The success of Mercury Marine’s product life-cycle management (PLM) systems prompted the company to help others, from automotive to aerospace. “Our system at Mercury Marine enabled us to introduce more products to market—we introduced 60 new products in a 48-month span,” says Nat Workman, PLM Project Manager of Mercury Marine. “We did this faster and with fewer resources using our new PLM system.” Mercury’s technical expertise is centered on Teamcenter, the PLM tool available from Siemens PLM Software. He notes Mercury’s PLM solution has been benchmarked by more than 80 different companies, providing his team with a unique perspective as well as providing confidence in the company’s solution, which received a Progressive Manufacturing PM100 award this year.
Workman stresses process and systems over technology as the key to success. “We help our clients establish the process and then configure and install the system to support that process.” Mercury Marine approaches a PLM implementation through a three-tiered development. Tier 1 establishes requirements and a guiding vision, involving higher levels of management. Tier 2 translates that guiding vision into a product development process that they then implement in a tailored technology installation during Tier 3. At the technology level, Workman stresses that Mercury Marine’s change management implementation and CAD integration are notable. “We worked with one aerospace supplier that had to deal with a number of CAD systems, and our multiple CAD capability was especially useful,” remarks Workman.
CAD alone is not the whole of it. Mercury's system can also capture data such as material properties, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), and Special Notes, among others, from CAD models to JT datasets in Teamcenter. Storing and retrieving this ancillary data is sometimes referred to as model-based definition and can be an important part of a PLM system.
What is different about working with aerospace OEMs? “One is the rigid control of information from OEM to supplier,” he explains, adding the control of information is more involved than in other industries he is familiar with. “Aerospace OEM audits are rigid and strenuous, both to get the business and to maintain it. These audits include data integrity, process adherence, corrective action processes, among many others,” he says. Another is what might be termed "OEM complexity" facing most aerospace suppliers today, since each aerospace OEM has its own specifications and rules for transmitting data and specifications, as well as maintaining configurations. This is in addition to dealing with multiple CAD formats.
Are they a new spin-off? “The same team that developed the PLM implementation for Mercury Marine also offers services to outside companies, but the PLM team remains a part of Mercury Marine to grow and support their PLM systems,” explains Workman.