Sikorsky flies high with new PLM system

Helicopter manufacturer aims to shorten build time and double its business

Sikorsky Aircraft was looking for a way to quickly boost business without spending a lot of extra money. What the U.S.-based helicopter manufacturer wanted to do was shorten the time it took to build its helicopters -- and double its business by 2010, according to Richard Parr, who was the LCA (Lifecycle Assessment) Project Lead for Sikorsky.

Over the last 60 years, Sikorsky -- which finished 2005 with sales of more than US$2.5 billion -- has introduced more than 50 different helicopter models. Its models include the H-60 BLACK HAWK, which is used by all five branches of the U.S. military and more than two dozen governments around the world, Sikorsky said.

But legacy systems and formats limited interoperability at the company, making collaboration and review difficult and delaying the completion of designs. That, in turn, forced Sikorsky designers to use incomplete or outdated product data, which sometimes meant work had to be redone, according to Parr.

To meet its aggressive business goals, Sikorsky settled on version 5 of the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tool from Paris-based Dassault Systems, with the software running on Dell Precision workstations. The products being used include Dassault's CATIA V5 for 3D digital product definition and ENOVIA VPLM for collaborative product knowledge management, according to Sikorsky.

The company selected version 5 of the PLM tool to transform its product development environment into a single, digital platform where engineers can work seamlessly with the many design and development groups in the company as well as with outside partners, according to the company.

Previously, the company relied on file-based 3D data management processes that were unable easily exchange information.

The change is enabling Sikorsky to move from a file-based environment to the powerful data search and management capabilities of virtual product data management inherent in Dassault's products. Sikorsky expects the new system to allow it to retire multiple, often overlapping legacy systems and modernize its application infrastructure, reduce operating costs and significantly boost productivity.

Based on an in-house analysis, Sikorsky expects to improve engineering design productivity by at least 25 percent.

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