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Fast App: Becoming Empowered with PLM

Based in Montreal, Genetec is a pioneer in the physical security and public safety industry, and a global provider of IP video surveillance, access control and license plate recognition (LPR) solutions to markets such as transportation, education, retail, gaming, government and more.


Genetec had previously implemented an open-source product lifecycle management (PLM) system to replace the use of spreadsheets for managing product information. Although the team did realize some improvements in their processes, they needed to find a new PLM solution to meet their requirements in an electronic manufacturing environment. They found with the open-source solution that minimum functionalities such as reference designators, redlining, bill of material (BOM) compare, and importing capabilities had to be implemented via customization of the software. The time spent by software designers to customize the tool to meet their needs was extensive and counterproductive.

It was becoming important for Genetec to have the ability to catch product documentation problems early on, prior to manufacturing, and to have a complete history of the changes for accountability. Genetec needed a PLM system that delivered robust, out-of-the-box functionality including electronic management of part data, engineering changes, BOMs, and product documentation that did not require customization to implement. It also needed a system that offered easy integration with its existing engineering design tools (Altium Designer and SolidWorks) and the ability to interface with its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system (MS Dynamics) — all at a price that made sense for the organization.

After researching the market, the team decided on Omnify Software. “Ultimately, we were impressed by how easy the software seemed to configure, and by how many functionalities this software offered out-of-the-box, says Danny Roy, hardware development manager for Genetec. “Migrating all of our data — including past revisions — from the old system to Omnify Empower PLM went seamlessly with the help of our assigned Omnify project engineer, with only one day where users could not create new parts. We had minimal time to invest on our side to export the data, and the instructions about the format Omnify needed were clear and easy to handle.

The primary goal of implementing the Empower PLM solution was to fill the voids of Genetec s previous tools to make engineering processes, such as new part creation, completely automated and more formal. Previously, Roy notes, manufacturing or engineering change orders (MCOs/ECOs) “were processed in Excel, even while using the old PLM system, because it did not provide redlining functionality to easily visualize the details of product changes.

Another goal was to  improve visibility across the organization with regard to hardware product changes. This process was mature and well in place for software, but not for hardware. Omnify Empower allows Genetec to automatically notify appropriate parties of the intended changes and when they become released, Roy says. “We already see the benefits with this aspect of the tool, and it is not even considered fully deployed — as we still have plans to make use of task assignment features and giving viewing abilities to other groups, such as technical documentation, in order to continuously improve the awareness across the organization and foster team communication, he adds.

The integration with Altium Designer enables electronics designers to browse existing parts inside the Omnify Empower database directly from within their Altium environment. This promotes team collaboration by enforcing official library management for part symbols/footprints:

  • Designers can quickly determine whether they need to create a new part in Omnify Empower, and then get immediate access to it in Altium during the approval process.
  • BOMs can be exported from Altium and imported into Omnify easily and quickly, thanks to pre-configured mapping.
  • When a schematic is modified, an ECO is issued directly from a new BOM out of Altium and redlining on the existing products is automatically generated.

“The loop is closed and efficient, Roy reports. “Omnify feeds Altium with parts; Altium feeds Omnify with design/assembly information such as BOMs and drawings; and then Omnify confirms visually any change that was implemented in Altium at the schematics level.

The process is similar with SolidWorks, except that parts are not browsed directly from within the SolidWorks environment. Rather, the process is performed via a BOM export/import and accurate field mapping.

“We are targeting to reach full integration with SolidWorks in the next few months by using the Omnify CAD toolkit, which will allow SolidWorks to push a BOM directly into Omnify, Roy says. “Because the highest-level BOM in the hierarchy is a mechanical assembly, for most of our products, SolidWorks has control over the final end-assembly details through its native PDM vault for progressive versioning during development. Once the design is ready to release to production, SolidWorks pushes this official released version ]assembly] to Omnify and makes manufacturing documentation available to the NPI/production group.

The Results

Roy reports that Genetec s productivity has increased greatly since implementing Empower PLM, with notable improvements in data quality and time savings. With Empower PLM, Genetec has transitioned to a completely automated system for managing product documentation and changes, and eliminated the need to partially manage processes in Excel spreadsheets. This environment removed the data integrity issues commonly associated with hand-entering information into spreadsheets.

For the engineering group, the more formal and thorough part creation process now in place addresses issues early on. Parts are verified via an automated approval process before they are released and propagated to outside sub-contractors. Communications between the NPI/production group and engineering group has improved, with guided workflow approvals and easier traceability of product versions.

Eliminating the need to customize the system or perform partially manual processes has saved the company a significant amount of time and money, Roy says. A design engineer is now able to import a large BOM (electronic board or mechanical assembly)  into Omnify Empower, easily and within seconds. Genetec s previous PLM system required a cut-and-paste, item by item. Furthermore, Empower PLM offers the ability to compare BOMs between different, but similar flavors of the product, to quickly confirm that the new product version has been correctly implemented.

“Overall, we executed close to 90 changes over the course of nine months — and I could not imagine performing those changes via manual formatting in Excel, Roy concludes. “We have realized huge organizational benefits compared to our previous open-source PLM/Excel process, including time-savings, improved data with completely automated processes, enhanced communication, and traceability of product change history.




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