This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of The Record.
Established in 1957, global manufacturing company Rotork operates in a wide variety of markets including oil and gas, water and sewerage and marine operations. Over the last decade, the company has experienced remarkable growth and today has over 4,000 employees spread across the globe.
“Historically our employees were located across a few major sites, with the engineering and operations teams co-located at the factories that manufactured the products they were working on,” explains Phil Wood, Rotork Group’s chief information officer. “With this structure in place it was easy to implement manual controls over engineering data as colleagues sat together and there was a lot of face-to-face communication. However, in the last six years we’ve made 16 acquisitions and our engineering teams are now spread across many sites. We also have an Engineering Centre of Excellence in India. The company has grown and this has resulted in many disparate teams and an engineering authority that needs better tools to control the data being created and maintained around our products.”
Wood recognised that it was necessary to implement a product lifecycle management (PLM) system. “First we turned to one of the bigger PLM providers, but we quickly realised that the offering did not effectively match our needs. What’s more, the vendor was not interested in meeting our needs,” he explains.
With this in mind, the company decided to take a different avenue. “We’d been using Microsoft Dynamics AX for over five years, and had planned implementations in all Rotork factories. We realised that we had a unique opportunity to implement ERP and PLM together to integrate the way we manage all of our product data. We would not get this chance again, and so we looked for a PLM solution that worked inside Dynamics AX.”
Microsoft independent software vendor Bluestar PLM was the only company that could deliver this capacity. ”Its PLM solution seamlessly integrates product data (such as drawings, bill of materials [BOMs] and 3D files from CAD systems), with manufacturing data, right inside Dynamics AX,” Wood says.
So far Rotork has designed and built its engineering control system inside the Dynamics AX template for all factories, as Wood explains: “At present BlueStar is in a limited live deployment stage – we’ve released it to a small number of our engineering teams who are using it on our new products to define product data, to create new items and for CAD document storage. We intend to deploy Bluestar PLM to our factories and engineering authorities worldwide over the months to come.”
Wood expects the solution to dramatically increase efficiencies, especially around the creation and management of BOMs. “Historically, engineering created product BOMs in a way that reflected how the product was designed. In most cases this did not align with how the product would be made in the factory,” he explains. “Clearly the factory either had to redefine the BOM that would fit with the assembly process, or simply use a BOM that was ‘wrong’. This clearly created problems with BOM accuracy, BOM version management, configurator management and in turn materials requirement planning accuracy and stock accuracy.
“These are very real problems for operations, and cause friction between the engineering and operations teams,” Wood continues. “The Bluestar PLM solution will change all this. Everyone will be working from the same system and there will be far greater accuracy and control of data. This will be very powerful for us, and will really bring engineering and operations together – it will change the way we work in our factories, and increase efficiency in engineering change and product data control companywide.”
And this is just the beginning. “It is likely that Bluestar PLM will be as beneficial to application engineers who work on customer solutions as it will be for product engineers,” Wood concludes. “I expect we will significantly expand the roll-out beyond the current factory scope.”