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Medical film manufacturer finds clearer picture with Aras PLM

Carestream Health used the Aras PLM system to standardize its processes and build a more flexible global network.

David G. Sherburne, director of global R&D effectiveness and engineering IT at CarestreamDavid Sherburne

Carestream Health, based in Rochester, N.Y., a manufacturer of medical, dental and non-destructive testing film, was experiencing some growing pains. It needed its software systems to better accommodate an ever-expanding network of plants and suppliers, while also standardizing its business processes across this network.

Globalization was the catalyst that spurred Carestream to look for a product lifecycle management (PLM) system, according to David G. Sherburne, director of global R&D effectiveness and engineering IT at Carestream. In 2009, the company was juggling projects across multiple manufacturing sites and beginning to expand its supply chain to different geographical locations. Faced with an aging legacy system that couldn't keep up with these new demands, Carestream needed a PLM system that could offer greater connectivity and flexibility at a competitive price point for a company its size.

"We had to make sure we had systems that could expand globally," said Sherburne. "At the time, we had a 15-year-old system that didn't have the security or the Web-enabled framework to globalize effectively."

Selecting Aras PLM

Sherburne led the Carestream team that selected Aras PLM five years ago. Throughout the course of nine months, his team examined the PLM systems on the market -- looking closely at the relationships those PLM vendors had with Carestream's suppliers. As Sherburne recalled, the selection journey involved a "rigorous" requirements gathering process and an evaluation of what the potential ROI would be with each system.

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"Aras turned out to be the most effective optimized solution for our situation," he said.

The PLM implementation took between 18 and 20 months, Sherburne noted. During this process, Carestream was able to launch some modules early, with more complex functionality taking longer.

"We went after some pretty major process areas and it took a few cycles to get the tools configured properly," he said. "It was mostly business process and requirements that caused that, not the implementation itself. Aras was very flexible and helped us make those turns relatively rapidly."

The biggest challenge during the implementation was the reengineering involved in bringing the company's business processes onboard. What had previously been a largely manual system of entering bill of materials data into various systems became automated through Aras PLM, Sherburne explained. Carestream developed modules within Aras to integrate the steps unique to its manufacturing process directly into the PLM system.

"There was a lot of work that had to be done to standardize across a company of our size -- as an example, getting the naming conventions correct as we migrated data was challenging," Sherburne said. "We had to do a lot of integration work that took a lot of time. Those were the more difficult areas, because they weren't already standardized in the existing point solutions [PLM] tool."

PLM required training, customization

PLM is as much about business process reengineering as it is about technology. We learned very quickly that people needed to learn how to use the tool within a process-based context.

David Sherburne

Another implementation challenge was simply getting all employees involved with the PLM system and making sure they were adequately trained. It wasn't just a matter of introducing them to new software, the PLM system would change the way business was done across the entire organization, Sherburne explained.  

"PLM is as much about business process reengineering as it is about technology," he said. "We learned very quickly that people needed to learn how to use the tool within a process-based context."

Carestream is currently still in the process of standardizing its software systems. With these changes in the works, Sherburne cites the engineering release and change control as two of the most important parts of the Aras PLM. The company is using Aras to assemble the needed engineering releases and modifications -- then approve, implement and release those updates across the manufacturing operations. 

An essential part of this standardization process is the integration of PLM with Carestream's SAP ERP system, according to Sherburne.

"We're working on a module that takes the engineering bill of materials and the manufacturing bill of materials [from Aras]," he explained. "We're doing the planning for the implementation of this module into the plants and will eventually push it right into SAP."

Today, Carestream is using Aras PLM for a number of functions across its global manufacturing network. The list of areas touched by the PLM system includes commercial parts management, mechanical and electrical computer-aided design (CAD) releases, bill of materials management for engineering and manufacturing, packaged parts, closed-loop engineering change management, defect management, audit management and environmental health and safety management.

Since implementing Aras, the company has seen a reduction in engineering change cycle time, Sherburne said. In addition to that, Carestream has improved its visibility into business metrics, including the time is takes from the initiation of an engineering change to that change's implementation.

"It's very helpful for us to see the amount of time it takes for changes to reach the manufacturing areas," he said.

Carestream is working to grant its network of suppliers access to Aras PLM, so they can put change requests directly into the system in real-time, Sherburne added.

In the future, Sherburne would like to see Aras continue to work on making its CAD integrations smoother. Additionally, he believes both Aras and Carestream can perfect its wide area network performance.

"We've seen big improvements, but we could see some additional improvements as well," he said.

Follow SearchManufacturingERP on Twitter @ManufacturingTT.

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