Initial Situation

A Czech aircraft manufacturer and supplier of aircraft components with nearly 2,000 employees has the goal of moving up the supply chain from Tier2 to Tier1 supplier, thereby achieving higher margins and more reliable workloads. The introduction of a PLM system is one of the prerequisites, along with the acceptance of risks from the customer and compliance requirements from aviation regulatory authorities. In addition to contract manufacturing, the company would also like to take on development services for aircraft components in the future and thus achieve greater added value than in the past.

The company aims to work directly with 4 major aircraft manufacturers in the future, serving different model lines. The model lines usually have their own PLM environments of different PLM system providers at the customer. From these PLM environments, information is made available to suppliers as well as regular work results from the supplier are delivered back. In addition, release and change workflows are ideally to be served when working with customers.

The company has a large number of monolithic applications, some of which are interconnected via interface. Due to interface dependencies and the resulting need for adaptation, the majority of applications were not updated for many years. Information exists redundantly in the company and with different versions. Because of this reason, expensive and reputation-damaging manufacturing defects occur time and again, some of which are only noticed by customers during quality inspection.

Based on the consolidation of product information through the PLM implementation, the paper-based manufacturing documentation is to be converted to electronic work instructions, because reading the documentation in the manufacturing process as well as the handwritten documentation of the work steps cause a considerable amount of time and the electronic documentation is easier as well as more reliable to update. Moreover, this point is relevant to success because customers prefer electronic documentation to paper-based documentation.

Within the company, there is little to no expertise in the extensive compliance requirements of the major aviation regulatory agencies, FAA and EASA, which must be considered when designing the company’s internal processes and implementing the PLM environment. The company’s COO has a clear preference based on his experience with a large Tier1 supplier. The company is state-owned. The acquisition by a major aircraft manufacturer has just fallen through and negotiations with another major Tier1 supplier are in final talks. This potential new owner has a different PLM system preference than the company’s COO.

The company’s financial situation is tight and the budget is set accordingly low. The company receives state investment subsidies only for staff with domestic nationality.

  • Which PLM system best meets the individual requirements of the company and how can the decision be derived transparently as well as convincingly?
  • How can processes between customers and the company be automated?
  • How can internal company processes and their mapping in the PLM system be defined and implemented in accordance with compliance requirements despite a lack of specialist knowledge?
  • How can the existing CAD system and its inventory data be transferred to the new PLM environment?
  • How can the jungle of different applications and interfaces be reduced or dissolved?
  • How can information from a variety of storage locations be migrated into the PLM environment?
  • How can the PLM coupling to different PLM systems and PLM environments with different customer data models be implemented in the most cost-efficient way?
  • How can manufacturing quality and delivery reliability be improved?
  • How can work instructions be efficiently created and reliably updated after changes on a job-by-job basis?
  • How can work results be documented more efficiently down to the individual part level and thus made traceable?
  • And how is this solution feasible for a relatively small market player with a very limited budget within a short time?

After a selection phase, the company decided on a PLM consulting company and, following the determination of requirements, had an implementation solution presented to it. Another important aspect was the transparent preparation of the decision-making process as a basis for approval by state authorities or new owners.

Due to the limited aerospace compliance expertise within the company, as well as the tight schedule, the proposal calls for the use of a pre-defined aerospace PLM configuration. Although this is no longer completely up-to-date and also entails significantly higher licensing costs, there is no alternative due to the lack of an aerospace compliance knowledge base and likewise a lack of external consulting options. In addition, differences between the available compliance coverage and the current status can be maintained in the system. Despite this post-maintenance, the implementation effort remains at a small fraction of a completely manual implementation, thus meeting the requirement of a very limited implementation budget and the only limited availability of domestic and thus subsidizable skilled staff.

Information from proposed inventory applications is transferred to the PLM system via individual attributes. Only a few existing applications will remain for the time being due to budget constraints. The transfer of the majority of this remaining information as well as a connection to the ERP system is to be implemented in a following step. In the future, there should no longer be a comprehensive application connection via an interface network, and applications should thus be able to be kept up-to-date and adapted to the company’s processes.

Due to budget constraints, the company is foregoing PLM system interfacing to its customers for the time being and is instead leveraging customers’ various web access options and packaging solutions. Although this causes a higher process effort and complicates the cooperation with the development of the customers and other involved Tier1 suppliers, it is without alternative due to budget and time limitations.

The visualization for the digital work instructions is generated on the basis of the engineering BOM and the logistically prepared manufacturing BOM derived from it with additional manufacturing resources. The traceability of individual parts, the processes for their manufacture, and the processes for assembling components and finished parts, including quality parameters, which is mandatory in aviation, is achieved by linking the digital work instructions with the Manufacturing BOM and the Service BOM derived from it. In the Service BOM, products can be tracked and kept up to date throughout their lifecycle. For the company, this service component is important because it is part of the order from OEM customers and is part of the scope of services to be delivered. Digital work instructions on industrial tablets also reduce the time required for reading and manual entry. Employees are guided interactively from one work step to the next. Quality parameters are either entered manually or automatically transmitted to the PLM system by electronic torque wrenches. And updates are rolled out centrally on a job-by-job basis, avoiding situations where employees are working with outdated documentation.


The first step after the order was placed was to determine the requirements for a future solution at the company’s site. The company’s COO worked with the PLM consultant to develop its target vision. In the consulting documentation, 4 PLM solutions were compared on the basis of a decision matrix with customer-defined weighting. On this basis, the PLM consultant, together with a solution architect, designed a solution including effort estimation, team composition and team organization, system architecture and the required licenses.

After acceptance of the consulting service, the PLM Consultant adapted the documentation so that it can serve as a basis for tendering. This included the definition of work packages and services contained therein. The tender documentation was expanded to include a bid matrix to be used by bidders so that incoming bids could be made comparable.

Continued involvement as a vendor manager was halted by the company when the acquisition by a competitor was completed. This new owner already had an existing PLM infrastructure from another provider that was to be extended to the company. The new owner had the necessary aerospace compliance knowledge in-house.

Project Method

As a pure consulting project without implementation of a solution, no specific project methodology was used.


The biggest challenge was meeting an unreasonably small budget for an extensive service, which was solved by low initial costs but high ongoing costs. Lack of aerospace compliance expertise to define the company’s processes and PLM implementation was compensated for by using a preconfigured industry solution whose processes the company specifically wanted to follow. Another challenge was the COO’s goal, which was in contrast to the foreseeable new owner’s goal, and the time pressure that resulted.

Project Information

Project Duration: 3 weeks

Project Team: 1 PLM Consultant (full-time) and 1 Solution Architect (part-time)

Project Budget: 50,000 € consulting services, 500,000 € implementation + license and infrastructure costs


For me, this project was a typical consulting project that was driven very goal-oriented by one person of the company in order to enforce the already existing target against other members of the management and shareholders. The cooperation with the departments and the COO was excellent. In the end, the time factor decided the way forward due to the company’s quick agreement with the new owner.

My Employer

Vendor-independent PLM consulting company

My Role

I accompanied the consulting project as a PLM consultant, performed the requirements determination in the business units and the target vision definition with the COO. In addition, I used this as a basis to create the decision matrix as well as the consulting documentation and supported the solution architect in creating the effort estimation, team composition and proposed team organization. I derived tender documents including a bid matrix from the consultancy documentation and defined work packages together with the solution architect.