Friday, 27 April 2012

DRS Selects Autodesk PLM 360

Established in London in 1969, DRS was originally setup as a data-capture bureau. Printing and scanning services were later expanded to include the design and manufacture of document readers and associated products. Since then, their reputation has grown and matured, and they have now become the name to trust for delivering time-critical and large-scale data capture contracts for the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Just to give you an idea of scale, their bureau facility handled over 90 million A4 pages in 2011, peaking at over 1.3 million per day, and their print division printed over 93 million forms during 2011.

DRS PhotoScribe Series

All products are designed, developed, and produced in house
DRS floated as a fully listed company on the London Stock Exchange in 1994. Since then the company has grown in strength and currently employs over 250 people, delivering mission-critical projects all over the globe. They operate from several sites located within Milton Keynes, UK with a distributor and partner network worldwide. They are proud to have delivered products, services and solutions in over 50 countries around the world.

The main markets DRS serves include:
Education – e-Assessment and examination services
Elections – Multi-channel election solutions, voter registration
Census – National population census

DRS is keen and proud to support UK manufacturing

I'm speaking today with Ben Toms and John Wilkes about DRS to learn more about their business and recent activities using our new product for product lifecycle management—Autodesk PLM 360.

Mike: Ben, please tell me a little bit about your products.

Ben: Our products are designed, developed, and produced in house using UK based suppliers for parts manufacture wherever possible. We are keen and proud to support UK manufacturing!
Autodesk products help us stay ahead of our competitors. Originally using AutoCAD, we migrated over to Mechanical Desktop. We now utilise the power of Product Design Suite, which provides us with a vast array of tools for the job, including Autodesk Inventor. We use Vault Professional for BOM creation and product release and Inventor Publisher to create technical documentation, such as user guides and manuals.
DRS utilise the power of Product Design Suite to innovate faster
Mike: Why do you need PLM?

John: Although we have many processes already in place they are somewhat fragmented. So much intellectual property and process information resides in people’s heads, we worry as DRS grows and develops this is not such a good idea. We had already identified this as a risk but could not find a cost effective solution…
…Until, whilst browsing the Autodesk blog pages, we came across Autodesk PLM 360 and immediately realized it could provide everything we wanted, plus much more! An initial e-mail quickly got us underway.

DRS PhotoScribe Series
Mike: Can you tell me about your first steps?

Ben: One thing we were not expecting was just how quickly and easily we could get Autodesk PLM 360 up and running. It really was as simple as registering our details then choosing our instance name and ‘voila’ we were ready to go. Because it is cloud based there are no installation issues, no updates to worry about and, best of all, no IT hardware costs or configuration issues—it really was the simplest installation we have ever seen! Updates automatically apply too which leaves more time to concentrate on work rather than IT and logistical issues. Our eyes are already beginning to open to what Autodesk PLM 360 has to offer and we have only just begun our journey toward bringing PLM into DRS.

Mike: Ok, Ben, nice one! Thanks. Tell me more.

Ben: We took a planned approach in our Phase 1, for instance.
It is important not to be carried away with all the processes that could be tracked. Once we had a glimpse into what is possible, it was difficult not to think about all the other ‘what if’ scenarios and how PLM 360 could be utilized more and more in other areas. We decided to kick-off with several processes in the R&D department that could be ‘ring-fenced’ and tested as ‘Phase 1’ of the implementation; they are:

Phase 1 – Tackle R&D Processes

Process Description
Current Method
TAN’s (Technical Advice Notes)
Used to inform our Manufacturing and Engineering departments of a production or process change.                                  
MS Word
Bug Tracking Database
Used by Manufacturing and Engineering Departments to report problems and issues to R&D
Test Track Pro SQL Database
ECR (Engineering Change Request)
Used by Manufacturing and Engineering Departments to request a design or process
MS Word
Stop Notice
Used to place an immediate stop on production following a catastrophic failure or recall                                                           
Vault Pro / MS Dynamics AX
Design Records
Used to record and track all the main decisions during a new product design
MS Word

Mike: So, how is it going?

John: Really well, actually, and quite honestly better than we could have hoped. Within 1 day, we have managed to create the processes behind our TAN’s (Technical Advice Notes) along with our ECR’s (Engineering Change Requests) and get legacy data imported and operational. That day’s work also included the setup of users, workflows, and approval paths, and learning how to use the system. The apps included within the product are a great way to learn how to get up and running quickly and easily.

Mike: Ok. What’s next?

John: Even though we are still in our first week using Autodesk PLM 360, we will be continuing to tackle the remaining processes at what seems for us to be a lightning pace. We will keep you posted with our progress!

Thanks John/Ben, for this great post. I am looking forward to working with you in the coming month’s

Ben Toms  - Senior Design Engineer  - DRS
John Wilkes - Hardware Development Team Manager - DRS

Thanks for reading... Mike

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