Hitachi Rail Adopts PTC PLM Globally

At the upper-end of the product lifecycle management (PLM) software market, brand new deals are rare, and expanding business with existing customers is much more common. To that end, PTC recently announced that Hitachi, Ltd. Rail Systems has selected the PTC Global Product Development solution based on PTC Windchill PLM technology as its single enterprise platform for global product development throughout its railway vehicle engineering and manufacturing business.
Hitachi, the only railway systems integrator in Japan, designs, manufactures, and services railway vehicles, traffic control and signal systems, and railway facilities/equipment for railway companies. The company is one of the five companies to design/produce high-speed rail trains (such as the Shinkansen bullet trains) in Japan. Hitachi also produces and sells many other rail vehicles (for Japan Railways, private railway companies, and monorail companies), as well as railway traffic control systems.
In 2012, the company signed a contract with the British Transportation Ministry for production and maintenance of approximately 600 train vehicles. After being awarded the contract and over two decades of maintenance support for the Intercity Express Program in the U. K., Hitachi decided to build a production facility in the U.K. to produce the vehicles locally. The company is propelling the business strategy of global deployment of its “technologies cultivated in Japan,” and is planning to further expand its business in the U.K and China.
Hitachi recognized that it needed a world-class PLM solution that would provide a unified and consistent view of all product data to meet its innovation and quality goals for the new center as well as drive product development innovation and success in an intensifying global competitive landscape. Additionally, the limited availability of external resources with traditional Japanese craftsmanship skills to support development of its custom-ordered railway vehicles elevated Hitachi’s need to automate its product development processes and enhance its production environment.
Further, because Hitachi’s engineering team works in a multi-computer-aided design (CAD) environment using both 2D and 3D CAD tools (AutoCAD and SolidWorks), Hitachi needed a system with the flexibility and broad capabilities to manage heterogeneous CAD data. The company also required the capability to manage the engineering bill of materials (eBOM) and the manufacturing bill of materials (mBOM).
The implementation of the PTC solution has reportedly increased Hitachi’s visibility into daily workload on the shop floor by improving the accuracy of bill of material (BOM) information, resulting in part inventory level, component, and materials procurement process optimization. The Hitachi manufacturing team is now able to create more accurate plans, and has reportedly reduced its production lead-time, from component order through car assembly completion, by 20 percent. Specifically, the company reportedly achieved the following capabilities thus far:
  • Auto generation of eBOM from part section information in assembly drawings after it is created/approved in the design department.
  • Numbering of all purchase parts to identify production processes/sites which then are associated with process plans before being managed as mBOM information.
  • Shortening of manufacturing lead times by passing the above information to customers’ production systems, allowing them to set reasonable delivery times and distribute parts accordingly.
In addition to multi-CAD data management via Workgroup Manager, the initial project scope included the ability to establish a review/approval process of drawing/process plan, BOM-based configuration/document management, mBOM-based production information management, and system integration with existing drawing system, production system, and part information management system.
Hitachi has since expanded its use of the PTC solution to manage multiple configurations of its railway cars, enabling the company to flexibly support customer requirements. The company expects that the workload of its design engineers will also be substantially reduced as adoption of the PTC solution further accelerates. In addition, Hitachi plans to improve the accuracy of its manufacturing process and cost management by placing the scalable PTC solution at the center of the U.K. Intercity Express Program.
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