When DAS Environmental Expert GmbH (DAS EE for short) embarked on the journey from PDM to PLM, it was by no means foreseeable where the company would be today, some 2 years later. It has made a considerable leap digitally: from on-premises to the cloud; from M-CAD document management to multi-CAD connection to a proper PLM; from an interface between systemically separated ERP and PDM systems to a system in which users switch between ERP and PLM with the click of a mouse.
DAS Environmental Expert GmbH is a company that does most of its business where hardly anyone can look: in the so-called Sub Fab. This is the level below the production of chips and semiconductors. While the clean room of the production has to be cleaner than a room in a hospital, the sub fab treats used exhaust gases and waste water of different kinds in order to either bring them cleaned back into the production cycle or to dispose of them. Systems and equipment for this purpose are supplied by DAS EE.
In addition to this most important business area, which plays a crucial role in reducing harmful environmental impacts in the promising semiconductor industry, DAS EE also offers expertise, equipment and services for the treatment of industrial and sanitary wastewater. With a clear focus on biological agents and methods. A typical hidden champion, that is the impression after the visit to the recently expanded Dresden headquarters, where about 500 of the more than 800 employees worldwide are employed.
The visit, including a tour of the plant, was organized by Marketing Manager Daniela Georgi. In a detailed discussion, Anja Scholze, Team Lead Projects & Business Applications, and Sylvio Kipke, Director Global Engineering, explained the selection process and the first experiences with the two new systems in productive use. This revealed a truly unusual picture. Two software systems that are central to an industrial company, ERP and PLM, were introduced at the same time, and of course this also meant that almost all of the company’s critical data had to be migrated from the old systems. Two years is not much time for that. And the success is already much greater than expected.
Double system selection based on clear criteria
A change from Navision to the current Microsoft ERP offering Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&SCM (Finance & Supply Chain Management) was on the agenda. The IT supplier Cosmo Consult SI drew the attention of the team at DAS to the possibility of switching to a solution fully embedded in Dynamics with Bluestar PLM from the Danish manufacturer PDM technology. This promised to kill two birds with one stone and was looked at more closely.
Anja Scholze, Team Lead Projects & Business Applications, and Sylvio Kipke, Director Engineering Global (Photo Sendler)
Soon the project team grew to about 40 men and women. Sylvio Kipke: “Practically all departments were affected by the double system change. We decided to use the opportunity to turn our entire processes from left to right so that the new systems could have the best possible effect. Ten out of 15 departments were represented by their key users, from engineering to production and controlling to service and back office.”
In fact, the major advantages of the new solutions already became apparent during the selection phase. Whereas with Microsoft and PDM technology, cloud use was included in the offer and the interface between ERP and PLM was simply not an issue at all, with the old PDM system, on the one hand, a new interface to Microsoft Dynamics would have had to be built, and on the other hand, a new one would have had to be built again in a future that was not precisely defined, namely when this PDM system would have made its own way into the cloud. That was a systemic knock-out criterion.
But the way in which the PDM/PLM functionalities critical to DAS EE were demonstrated and explained also had an impact on the decision-making process. The vendor of the old PDM could only show some functionality in a PowerPoint presentation, not live. For example, the configurator, which was marketed as integrated. With Bluestar, on the other hand, the module for configuration was demonstrated live. Sylvio Kipke: “If you see that with one provider, PowerPoint is simply not an alternative with which you feel comfortable with the other.”
View into an assembly hall (Photo Sendler)
The most important criteria for the system selection were ultimately the support of variantbased work, the eBOM/mBOM Builder module for production BOMs and the configurator. The fact that Bluestar PLM is just as internationally positioned as Microsoft was of course also not unimportant for the global company DAS EE.
After all, it was no child’s play to make a double system change with long-term effect. That the decision would turn out to be the right one in many respects could not have been foreseen two years ago.
From PDM to PLM
With the old PDM system, the engineers were able to manage mainly their mechanical components. The MCAD system Creo Parametric from PTC was connected to the PDM via an interface, which allowed an exchange of parameters between PDM and CAD. Eplan, used for electrical design, was not connected.
The connection to ERP ran via another interface. If you wanted to do something in ERP from PDM or vice versa, you first had to start the other system. Two interfaces with different familiarity. Without a deeper coupling, there could be no question of a “single point of truth”.
“We had intensive discussions with many of those involved, for whom the idea of truly integrated product lifecycle management was new due to the previous system landscape,” says Anja Scholze. “Until then, everyone had their own core system. The now uniform user interface, from which both ERP and PLM functions can be easily called up, has brought about an enormous change here.”
And Sylvio Kipke adds: “Just like the fact that we have now connected Eplan in addition to Creo and integrated software development in the form of source code documents. This consistency was missing in engineering before.”
A data model that matches the engineering process
At DAS EE, the main products are systems that accommodate in the size of a cabinet what is needed in each case in semiconductor manufacturing for waste gas purification and partial wastewater treatment. Wet scrubbers, burner scrubbers, separators and dry burners make up the technology families, which in turn are divided into several product families. Is the gas supplied from above or from below? Is the burner oriented upward or downward? Where is the burner positioned? This is not large-scale production, but quite typical variant production.
Sylvio Kipke: “Each product family has a 150% master from which the individual variant can be derived. Each of our systems, built exactly according to customer-specific requirements, is a variant that is configured from the master. In this respect, the support of the configuration by PLM was a very central criterion for us. Bluestar PLM brings this along in a form that makes it well usable for our processes.”
At the core of Bluestar PLM’s data model is the Engineering Object. Each master has an object ID from which each variant ID can be derived. This is worked on in engineering at DAS EE until a variant can be released.
STYRAX, one of the product lines (Image DAS EE)
Productive since the beginning of 2023 with usage figures that speak for themselves
Anja Scholze is visibly satisfied that she can say shortly after the ERP/PLM solution went live: “Now we really do not only have design or even exclusively mechanical engineering as users, but practically everyone who has to do anything with the product data. And that was exactly our goal, to include significantly more departments in the processes based on the article master data. We had about 60 users of the old PDM, with Bluestar PLM there are now about 300 worldwide. In the USA, some are already actively contributing data, in Taiwan and China we have about 40 mainly reading users. The prospect is more users in Japan and South Korea. We now have a PLM system.”
Assembly of a system (Photo DAS EE)
In this regard, the system has already helped to optimize and redesign processes during the introductory phase. This is because there is also an integrated module in Bluestar PLM that supports Business Process Management: BPM. If the processes, their workflows, and their individual tasks are described with it, then the system offers a transparency that lets you see immediately at which point, for example, difficulties repeatedly arise that require a correction in the process. So, the processes are not only well mapped. They show when their selfoptimization is called for.
And another figure speaks for itself. Everyone in the industry knows how important the Engineering Change Order (ECO) is, especially in variant production. With the old system, the change process was not system-guided, but ran via manual specifications and emails, i.e. completely outside the PDM. Sylvio Kipke says: “We currently have 2,152 ECOs in the system. Just under a quarter have already been implemented, for a good quarter there is a corresponding requirement, and about half are being implemented. Before the rollout, we wouldn’t have been able to give numbers. Now we know more precisely where we stand in detail.”
The double system change was a considerable success. Even the now common user interface for ERP and PLM makes this visible. By the way, for users worldwide who access the data, PDM technology added an English only read interface in addition to the German language one. For this, Bluestar PLM Web Platform is the service tool that makes customization easy.
The appetite comes while eating. Regarding PLM, DAS EE is experiencing just that. The BPM module has helped to make the processes around the already existing product families transparent. At the same time, it is a tool that now further helps to divide all products in the house into product families with 150% masters and variants thereof. So that an mBOM can be derived for each product from an eBOM.
Concluding this study, it is clear that the transition to Bluestar PLM represents a significant advancement, however with some persistent challenges in the implementation process. Both the DAS EE team and the Bluestar PLM representatives maintain a resolute commitment to jointly refine the system’s efficiency in future operations. Their mutual dedication to this partnership is assured to foster continuous improvements and achieve long-term success in their operational processes.