EPM / BPM

A product's cost consists of direct and indirect (aka ‘structural’ or ‘overhead’) costs. In an engineered product company, the latter cost includes sales, customer service, administration, engineering, design & analysis, quality control, testing, rework, warranty etc. This indirect cost component may be 1 to 5 times its direct counterpart, depending upon the industry. 

AdvEnSoft helps such companies to achieve substantial reductions in indirect cost thru’ its custom, comprehensive & holistic Engineering Process Management (EPM) solutions. EPM is similar to the Business Process Management (BPM) principles but applied to workflows in engineering processes. Typical engineering tasks are relatively more complex, require specialized expertise and vary considerably from one company to another even in the similar space.

A recent 2014 book e.g. Resource Revolution1 by McKinsey researchers says, “Companies that try to stick to the “old” 2% annual improvement solution are going to be obsolete quickly. Businesses that can deliver dramatic resource-productivity improvements at scale (about 10 to 15% annually) will become the great companies of the 21st century”. According to them, the next revolution would employ five distinct approaches out of which three are comprehensively addressed by AdvEnSoft. These are Waste Elimination (thru’ greater process efficiency with its EPM solutions), Optimization and Virtualization (thru’ its virtual prototyping environment based on multiphysics, multi-objective optimization, statistical simulations and analytics). AdvEnSoft’s solutions, some which are in place for more than a decade in various companies, have proven to achieve considerable resource-productivity improvements as referred above.  

The Figure 1 shows a high level workflow in a typical Engineered Product company. Various departments / groups within it tend to have their individual silos of knowledge-bases & data collections.  Multiple processes - separate, connected or overlapping - run within departments and across their boundaries usually without much synergy and communications among them. Some processes even extend outside the company premises such as the ones involving outside sales, distributors and customers. More often than not such process has partly manual, partly semi-automatic tasks which tend to be engineering-labor (high cost) intensive, inefficient & error prone. There is lack of standardization. Knowledge & availability of tools are typically confined to a few experienced technical staff some of whom may be near retirement. Furthermore, these tools being disparate and confined to groups & individuals tend to remain near stagnant at a certain basic level for ever. There is hardly any sustained focused effort to consolidate these tools, knowledge-base and data in order for them to grow. The above state is symptomatic of many SMEs in the engineering sector. Needless to say, there are tremendous scopes for process improvements within these companies having considerable resultant reductions in time & error cycles with associated cost savings.  This is precisely the space where AdvEnSoft operates.

                                                        

 Figure 1:  Process Flow Diagram – An Engineered Product Company.

Examples of engineering processes are RFQ & proposal creation, application & product engineering, ECO, advanced analysis, simulation, design optimization, Six-sigma analysis & robust engineering, CAD / CAM, inspection, testing etc. Which processes are to be undertaken or in what order for EPM implementation depend mainly on a few factors.  Firstly, the time compression, the annual benefit-to-cost ratio and how quickly it can be put into production use. AdvEnSoft strives to achieve a time compression and an annual benefit-to-cost ratio of 5-10 each and has a phased approach for implementation.

At the initial stage of an EPM development process, a very important step known as Knowledge elicitation & engineering is conducted. Basically, thru’ onsite / offsite interviews & meetings with key personnel of a company and exchange of relevant information & documents, AdvEnSoft team develops a mapping of the current process and then creates a blueprint of a much improved, largely automatic new process. This is documented in detail in a report known as “Requirement Analysis & Technical Specifications”.

In the new process, disparate and disjointed semi-automatic & manual sub-processes are seamlessly integrated with the underlying workflow and automated. Automatic interactions with a host of commercial third-party software, legacy systems & new custom developed software components are achieved. An integrated database system is developed which may contain both structured & unstructured data. Typical input / outputs of an EPM system are WORD/EXCEL/PDF/Text documents, Solid Model Part & Assembly files on CAD system such as SolidWorks, Inventor, Solid Edge and the like, drawing files, G-Code, binary files, e-mail and the like. This EPM system could be made available across the company, enterprise, outside sales and others thereby empowering all the stakeholders with a comprehensive & transparent tool. The architecture of an EPM system & its components are shown in Figure 2.

 

Figure 2:

AdvEnSoft’s EPM implementation also provides other intangible benefits such as:

Knowledge Retention – the process of automation requires careful study and understanding of an engineering / business process. By spending adequate time in knowledge elicitation, thorough documentation and the development of an automated solution, AdvEnSoft helps companies to protect their valuable IP and deploy it globally to ensure standardization & efficiency throughout the enterprise.

Opens Staff for Creative Work – many processes are routine, repetitive and not challenging enough for the staff. For staff, it could be highly de-motivating, and to the company, wasteful for highly trained staff to work on these type of activities. Process automation allows staff to divest themselves from the mundane tasks and engage in more creative work that will produce more benefits to the company in the long run.

Three important components of an EPM system are:

  • ‘Integrated Product Engineering (IPE)’ Software.
  • Virtual Prototyping
  • Legacy code base

In addition, if streaming production data are available, then analytics – off-line or real-time, will be another valuable component.

The above components could be used both in standalone mode as well as a part of an EPM system. 

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