The sound of efficiency: Harman tunes up its product development processes

It’s unlikely that even the most informed audio equipment buyers realized that until recently the Harman Specialty Group’s product development methods were less than state-of-the-art. That changed when the group adopted a formal set of product life-cycle management (PLM) processes.
By Jim Fulcher, contributing editor September 26, 2007

Most audiophiles know the name Harman . Many of them also know
It’s unlikely, however, that even the most informed audio equipment buyers realized that until recently, Harman Specialty Group’s product development methods were less than state-of-the-art. That changed when the group adopted a formal set of product life-cycle management (PLM) processes.
“We were looking for ways to reduce product development time, improve accuracy and efficiency, and
A crucial step was installing a PLM system from Omnify Software .proved vendor lists (AVL) existed in different file formats stored on various servers throughout the company.
“Finding documents could take days,” Scott says. “Often, the documents didn’t exist, existed only on paper, or existed in a state where the accuracy of the file was suspect.”
Engineering changes presented more challenges. While documents relating to engineering change orders (ECO) were printed and manually routed for review, only people in the document control group actually understood how the engineering change review process worked. The design team members had no way of knowing the status of a change, or even where documents should be routed next.
Additionally, there was no formal procedure for notifying other reviewers whenever someone revised an ECO. Manually processing this information resulted in a number of change requests simply not being completed, without creating any record of why the projects had stalled.
Douglas says this led to the conclusion that Harman needed a unified system to manage, track, and store product information.
With the
Consequently, Harman employees can easily and quickly link all of the associated data with every part—including vendor datasheets, fabrication and assembly drawings, and programming files.
The processes of creating new parts or making changes to existing parts are now completely automated and supported by electronic documentation and workflow technology.
When new parts requests (NPR) are created, for example, the Omnify system immediately generates a new part number. The appropriate people also receive messages on their desktops, notifying them to go into the system to review the part number and an accompanying description, and sign off on the
Previously, the document control group created the part numbers and descriptions, and then routed paper documents containing that data through a cumbersome, manual sign-off process.
The Omnify System also streamlined Harman’s ECO process. All team members can check the status of an engineering change at any time. In addition, the change history tracking in Omnify allows users to see what was changed, why, and who made the change. This capability has established a level of accountability that did not exist before, Douglas says.
“The sign-off process for ECOs is now as short as a few hours, compared with the previous paper process that could take weeks,” Douglas adds.
Harman management has to like the sound of that.