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The Inside Scoop on Sonos’ Product Development Success

Sonos’ Julie Toscano recently sat down with Arena’s Scott Reedy to discuss best practices and share insights on how product lifecycle management (PLM) drives product development success. Julie has more than 20 years of electronic design and new product introduction (NPI) experience and over five years of PLM experience. Julie brings a wealth of process knowledge on successfully transitioning designs out of NPI and into production.

Scott: Hi, Julie. Thanks for taking time today to share your experience at Sonos. Before we jump into some specific questions, tell us a little about your company and what makes it exciting to work for Sonos.

Julie: I’m happy to be here, and thanks for inviting me. I guess I would start by saying that Sonos is focused on bringing the best sound experience to our customers. No matter what you want to listen to, or even how loudly you want to hear it, Sonos fills every room with clear and detailed sound that you can feel all around you. As music has evolved, so too has Sonos. Our products work with all the streaming services and voice assistant services. You know, for me personally, it’s been really cool to be part of a company that brings music to people’s lives.

Scott: I know that Sonos relied on more manual processes prior to using Arena PLM. Can you share some of the process improvements you’ve experienced?

Julie: Sure. At a strategic level, Arena has helped keep consistency in our data and processes. It has also improved our ability to collaborate more effectively with our internal teams and external suppliers. As part of our overall goals to drive continuous improvement, we’ve been able to speed both time to prototype and time to market. As you consider the specific business processes like engineering change reviews, we’ve been able to automate the sharing of relevant information with more people exactly when they need it. For example, as our design nears the product realization phase, more team members must be aware of, and included in, the proposed changes. With Arena, our engineering change order (ECO) routings can be adjusted on the fly to ensure the right team members are notified immediately via auto emails or within the Arena dashboard.

Scott: Let’s talk a bit about your manufacturing model. Can you share how Sonos is working with supplier chain partners?

Julie: Yes, we do work with contract manufacturers (CMs) and our internal teams need to work closely with them. Our suppliers may participate in the change request and ECO implementation processes whenever they are invited by our team. With PLM, the ability to immediately share data with our teams and suppliers helps reduce errors. It also eliminates the need to collaborate by email, which made it harder to track the design and development process discussions. We’ve become much more efficient and effective sharing only the specific product information that our suppliers need, and only after it has been approved by the internal Sonos team. There are several ways to control visibility and access with Arena. First, we control whether suppliers can view or update cost information. Secondly, we only grant them access to the items that are sourced by them. Finally, we restrict their access to any information we want to keep private from all suppliers.

Scott: Julie, compliance regulations are ever-evolving now whether it’s environmental, safety, or corporate compliance. Beyond managing complex product information, what types of compliance initiatives does Sonos deal with and how has PLM helped?

Julie: You’re exactly right. We have to make sure we comply with the necessary standards and regulations. PLM helps us source the right parts that meet compliance standards. In fact, we recently expanded the compliance module in Arena to help us track and share our material testing for RoHS compliance with our internal teams and suppliers. Our suppliers can give us files electronically via Arena FileDrop, and we can then tie back to the related components in our PLM system. We also use Arena’s integration with SiliconExpert’s electronic components database to help track the lifecycles of electrical components and mitigate risk. So, whenever a given component is reused from one product to another, all of the attached compliance data is right there. This eliminates the need for redundant testing and expedites the time to release.

Scott: For my final question today, I wanted to know the importance of scalability and flexibility. What can you tell us about how PLM has helped Sonos as it has grown and introduced more products?

Julie: Well, I’d start by saying that our Arena system is not what it looked like when we first implemented it. Shifting to a larger business mindset, we’ve had to reevaluate our processes continually. As our processes change, we’ve been able to easily update and reconfigure Arena to support new processes without negatively impacting production. We’ve done multiple mass updates and implemented previously unused modules such as
Arena Quality and Compliance. One of Arena’s strengths is its user interface and ability to customize it to meet our changing requirements as we’ve grown from a small startup to a global, public company.

Scott: Julie, it’s been great talking with you and learning about Sonos and your business processes. I suspect that most of our audience is very familiar with Sonos and probably have Sonos sound systems in their homes or even at work. I love hearing how Arena PLM has been able to help Sonos scale, continually improve your processes, and deliver great products. Thanks again for joining us.