Taking care of admin and all that ‘other stuff’

Enabling people to get on with what they were employed to do is a plus factor for employers and staff, as John Pullin reports

PLM changes people’s jobs. “We’ve automated a lot of the administrative functions within each role that fed information from one part of the business to another,” says Ash Dhir, engineering manager at the Swift Group, the UK’s biggest manufacturer of caravans, motorhomes and holiday homes. “Those manual functions are now pretty much non-existent. Our core team of designers, who use the software, know that it will take care of the admin functions.”

Swift has invested in Windchill PLM from PTC and the main driver was the complexity of handling a large and fast-changing product portfolio. “On average, every three years we do a total product range refresh on many of our 350-plus models, but we’re in the luxury goods market and need to react to customers, so every year there’s refresh in areas right down to colours or graphics or bedding. And it always means more engineering,” says Mr Dhir.

PLM brings order to the process. “It means our individuals can focus on the roles they were employed to do, rather than dealing with consequential stuff,” he says. “Our output is greater and accuracy is improved too because the software is managing the data.”

But PLM can also handle information from the external supply chain, and make design and product data available to others outside engineering departments. These are the next steps for Swift.

However, in a very different part of the luxury goods market, North American hunting, fishing and outdoor gear company Cabela’s is using another system from PTC to give what PLM manager Gabriel Garcia calls “early visibility” of future products to people not previously involved directly in product design and development, with constant updates of any changes.

“Marketing now understand when we’re coming up with new designs, and can plan their approach, and work ahead with our retail stores and on things like viral campaigns,” he says. “And our customer service team also have all detailed data on products such as colours and fit. So if a customer likes one item, they can suggest another immediately.”