iBase-t Delivers Medical Device Manufacturing Solution to Simplify the Complex at D&K Engineering

Solution to accelerate New Product Introduction and digital transformation across complex, highly engineered manufacturing operations

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. – July 30, 2020 iBase-t, a leading provider of manufacturing, quality and MRO solutions, announced today that D&K Engineering, an expert in providing product design and contract manufacturing services for high-innovation content, hardware-based products and equipment, is implementing iBase-t’s medical device manufacturing execution and quality solution. iBase-t will provide the necessary infrastructure to digitalize D&K Engineering’s shop floor operations followed by future easing of supplier quality management.

As a medical device manufacturer, D&K is tasked with quickly ramping up new, complex engineering and production processes within a highly regulated environment. Process and documentation must be strictly adhered to assure quality and compliance. The company must also quickly and easily pivot to new or modified production processes, as needed. 

“We are impressed with iBase-t’s pre-configured solution, which has been instrumental in our digital transformation strategy. The complexity and cost of paper-based processes was just too high,” said Jason Guhse, Associate Director of Information Systems, D&K Engineering. “iBase-t’s solution lets us quickly apply engineering changes and design updates during New Product Introduction, unlocking greater value to our customers.”

“D&K Engineering represents an important proof-point that iBase-t’s product, software, and services solution is a great fit beyond our roots in the aerospace and defense industry,” said Naveen Poonian, Chief Executive Officer of iBase-t. “Our complex discrete manufacturing, quality, and sustainment industry knowledge combined with our out-of-the-box solution helps us to better serve this critical and growing industry.”

About D&K Engineering
D&K Engineering provides Total Commercialization Solutions® for products and instruments that have high innovation content and complex manufacturing lifecycles. Our capabilities span the entire product lifecycle, including requirements definition, systems architecture, concept creation, design, prototyping, manufacturing, and after-market support. From Fortune 100 to early-stage startups, our clients leverage D&K’s infrastructure and TCS approach to evolve hardware, systems and product ideas through all development stages and into stable manufacturing. Our experience-driven engineering, manufacturing and supply chain services get products to market faster with a lower overall cost of development, providing a significant competitive advantage for our customers. We are headquartered in San Diego, California, and have additional development and manufacturing sites in Singapore and Malaysia.

About iBase-t
iBase-t is a leading provider of manufacturing, quality and MRO solutions that enable digital continuity across the enterprise. With 30+ years of experience in highly engineered, regulated industries, iBase-t simplifies the complex by empowering customers to gain real-time visibility, take control, and drive velocity across their operations and extended value chain. iBase-t works closely with industry leaders, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and Patria Belgium Engine Center. Learn more at iBase-t.com.

Best-of-Breed vs. Best-of-Suite Solutions – Making an Important OT Architectural Decision

Making the Most Important OT Architectural Decision

After 25 years as an analyst, the number one architectural discussion I most often get involved with is the topic of best-of-breed vs. single suite when it comes to software. 

In some cases, it has been the IT function wanting to drive a single vendor ERP-based suite across the entire enterprise both horizontally and vertically as far as they can. Often the operational side of the business resists based on usability and fit-for-purpose arguments and pushes for a targeted application such as an MES/MOM package, an EH&S package, or a CMMS/EAM solution instead of using the ERP vendors offerings for those functions. 

Although rarely, sometimes the positions are reversed with operational management pushing to do more with what is already in place to minimize further investments while IT pushes back knowing that the suite vendor’s capabilities in those areas are falling behind the market and not up to the demands of digital transformation today.

The Evolution of Suite Solutions

At the dawn of the digital age, every software application was a point solution.  Accounting software was the first area that digital computers really made an impact.  Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable software could even be different packages while General Ledger and Payroll were usually always separate applications. The topic of best-of-breed vs. single suite was never even considered.

Manufacturing planning, maintenance operations, and compliance reporting packages then started hitting the marketplace in the late 1980s to early 1990s.  In the Mid ’90s, ERP burst upon the scene with the integration of manufacturing planning and all accounting functions in a single solution.  Early ERP vendors kept expanding functionality adding customer relationship management, human resources, supply chain, and product planning and execution capabilities. This trend continued when they began incorporating the capabilities of MES/MOM and CMMS/EAM solutions going at the turn of the millennia.  

There are distinct advantages to having a highly integrated data set and solution:

  • The integration provides a systemic view of operations and reduces latency 
  • A single suite is easier to maintain since package/functional integration is supposedly inherent
  • A common user interface (UI) can reduce training costs for staff that use multiple functions
  • Outsourced implementation and support services are readily available, at least for major packages
  • A single source of the “truth” for reporting provides greater accuracy

However, many times these advantages are more myth than fact.  

Read more about the convergence of IT and OT architectures as another factor that can influence this decision.

It is hard to argue with the fact that true integration is desirable. The challenge is that in many cases the ERP suites are typically the result of acquisitions. A common company name or logo doesn’t guarantee seamless, inherent integration. The pursuit of a common user interface often continues to evolve.  

Even if there is a common UI, it has often evolved from the core functional positioning of the original ERP product or user.  For a long time, ERP packages had a UI that only an accountant would find user friendly.  While third-party support may be available, it is often expensive and without the necessary internal skills on a 24×7 basis.  Also, third parties may not have the industry domain expertise necessary to fully optimize the solution.

Innovation at the Edge

It is generally recognized in the software industry that innovation often comes from smaller firms.  It is a reason why many larger firms continue to grow by acquisition versus organic evolution.  A domain expert or practitioner gets an idea on how to automate a task or function and then develops new software to drive the innovation to market.  

These fit-for-purpose solutions generally have highly intuitive UIs and functional capabilities that truly are best-of-breed (BOB).  Whether it is MES/MOM, MRO, or supply chain capabilities, specialized solutions often provide greater functionality and flexibility since they are designed for specific tasks as opposed to a “one size fits most” approach of single-vendor solutions.  

Where the larger vendors challenge BOB solutions it is usually on:

  • Cost of supporting multiple interfaces
  • Lack of a single data model, leading to data integration challenges
  • Security issues due to multiple sign-ons 
  • Training costs for multiple UIs
  • Internal support costs to maintain multiple systems

These are all valid criticisms but are not insurmountable challenges.  As interfaces have become more standardized and use common APIs, this challenge is rapidly becoming a minor issue.  Likewise, data integration standards and industry-standard data models have also mitigated this challenge in the evaluation of a best-of-breed vs. single suite solution.  

Security issues are manageable, and many organizations are opting for Cloud-based solutions that facilitate a single sign-on approach.  Finally, there are multiple ways of dealing with UI issues.  One approach is to front-end all applications with a common UI.  Another approach is to move to simplified UIs that are role dependent that also work with mobile devices and AI to facilitate voice and other enhanced interaction modes.

Deciding on the Right Approach

While the argument frequently pushed is one is better than many, in data processing research dating back to the 1970s at the Lund Institute in Sweden it was proven that a better expression is “fewer is better than many, but one might be too few.”  Just as standards such as Bluetooth (another Lund invention) have made it possible for me to use third party Bluetooth devices like a keyboard, mouse and headset with my multiple Apple devices, they are facilitating simplifying integration at the industrial level.  Still, I have opted to have my phone and laptop both be Apple for a reason, the tighter integration of those solutions is critical.  Other devices less so and the occasional hiccup during upgrades are minor.  

This analogy also applies in the industrial world. Opting for a common OT platform that is BOB for your needs that also ties to a common enterprise business platform and a common automation platform makes sense. 

Read more about this topic in my next post, Best-of-Breed vs. Single Suite – Picking an MES.

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Tying Together All the Threads of a Digital Cloth

Tying Together All the Threads of a Digital Cloth

My three previous blog posts on the Digital Cloth outlined “what is a digital cloth”, “how to design digital cloth” and “why the digital cloth is so important in MRO centric industries”. My final post in this series is a look into the types of digital continuity, where all the threads originate, and the types of data they can all bring together, as the threads of a digital cloth. 

As noted in my previous posts, the numerous types of digital design and production data all originate in different phases of a system or product’s lifecycle, are created by different groups, and are used in different ways.  This system complexity is why it is imperative to have:

  • A good design for how things are weaved together
  • The right technology to build, manage and maintain your digital cloth
  • A knowledgeable partner to help keep it all tied together

Depending on the product or complex system there can be dozens of Digital Threads or virtual product representations.  The following table presents just some of the types of Digital Models that may need to be tied together.


Table courtesy of The Analyst Syndicate


Rub-a-dub-dub, the Supplier, the Designer, the Maker, the Maintainer

The origin of the phrase “the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick-maker goes back to literature in the 1850s but has become synonymous with the variety of people, trades, or businesses that operate together in a commercial system.  

In manufacturing this also holds true.  All across the value chain, from the tier two or three suppliers all the way to the OEM and the end customer or asset owner/operator, today’s business requires digital continuity – typically digital threads –  that make integrated systems design, manufacture, and operations including maintenance possible.  

For a complex product such as an aircraft, there may literally be hundreds of unique digital models for each individual product.  They can be for a component, a device, a subsystem, a system, or the metasystem that comprises the entire lifecycle of the product.  And each of the layers may have any of the types of models from the table above. 

It is this complexity and the technical nature of the data that makes integrating the digital threads from all of these systems such a challenge.  It is why getting the right technology, not just to establish digital continuity today, but for new systems and procedures coming in the future as technology continues to evolve.

Digital Thread Guide

iBase-t to Sponsor MOM Institute Webinar: Time to Rethink the RFP Process for MES

iBase-t to Sponsor MOM Institute Webinar: It is Time to Rethink the RFP Process for MES

WHAT: This iBase-t sponsored webcast will look at how the Request for Proposal (RFP) process must adapt, given that legacy MES and Quality applications have become monolithic dinosaurs. Next-generation agile solutions offer more robust capabilities powered by new technologies. Those seeking to take advantage of these new offerings – including retiring “homegrown” systems and paper-based processes – should attend to better understand the opportunity cost of missing out on this next level of innovation in manufacturing. 

WHO: Jan Snoeij, President and Sr. Business Consultant at the MOM Institute, will share his recommendations on how to best plan a new MES RFP evaluation process to ask the right questions. Identifying the best, modern MES begins with the RFP process in order to best align current and future needs. Jan brings over 35 years of experience in advising and supporting the improvement of operational processes at industrial enterprises. 

WHERE: Register here: https://info.ibaset.com/webinar-rethink-rfp-process-for-mes.

WHEN: See it on Wednesday, July 22 from 8:00 am – 8:30 am PDT.


About iBase-t
iBase-t is a leading provider of manufacturing, quality and MRO solutions that enable digital continuity across the enterprise. With 30+ years of experience in highly engineered, regulated industries, iBase-t simplifies the complex by empowering customers to gain real-time visibility, take control, and drive velocity across their operations and extended value chain. iBase-t works closely with industry leaders, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and Patria Belgium Engine Center. Learn more at ibaset.com

Technology’s Role in Shifting Manufacturing Back to Industrialized Nations

Technology’s Role in Shifting Manufacturing Back to Industrialized Nations

As we mark the halfway point through 2020, it certainly has been a year of disruption, extreme challenge, and rapid change. Technology has played a central role in solving issues, creating new opportunities, and accelerating the rate of change that is now possible. And, most importantly, increasing the efficiency of communications on a global scale. Given the current global political and economic conditions, technology now appears poised to drive more manufacturing activity back to the U.S. and other industrialized nations.

It is no secret the importance of technology in how we live our lives and operate our businesses. This impact is only getting stronger and more pervasive. According to statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the digital economy accounted for 6.9 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, or $1.35 trillion, in 2017. During this same period, the digital economy supported 5.1 million jobs, which accounted for 3.3 percent of total U.S. employment of 152.1 million jobs. I expect these figures to continue on their growth trajectory. 

Technology’s Impact on Manufacturing 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution brought the Internet to manufacturing, providing new access and visibility to intelligence data that is driving new levels of smart manufacturing and greater productivity to the shop floor. Industry pundits are quick to point to the future growth potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital platforms and ecosystems, as well as new digital products and services. 

But technology does not make change. Rather, it is an enabler of change. Disruptive events occur. People working at companies do the best they can to adapt, which then drives innovation and change. We see this today with the coronavirus. What emerges from today’s disruptions is likely be a few long-lasting impacts that might surprise you. 

Adaptation in the World of COVID-19

If I had asked you to predict a growth industry for 2020 just six months ago, I doubt acrylic glass or plexiglass would have been in your top 50. Today this industry is white-hot. As outlined in this Forbes article, Ohio-based Plaskolite experienced a huge surge in orders as the coronavirus pandemic gained momentum in mid-March. As a company with $650 million in sales last year in a $4 billion market, they are now operating on a 24/7 basis, have ramped up production to nearly 100% of capacity, and face a backlog of nearly 15 weeks for every product they make. 

Demand has gone through the roof. And, as you might expect, this surge has created big problems with how they are managing production processes and their supply chain. Many customers are new (ex: Walmart) from new industries. These clients are ordering large quantities with different product requirements and expectations. 

AI and machine learning technologies are really of no help during a time of rampant change. These technologies require high volumes of data archives to systematically identify patterns and perform the necessary regression analyses to start predicting probable outcomes. This information then becomes intelligence, with an ability to trigger alerts and predictive signals. In an environment where change has been swift and almost random, the technology that is now playing a primary role in manufacturing “survivability” has been the ability to respond quickly to change

It makes sense. We all know that if you are a “first mover,” then the competitive advantage will soon follow. Today, you need to be a “first” or “early” mover to just be in the game and capture sales. As we saw with the earlier Plaskolite example, if that company was not able to pivot quickly, all the new sales would have been lost to the competition. 

Today’s focus on the digital thread helps to pivot quickly, as outlined in this article, “Weaving Digital Threads into a Digital Cloth.”

Compressing the Supply Chain

When you operate in an environment with violent change, resiliency and agility cannot work with a supply chain that delivers WIP that takes six weeks to arrive from overseas. New Product Introduction now could require components that are available in hours or days, not weeks or months. 

A heightened need for operational agility coupled with a nationalistic political environment has created a compelling case to bring more manufacturing back to the U.S. and other industrialized nations. The cost advantages come with too high a price, paid for by a lack of sufficient flexibility and responsiveness to change. 

Overcoming Cost Challenges

The higher cost of labor in the U.S. and other industrialized nations was an early contributing factor that first pushed manufacturing offshore. If manufacturers are going to build a compelling case to “onshore” manufacturing back home, then a cost rationalization must be made. 

Here is where smart manufacturing technologies are coming of age. Manufacturers can operate with greater flexibility and responsiveness. Employees can have a greater, more direct impact on profitability while managing Lean, process improvement, and other corporate cost reduction programs. With a greater ability to control their own destiny, manufacturers are empowered to be more independent, understand what changes are possible, and implement new changes quickly. 

Where do you sit in your digital transformation journey? Have you allocated more, less, or the same resources to this overall strategy? I would be interested to hear your story as well as the rationale on how that decision is impacting today’s performance.

idc tech spotlight report

Q&A from Webinar on PBEC’s Digital MRO Transformation

Q&A from Webinar on PBEC’s Digital MRO Transformation

We recently hosted a webinar chronicling Patria / Belgium Engine Company’s (PBEC) journey to upgrade both their ERP and MRO operations to remove manual, paper-based processes. Their journey was a long and challenging one that could be viewed as climbing a glacier! During this broadcast on their digital MRO transformation, Sophie Nissenbaum, Improvement Project Manager at PBEC, explained her company’s amazing story and the resulting benefits achieved so far. 

Watch a recording of this webinar here.

Since airing this presentation, we received many questions on what was involved and how challenges were overcome, so we thought it would be helpful to share these insights for others that are either starting or in the middle of their digital MRO transformation. 


Question #1: Do you now have better visibility to ETC (Estimated Time of Completion) of the overall assembly via the system?

Yes. Our solution contains several dashboards to supervise and follow activities. The Dispatch of Work Orders by Sales Order is one such report, which is now actively used. This report provides improved visibility; another related report is the Scheduled and Revised Start/End Dates for Work Orders report, which also helps with better planning and scheduling of when repairs will be completed. 


Question #2: Can you describe how you track WIP now versus before?

PBEC now has layouts in its iBase-t solution that have been used “as is,” as well as data that can now be readily extracted or combined with other reports. PBEC now has visibility on the location of parts, who is working on them, what next steps should be taken. 


Question #3: You mentioned that the data migration process was difficult – why, and what was involved?

This project’s data migration was hard because data was extracted from PBEC’s G5 Oracle database to iBase-t’s G8 Solumina SQL Server database, which included special characters with French accents. At the time, this created a problem, so a fix was needed. In addition, the data had to be migrated with up to 15 different business rules to be considered, creating further complexity. Some examples included:

  • Export jurisdiction management
  • Process specs to move from a configured Tab in Solumina (G5) to an Out-of-the-box File in G8 with naming convention management to insert or not in the process plan revision during migration
  • How to modify the work centers of the process plan operations, and then update some operations (an optional flag was created)
  • The process to re-organize the sequence of operations during the migration
  • What part-naming convention was used in G5 to define the destination plan type
  • How to best manage the obsolete task groups from the G5 process plan revisions


Question #4: How and who did your training for the new MRO solution?

We organized our training for employees to effectively use all of the new features, using our own PBEC staff. 


Question #5: How many and what type of users did you have in your plant? How did you manage data continuity with these users? 

We had about 90 employees at that time, which included 65 who were using Solumina. There were approximately 50 operators/inspectors, 4 supervisors, 2 Quality managers, 7 engineers, and a few others with more general titles in management roles. With regard to data continuity during our digital MRO transformation, we transferred all the WIP, stock, and user data into the new system. 


Question #6: How did you measure the business impact and value of this project?

There were several KPIs we were tracking, but one of the top ones was to reduce our TAT (turn-around-time), reduce manual entries, reduce human errors, improve access to data, and how to be more self-sufficient by having an in-house team that knows all of our processes. Each of these objectives was addressed and achieved with our iBase-t solution. 


Question #7: What logic did you use to determine component disposition? Can your iBase-t MRO solution recommend a disposition based on history, by Part or Serial Number?

We did leverage disposition logic, but not based on historical data like PN or SN. Instead, the disposition choice was done by the MRO Operator based on their inspection and experience. When a part is removed, the MRO Operator must select the Component Disposition (e.g. Scrap, Serviceable, Repair Order, …) and additional info (e.g. Return to Stock, Send to Kitting, External Repair, …).  This choice is made manually, Component by Component (or by Lots of Lot Controlled Components). For PBEC, specific Business Rules were implemented as per PBEC’s pre-defined process, which is then known by the system at each step. This directed approach only presents the appropriate next steps for Disposition. For example, if a Module is to be sent back to a Customer A, then when the MRO Operator scraps a Component, the disposition choice is limited to just “Return to Vendor.” This process might be different for Customer B. The logic behind these options is managed by the PBEC administrator who maintains the business rules in the admin tables of Solumina.

Also, when an MRO Operator requests a Repair Order from Solumina (integrated with their SAP ERP), the system notifies the user when a Repair Order of the same activity has already been created for this Component. This logic has been implemented to avoid the potential for human errors arising from multiple Order requests.

MRO Whitepaper

The Digital Cloth of Model-Based MRO Operations

The Digital Cloth of a Model-Based MRO Enterprise

In complex, discrete manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations are critical over the entire lifecycle of the products.  With sustainment becoming a key element in the buying decisions of both government and civilian programs manufacturers are increasingly responsible for products over their entire lifecycle.  The days of disengagement after acceptance testing and signoff have passed.  Now is the time to adopt a digital cloth in MRO operations. 

MRO activities are as much a part of program delivery as the design phase, testing, and initial delivery.  The digital threads created in the design and manufacturing phases will not suffice as the product exists in the field, undergoing a lifetime of maintenance and repair activities including upgrades.  Hence, the importance of the idea of Digital Cloth, introduced in two previous posts, “Weaving Digital Threads into a Digital Cloth” and “Digital Cloth Is the Fabric of Industry 4.0.”  

Manufacturers Are Increasingly Responsible Over a Product’s Entire Lifecycle.  

With many buyers now specifying procurement cost to include support and enhancement phases over a program’s anticipated lifecycle, manufacturers are increasingly responsible for and engage with the support, maintenance, repair, and overhaul of the platforms they provide.  

MRO activities need to be considered as part of the initial design, not added later as an afterthought, to become part of an MRO digital cloth.  

Some of the implications of this transition are:

  • All 3D design documents, electrical and electronic schematics, hydraulic designs, and all other documentation must be handed over to the asset owners as part of delivery on a device-by-device basis
  • Maintenance requirements must be identified up-front by the OEM, often in conjunction with the asset owner and applicable regulatory agency
  • OEMs are expected to be a strategic partner, not just a supplier; therefore OEMs are involved in MRO parts supply and logistics upfront
  • OEMs are part of the operational contract support (OCS) mix, including providing technical support and technicians to augment the asset owner’s resource
  • OEMs are jointly responsible for maintaining Bills of Materials (BOMs) beyond delivery, to include as-delivered, as-commissioned, as maintained, as overhauled, or as-upgraded

It is impossible to accomplish these tasks if paper-based processes are anywhere in the loop.  Another big issue is the involvement of manual processes.  Those using analog processes are susceptible to mechanics manually entering updates, serial numbers, or compliance steps into an ERP or other system of record.  Under these scenarios, it is easy to “fat finger” or juxtapose a number that can cause an issue.  Further, lost paper cards/travelers, smudged entries, or documents mistakenly put in the pocket and taken home.  This industry is realizing that the only solution is to go digital.  Given there will be disparate systems, it follows that there will be many digital threads, so it will be necessary to interface and interconnect all these threads as a digital MRO cloth.  

Here is where the need for the Digital Cloth is an ideal approach and the best solution.  Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Vice President Mike Cacheiro validated this concept when he said, “The Digital Tapestry allows us to operate in an interconnected environment that breaks down barriers both between various internal stakeholders and externally with our supply chain partners.” Cacheiro was referencing their own implementation of a Digital Cloth, as described in this article published in the Supply Chain NAVIGATOR.  

What an MRO-Oriented Enterprise Should Look For

To succeed in weaving a Digital Cloth that best supports complex manufacturing, particularly when sustainment is critical to program success, manufacturers should look for:

  • Ability to share 3D models via STEP and 3D PDF
  • Ability to share maintenance materials via standards like S1000D
  • Connectivity to leading ERP applications prevalent in MRO industries
  • Support for industry service standards such as FAA A, B, C and D Checks
  • Ability to handle field, depot and factory level repair/refurbishment sequences

MRO centric industries should expect more focus on sustainment and lifetime program support in the future.  As digital models become ever more commonplace in all aspects of manufacturing, they will be even more so in complex systems-oriented industries.  Now is the time to start making the move to a platform that will support each of the threads that comprise your Digital Cloth.