and ensure successful new product development in this chaotic environment?
You can learn from H2 PowerTech, a leading global provider of advanced fuel cell technology solutions. Their fuel cell products offer a direct replacement for traditional power generators and provide their customers with economic and environmental benefits. H2 PowerTech has sites in Bend, Oregon, for research and development and in Taiwan for manufacturing and test. Like most companies dealing with multiple locations and time zones, collaborating around the latest product design information in real time can be challenging. With a single fuel cell product that contains over 2,000 parts, it’s important that every impacted team always has access to the right product information.
Communicating product data across time zones
H2 PowerTech products contain multiple circuit boards with firmware and hardware working together. This requires interoperability between systems and increases the probability that something may go wrong. If product teams are not able to review the entire product record during the design process and identify issues, it can lead to late-stage scrap and rework.
Being able to quickly identify problems and ensure all necessary stakeholders are notified immediately is vital to eliminate quality issues early on. Based on previous experience, the team at H2 PowerTech adopted a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution to establish a centralized product record where information is searchable. They wanted to remove setbacks associated with product information being hidden in various silos. Transitioning from paper and spreadsheets to cloud-based PLM has improved how all company sites communicate as they design, review, and approve product information across multiple time zones.
Purchasing, design engineering, manufacturing engineering, and management teams access the PLM system and gain visibility into once siloed data. Taiwan can now access the most current product design from Oregon’s R&D center at any time and be confident that it is always accurate. Furthermore, the cloud PLM system provides a secure, role-based access model for impacted players to access and review parts, bills of materials (BOMs), product documentation, and quality processes based on individuals’ roles. The company has also established a cross-functional material review board (MRB) to address and resolve quality issues. H2 PowerTech’s PLM system enables them to better document and link quality issues to specific, impacted parts, specifications, procedures, or work instructions—providing better traceability throughout the corrective action process. Resulting engineering changes to close the loop are also linked to quality issues, creating an audit trail from issue identification through final resolution.
“To be able to look at any specific part and see all related quality issues is invaluable for engineers,” said Alex Charney Cohen, Senior Manufacturing Development Engineer for H2 PowerTech. “Connecting quality issues to items or assemblies enables our engineers to resolve problems and improve product designs by uncovering this information early on.”
Prepared for company growth and evolving business processes
In high tech, the need to continually innovate and improve products and business processes is constant. Enterprise systems, including PLM, must be flexible and easy to configure to address these ongoing changes. This is evident at H2 PowerTech, where they continue to modify processes within PLM as the company evolves. “With Arena PLM, configuring the system is simple and limited only to my imagination. We can create new attributes, make them required fields, and change our routings to match how we do business as requirements change. Having our product data in a single, secure system that scales with our growth is key to our success and our ability to deliver products to market fast and without issues,” noted Charney Cohen. As the company rolls out a new facility, they are confident that they will be able to easily make any additional required changes within Arena.
Cloud PLM enables access to product data anytime and anywhere
Arena’s cloud-based PLM solution helps high tech electronics companies address key challenges encountered when bringing mechanical, electrical, and software designs together. A centralized product record provides visibility into part information, BOMs, and quality issues by all necessary teams. This is critical for companies that have distributed teams in multiple locations across different time zones. If you’re looking to improve your new product development and introduction processes with your internal and supply chain teams, check out how Arena PLM can help manage your complex product development processes.