PLM Makes Design Anywhere a Reality
The $650 million Entegriswhich sells products and services for wafer handling, electronics packaging and liquid microcontamination to the semiconductor and chemical processing industrieshad to do some serious organizational and IT legwork to pull off that mission. The company has a highly global and diverse infrastructure, with manufacturing and research centers sprinkled across a dozen or more sites, which are spread even farther still throughout nine countries.
Getting those sites to share current manufacturing and product design data was no easy feat, according to John Peters, manager of engineering applications for Entegris, in Chaska, Mich. In fact, Entegris methods were cumbersome, requiring a dedicated professional to oversee all the back-and-forth FTP of documents and CAD models, he explained.
To boot, the time-consuming data-sharing process wasnt 100 percent accurate. Engineers on one side of the globe didnt always have access to the data reflecting the current state of the producthardly ideal conditions, Peters said, for Entegris ambitious design anywhere, manufacture anywhere plan.
"This is such a competitive industryits all about the cost of getting product manufactured and out the door," Peters said. "Products made in some countries could be turned around in a day, while it would take us five days at a much greater cost. We had to overcome that situation."
Entegris is well on its way to changing that course, thanks to a lot of hard work and a huge assist from longtime VAR partner EAC Design. Over the course of 18 months, Entegris embarked on a journey to overhaul its existing data-sharing infrastructure and create a more collaborative, global environment. The company brought in the Windchill PLM (product lifecycle management) platform from PTC, of Needham, Mass., upon which it began to build a global data repository for all its engineering and manufacturing data.
It also formulated new business processes to encourage information sharing among dispersed teams.
The result, Peters said, is that Entegris is now better able to more efficiently build or design product at any of its sites around the globe. And that, Peters said, is instrumental to its long-term goal of cutting costs and boosting time to market.
Like most manufacturers in the high-tech industry, Entegris far-flung environment was born out of necessity. The highly competitive nature of the market has led companies to outsource engineering or manufacturing work to less-expensive areas such as Asia. Entegris, for exampleas a result of acquisitions, partnerships and establishing sites in various countrieshas service, manufacturing and research facilities in nine countries, including China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and France, Peters said.
While much of the design work is still performed at its home base in the Chaska facility, Entegris has increasingly outsourced its tooling and mold worknow accounting for approximately 85 percent of that effortto overseas facilities, both internal to the company and with outside partners, he explained.
"We outsource globally because its less expensive," Peters said. "Weve got to keep our product costs down and bring product to market faster, and [these partners] can turn around mold designs much faster than back in the United States."
The way this global set of partners collaborated in the old style of working was to send documents and CAD files related to product design and specifications back and forth over FTP.
Because of the sheer load of communication and data sharing necessary between the parties, Peters said his team had to dedicate a professional to oversee all the FTP exchanges. Moreover, he said, the process was time-consuming and cumbersome, and, oftentimes, the mere act of exchange would denigrate the integrity of some of the CAD models, requiring someone to spend up to three days to replicate the necessary associativity for successful design.
"Moving data around via FTP for the amount of internal collaboration required by Entegris was not a long-term solution," said Thane Hathaway, president of EAC Design, in Minneapolis. "While it was working for them, they needed a process that would help drive costs out and eliminate waste."
Peters said Entegris management team was well aware they needed to make over their collaboration routines, replacing the FTP process with a more accurate and faster way of sharing critical information. They also knew their existing PDM systemused to store all product-related documents and informationworked fine on a local level within the Chaska facility but did not perform well once Entegris factored the global sites into the mix, he explained.
With guidance by EAC, Entegris embarked on a search for an enterprise platform to create a global data repository for all product knowledge. After months of evaluation and testing, the company selected Windchill, from PTC, which also happened to be Entegris CAD solution provider. Having two systems that are so intertwined come from the same vendor was a logical choice, Peters said, yet it wasnt a slam-dunk. Entegris was committed to pursuing a lengthy and involved testing and validation period to ensure Windchill, and PLM in general, was the right fit, he added.
Given that his group at Entegris was limited in terms of manpower, Peters said the EAC team played an active role in formulating the business plan and rollout strategy necessary to winning executive sponsorship for the deployment.
"We needed their expertise and know-how," Peters said. "They had worked with Windchill before, while, for us, it was a new application to implement, especially on a global or enterprise basis."
So far, Entegris has encountered none of those hurdles, Peters said. Beyond sticking to the business plan, he said he credits EACs knowledge of Entegris industry and his groups own, very formalized user training initiatives as some of the more tangible reasons for their success so far.
While EAC had been working on engineering and manufacturing initiatives around CAD with Entegris for some time, Peters said Hathaways personal knowledge of the semiconductor space was what set the VAR apart from other potential partners for the project.
"He had knowledge of the semiconductor business, and he had a strong ProE [CAD background]," Peters explained. "Its a great benefit when a VAR truly understands your business because you dont have to go through the whole education process on this is how we work."
Having a VAR partner on a project of this scope also afforded Entegris some other benefits. EAC had great connections within PTC, Peters said, so it was always assured a quick answer to questions when it was stuck. In addition, while Peters Entegris team did most of the actual day-to-day implementation work on the Windchill project, the EAC group performed the data migration effort. This ensured that all the existing product data from within its former PDM system and housed in all the various systems at the different global sites was merged into a single global repository accessible by all, he said.
While Peters said there are plans under way to open up access to the system and to add new capabilities such as engineering change order control and configuration management, he said hes got all he can do to keep up with the mounting requests.
"They want to grow the system faster than I can manage, and were struggling with that today. It just shows true design collaboration is Entegris big push," Peters said.
Beth Stackpole is a freelance writer in Newbury, Mass. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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