Austrian auto supplier Magna Steyr is finding that it may be able to reduce the number of product-data computer systems it needs from about half a dozen to just one.
Magna Steyr and IBM Corp. have been testing a new process and software developed with Germany's largest automakers and suppliers.
The software, called OpenPDM, acts as a universal translator. It allows engineering data, including computer-aided-design data, to be exchanged between supplier and automaker regardless of what product-data management system they use.
Like most Tier 1 suppliers, Magna Steyr has grown frustrated with having to buy separate computer systems for every automaker it does business with.
These product-data management systems, or PDMs, contain computer-aided-design and other critical engineering data that is routinely exchanged between suppliers and automakers.
But automakers want their key suppliers to provide this engineering data in the same format that they use. Some Tier 1s are buying five to 10 systems to meet the needs of all their automotive customers. In a large company, with hundreds of users and customization, one of these systems easily can cost $1 million.
Magna testing OpenPDM
Magna quietly tested OpenPDM last year and now plans to use it to exchange data with at least two automakers this year, says Heinz Mayer, head of Magna Steyr's engineering information systems in Graz.
Magna Steyr, a subsidiary of Canada's Magna International Inc., does everything from engineering to full vehicle assembly, including the BMW X3 SUV in Graz. It also makes fuel systems, body modules and stampings.
Besides CAD models, OpenPDM will be used to exchange bill of material - that is, a list of the parts, materials and tools required to manufacture the product - along with engineering change requests and other engineering data and documents.
"We decided to have a central framework to exchange data, rather than having to use the tools that our customers use," Mayer says. "This is being driven by a simple, economic reason: We want to eliminate our proprietary solutions and have one single framework for all of our interfaces with our customers."
Next month, Mayer expects Magna Steyr to begin exchanging engineering data on production parts with an undisclosed automaker. He would not divulge the savings that Magna Steyr expects as it reduces the number of product-data systems it uses.
The consortium of German automakers and suppliers includes the BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler AG, Volkswagen AG, General Motors Europe's Opel, Robert Bosch GmbH, Continental Teves AG, Siemens AG and Delphi Corp. The OpenPDM product is expected to be marketed globally by PROSTEP AG, a company created by the consortium.