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Accelerating business confidence in the defence sector

Context

In the fast-growing defence sector, government clients are demanding that suppliers embrace digital twinning technology, as a way of improving performance, reducing operating costs and ultimately extending the lifespan of critical assets. To support this change, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced an incentivisation scheme to fast-track digital innovation in its supply chain.

From an engineering perspective, product lifecycle management (PLM) is at the heart of the digital twin, as that’s where all of the relevant digital product knowledge is stored. Engineering firms rely on ever-more sophisticated PLM tools to drive efficiencies in their design and delivery phases. With global competition increasing for contracts, PLM therefore is critical for accelerating speed to market.

The need to assure application quality through proactive Quality Assurance techniques has risen up the list of priorities, as manufacturers recognise the time-saving potential of accurate data migration and proactive management of costly defects in their PLM applications. Increased quality can help to de-risk the system and build confidence across the whole lifecycle.

Challenge

Our client is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers in the defence sector. Over the last 10 years, they have partnered with a PLM tool supplier to drive productivity improvements, establish common processes and enhance global collaboration across the lifecycle of its submarine programme.

The PLM tool provides their Engineers with the critical digital capability to support the design and manufacturing process. The integrity of the application is therefore vital for quick decision making, improving transparency, and assuring the accuracy of critical business information across the manufacturing value chain.

As the firm upgrades to the next version of the tool, Expleo is providing testing and quality assurance services to achieve a smooth migration and also strengthen the testing environment moving forward. PLM test cases are typically complex due to the number of configurations and the level of customisation, as well as the need for integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP), CAD and other applications.

Solution

With 15 years’ hands-on experience in this field – including privileged access to these PLM tools before they reach the open market – we were able to bring specialist expertise and focus the testing activity in the highest risk areas for maximum impact.

In particular, we have regulated the test schedule, improved reporting and analysis, and brought a consistent approach across the product lifecycle. We have set out clear defect standards to curb the back and forth between developers and testers, which can be caused by inaccurate or insufficient information.

Being an independent supplier is a benefit, as our people are experts in testing first, rather than development. As a result, we can offer honest, factual information for decision making.

Outcomes

We have helped to reduce speed to market from nine to three months. In the highly pressurised defence sector, that speed to market is a source of competitive advantage. The half year also equates to considerable savings, as the client has lower overhead costs for other PLM subcontractors such as the infrastructure partner, tool vendor, programme and project managers, systems integrators and data migration specialists.

We were able to provide the client with a level of transparency they hadn’t experienced before. As such, the client’s PLM system has increased confidence at every phase. At the same time, we were able to help the systems integrator to be more effective, by using our testing intelligence to provide clarity on the scope of what they needed to deliver. This collaborative approach led to clearer communications between the systems integrator and the client.

Our close working relationship with the PLM tool provider means we can help the client to prepare more effectively for future version updates. We know where the major areas of change are likely to be, so we can help to future proof the current system.

As a result, the client has a stronger and more efficient PLM test plan in place, gaining the foresight to identify mitigating actions early and keep operations on track. They know they are testing the right high-risk areas, which means that any possible delays to go-live are reduced significantly.

At Expleo, we challenge the traditional time-quality-cost triangle that states you can’t improve one, without making sacrifices on the other two. By helping clients to do the right things at the right moments – and by reducing the number of defects that pass from one phase of production to the next – we believe that improved quality will save both time and cost.