Bombardier launches PLM for new aircraft programs

  • 14-Nov-2011 03:26 EST

Digital tools that enhance collaboration, work fast, and provide data security and protection are what companies such as Bombardier Aerospace are looking for. (Dassault Systèmes)

“Our PLM maturity was not where we wanted it to be,” explained Andrea Polatos, Director of Information Technology for Bombardier Aerospace to Aerospace Engineering. Under her guidance, the company recently completed an upgrade to its Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) infrastructure around CATIA V5 from Dassault Systèmes. Three new aircraft programs prompted the investment, in particular the CSeries regional jet as well as the Lear85 and the Global 7000 and 8000 programs. CATIA V5 was chosen as the product development standard for all three programs. “The CSeries program is the largest program this company has undertaken,” she noted, in both program scope as well as physical size.

Like many of today’s aircraft programs, it is also complex, requiring the collective talent of engineers worldwide. She explained that the complex outsourcing strategy for the CSeries had a big impact on the PLM transformation. “We needed to incorporate design centers in Montreal; Belfast, Ireland; and India—all over the world,” she stated. “Doing that within Bombardier was challenging enough, but now we needed to exchange that design date with partners and suppliers.” Suppliers and partners working in their own design environments and transferring files were no longer going to cut it. File transfer required manual reconciliation, errors were hard to find, or were found too late in the process when it was more expensive to correct. The process was slow, meaning fewer design iterations. “It was cumbersome to work that way,” she stated.

Remote design and collaboration

In response, a key element of the new implementation is a centralized Digital Mockup (DMU) with real-time sharing of work-in-progress design data. While protecting intellectual property and conforming to export control regulations, the DMU needed to share that data in real time, 24/7. They defined an Overall Engineering Reference model that is the single source of information. This includes work packages as well as design data of all suppliers and partners. As she described it, this federated view of the complete digital mockup was available to Bombardier, but one supplier could not see what another was providing. This protects intellectual property and keeps them compliant with export controls.

The watchword for the new system is Remote Design, as Polatos described it. In this paradigm, major structural and system suppliers perform design and approval activities remotely in the Bombardier system, rather than in their own separate environments. A centralized, configured DMU, located in and controlled by Bombardier “ensures quality and specifically that there are no conflicts in the work package design and integration points,” she said. She also reported that the DMU technology is a combination of ENOVIA V5 from Dassault Systèmes and PLM technology from SAP, with a unique “layer” of Bombardier developed software as well.

The result? She reported cycle times drastically reduced, primarily by eliminating time-consuming file transfers. This enabled more design iterations all by itself along with the other benefits tighter collaboration provides. Polatos also reported improved product quality and efficiency by always working with the latest configured information.

She noted that PLM for Bombardier—for now—is focused on the upfront design process, including CAD and CAE. This makes sense, since the three programs driving the investment are in that design phase. However, they are looking at enablers for downstream processes. “For example, we are just beginning our journey in Model Based Definition,” she said, referring to the technique of capturing geometric dimensioning and tolerance (GD&T) information to a 3-D model rather than a 2-D drawing. “We are already seeing the benefits and expect to see more as we mature.” This will be especially useful in downstream processes in developing automation, tooling, and inspection programs.

The future at some point may include CATIA V6, Dassault’s design software that stresses collaboration tools. “Our plan is to be a close follower, so for now we will remain with V5,” she remarked, even as some older programs in Bombardier remain on the V4 version of CATIA. The future will evolve with new challenges. As Polatos remarked, “we are more mature than we were, but we need to do more work to get to where we need to be.”

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