“You don’t get so many second chances when you build a wind turbine,” says Jonas Hagner, ICT director at WinWinD, an Espoo, Finland based company that specializes in wind turbines for global markets.
When you look at the photograph showing a WinWinD turbine rotor blade ready for assembly, you get an idea of what he is talking about. What looks sleek and elegant once in the air, has huge dimensions as you stand in front of it. If it wasn’t for the bolts and electric cables rolled up inside, one might think of the carcass of a giant stranded whale.
To make sure WinWinD turbines, used in remote places across the globe, fit together perfectly in every detail. The design, manufacturing and construction of the turbine need to work hand in hand.
Although engineers may be located thousands of miles apart, they need to meticulously document and share all details and monitor changes made during design and manufacture because there is no second chance when the turbine has been shipped to an overseas location, transported over hundreds of kilometers on special trucks and helicopters.
But how can engineers work together across geographically distributed locations and share documents that undergo frequent changes? They might send copies of their drawings by express mail to their peers working in other locations every time a change needs to be made. Or they might even use electronic data transfer.
But how can you make sure the latest version of a drawing is not stuck somewhere in the inbox of your e-mail, or wasn’t erroneously copied into the wrong folder on your computer?
The stakes are high, because manufacturing and shipping components that do not meet the required specifications not only causes additional cost, but also painful delays, and loss of your customers’ revenue before the delivered product is even in service.
That was the reason that drove WinWinD to invest in a sophisticated web-based PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) infrastructure that manages all deliverables generated over a product’s lifecycle.
Although the company was founded fairly recently in 2000 and is still comparatively small, a robust PLM system has provided invaluable organization and documentation around many processes, from the product’s design to its manufacture, so that all stakeholders can be sure of having latest approved version of their design when they work on it.
“The idea that we need to really control and be able to produce this product and grow at the same time, that was the main driver for us,” Hagner says. “It was the idea that we need really strongly to manage the product, but the necessity for this tool actually came out of growth.”
When WinWinD started to look for suitable toolsets to support its PLM needs, it was also building two new factories in India and Finland and that underlined the need to have access to up-to-date engineering information independent of time zone and location.
“It was very crucial for us to be able to manage the product very well in these two new facilities that are totally geographically quite far from each other. The product was slightly different, and the value chain of suppliers employed in building the product on these different locations consequently had to undergo a lot of changes,” Hagner says.
“Nowadays, PLM is getting a really wide interest within our company. I can really see that a lot of different departments are very keen in the early stage of creating and building the product,” Hager concludes.
Photo courtesy of WinWinD