Omnify: Wireless manufacturer catches wave of the future
The Company: Remec Broadband Wireless, with facilities in Kirkland, Que. and San Diego, Calif., as well as manufacturing in the Philippines, is a unique supplier of integrated microwave and millimeter wave subsystem solutions for the telecommunications market. The company designs and manufactures products that operate throughout the radio spectrum, from RF to microwave and millimeter wave frequencies, specializing in complex, high performance point-to-point radio modules and Outdoor Units (ODUs).
The Challenge: Remec was challenged with arduous paper processes that had to be replicated at three facilities. The engineering change process at Remec required printing out a hard copy bill of material (BOM), redlining the BOM, scanning it in, distributing it via document control to obtain signatures and returning it to engineering for review.
Complicating the problem even further was the fact that the two North American facilities had to communicate with the manufacturing facility in the Philippines – which added even more resource burdens and posed a high potential for user error. “In some instances, one person or site would do the engineering change correctly and the other would do it incorrectly so the changes were not in sync at both locations,” says Karla Spitz, document control, for Remec Broadband Wireless. “We needed to more effectively track changes in our products throughout our growing global company.”
The company wanted to implement a system for paperless capture of Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) with online approvals and complete tracking of all changes, as well as maintain links to CARs (Corrective Action Reports), FAIs (First Article of Inspection) and TDAs (Temporary Deviation Article) for any given part. A single repository for product documentation and controlled product revisions across remote sites was extremely important to get everyone in sync. As a fast-growing company, Remec looked for an affordable, scalable Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution that also integrated tightly with their existing Intuitive ERP environment to avoid displacement of the current technology and provide one common database that sent data to and from the ERP system.
“We were ultimately looking for the best bang for the buck in a PLM solution,” says Michiel Van Meurs, IT manager for Remec Broadband Wireless. “When we were introduced to Omnify Software we were amazed at how robust the solution was with a price that could be easily justified.”
The Strategy: Prior to implementing Omnify Empower PLM, tracking ECOs was laborious both in recording the dates at each step and actually updating the spreadsheet for each ECO. It was a completely manual process and therefore subject to the vagaries people can create. Empower PLM provides a central, secure location for their global team to access and manage product documentation and engineering changes. Empower PLM has helped to eliminate the scenario of having several sets of hard copy redlines, that may or may not contradict each other, to add to an ECO. Remec Broadband Wireless created ECO workflows within Empower PLM that apply to all of their prototype and production work and created workflow stages to capture the activity that happens as well as the necessary electronic approvals.
“Because Omnify Empower is flexible, we can continue to refine the workflows, add more functionality to our ECOs and continue in our effort to reduce the cycle time as well as devise new ways to be even more automated in the ECO flows,” says Spitz. “One way we plan to enhance our workflow process is by adding a notification stage to the TDAs in order to notify the responsible engineers (via adding their names into that stage as required) that the TDA is in work, rather than manually routing the hard copy and emailing them to let them know it’s in work.” Addressing the company’s goal for a common database that tied into its Intuitive ERP environment, the Omnify Empower PLM system is integrated with both the Canadian/U.S. Intuitive ERP database and the Philippines Intuitive ERP database. Data from approved change orders in Omnify Empower PLM is sent to one or both Intuitive ERP systems, depending on parameters set on each change order, ensuring both design and manufacturing teams have access to accurate product information.
The Result: As a leading broadband wireless technology provider, improving and streamlining their product development processes supports the company’s focus on meeting the increasing needs of the growing customer base of communications industry leaders. Since implementing Omnify Empower PLM, the product data inconsistency rate at Remec Broadband Wireless has dropped dramatically. “Previously, we had about 20 per cent inconsistencies and we now have less than one half per cent,” says Van Meurs.
“In addition, our ECO cycle time has gone from 39 days to 22 days – about a 46 per cent reduction.” Omnify Empower PLM has made it easier for remote sites to communicate with each other and the company is able to better track data and easily identifies bottlenecks for faster resolutions.
“Omnify has become an integral part of our suite of business tools,” adds Van Meurs. “It has helped us begin to achieve our product development goals by allowing for more accurate data tracking, supplying a common database for all of our product documentation, providing workflows that everyone accesses the same way and being a common repository for changes that are to be reviewed by a global team. It has contributed to more effective communication between our sites and that helps everything run much more smoothly and quickly.”
A version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.