Genetec, Inc., located  in Montreal, Quebec, Canada is a pioneer in the physical security and public safety industry and a global provider of world-class IP video surveillance, access control and license plate recognition (LPR) solutions to markets such as transportation, education, retail, gaming, government and more. The company was recently named as the world's leading vendor of Video Management Software (VMS)* by IHS.

The Challenge

Genetec had previously implemented an open-source Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system to replace the use of spreadsheets for managing product information. Although they did realize some improvements in their processes, they needed to find a new PLM solution to meet their requirements in an electronic manufacturing environment. They found with the open-source solution that minimum functionalities such as reference designators, redlining, Bill of Material (BOM) compare, and importing capabilities had to be implemented via customization of the software. The time spent by software designers to customize the tool to meet their needs was extensive and counterproductive.

It was becoming important for Genetec to have the ability to catch product documentation problems early on, prior to manufacturing, and to have a complete history of the changes for accountability.  Genetec needed a PLM system that delivered robust, out-of-the-box functionality including: electronic management of part data, engineering changes, BOMs, and product documentation that did not require customization to implement. They also needed a system that offered easy integration with their existing engineering design tools (Altium Designer and SolidWorks) and the ability to interface with their ERP system (MS Dynamics) - at a price that made sense for their organization.

The Strategy

“After looking at some very expensive product data management (PDM)-style software from large corporations well known for their CAD systems, and also looking at Oracle Agile, we quickly nailed it down to Omnify Software,” stated Danny Roy, Hardware Development Manager for Genetec, Inc. “Ultimately, we were impressed by how easy the software seemed to configure and by how many functionalities this software offered out-of-the-box.”

“Migrating all of our data (including past revisions) from the old system to Omnify Empower PLM went seamlessly with the help of our assigned Omnify project engineer with only one day where users could not create new parts,” stated Mr. Roy.  “We had minimal time to invest on our side to export the data, and the instructions about the format Omnify needed were clear and easy to handle.”

The primary goal of implementing the Empower PLM solution was to fill the voids of their previous tools in order to make engineering processes, such as new part creation, completely automated and more formal. “Previously, MCOs/ECOs were processed in Excel, even while using the old PLM system, because it did not provide redlining functionality to easily visualize the details of product changes,” noted Mr. Roy.   

Another goal was to improve visibility across the organization with regards to hardware product changes.  This process was mature and well in place for software, but not for hardware.  Omnify Empower allows Genetec to automatically notify appropriate parties of the intended changes and when they become released.  “We already see the benefits with this aspect of the tool and it is not even considered fully deployed as we still have plans to make use of task assignment features and giving viewing abilities to other groups, such as technical documentation, in order to continuously improve the awareness across the organization and foster team communication,” said Mr. Roy. 

The integration with Altium Designer enables electronics designers to browse existing parts inside the Omnify Empower database directly from within their Altium environment. This promotes team collaboration by enforcing official library management for part symbols/footprints.  Designers can quickly determine if they need to create a new part in Omnify Empower, and then get immediate access to it in Altium during the approval process. BOMs can be exported from Altium and imported into Omnify easily and quickly, due to pre-configured mapping.  When a schematic is modified, an Engineering Change Order (ECO) is issued directly from a new BOM out of Altium and redlining on the existing products is automatically generated. “The loop is closed and efficient,” said Mr. Roy. “Omnify feeds Altium with parts, Altium feeds Omnify with design/assembly information such as BOMs and drawings and then Omnify confirms visually any change that was implemented in Altium at the schematics level.”

The process is similar with SolidWorks, except that parts are not browsed directly from within the SolidWorks environment.  The process is performed via a BOM export/import and accurate field mapping. “We are targeting to reach full integration with SolidWorks in the next few months by using the Omnify CAD toolkit, which will allow SolidWorks to push a BOM directly into Omnify,” noted Mr. Roy.  “Since the highest level BOM in the hierarchy is a mechanical assembly, for most of our products, SolidWorks has control over the final end-assembly details through its native PDM vault for progressive versioning during development, and once the design is ready to release to production, SolidWorks pushes this official released version (assembly) to Omnify and makes manufacturing documentation available to the NPI/production group.” 

The Results

Productivity has increased greatly since implementing Empower PLM with notable improvements in data quality and time savings.  With Empower PLM, Genetec has transitioned to a completely automated system for managing product documentation and changes and eliminated the need to partially manage processes in Excel spreadsheets. This environment removed the data integrity issues commonly associated with hand entering information into spreadsheets.

For the engineering group, the more formal and thorough part creation process now in place addresses issues early on. Parts are verified via an automated approval process before they are released and propagated to outside sub-contractors. Communications between the NPI/production group and engineering group has improved, with guided workflow approvals and easier traceability of product versions. 

Eliminating the need to customize the system or perform partially manual processes has saved the company a significant amount of time and money.  A design engineer is now able to import a large BOM (electronic board or mechanical assembly) into Omnify Empower, easily and within seconds. Genetec’s previous PLM system required a cut and paste, item-by- item.  Furthermore, Empower PLM offers the ability to compare BOMs between different, but similar flavors of the product, to quickly confirm that the new product version has been correctly implemented.

“Overall we executed close to ninety changes over the course of nine months and I could not imagine performing those changes via manual formatting in Excel,” said Mr. Roy.  “We have realized huge organizational benefits compared to our previous open-source PLM/Excel process including time-savings, improved data with completely automated processes, enhanced communication, and traceability of product change history.”