Powerway, Inc.’s software solutions help customers accelerate time tomarket via advanced collaboration and supplier community communication. Their solution is available as a Software-as-a-Servicemodel that extends to some 2000 organizations globally.
Manufacturing competes on a global scale nowadays with so many industries moving their manufacturing bases to Asia. In addition, automobile demand is growing on a global scale as China and India enter the age of the automobile.
The manufacturing climate on a worldwide scale means that the supply chain in industries such as automotive and aerospace are more dispersed than ever.
Ohio-based Powerway, Inc. doesn’t think this matters. For more than 20 years, Powerway has been assisting manufacturers gain a competitive advantage. Their software solutions help customers accelerate time to market via advanced collaboration and supplier community communication. Their solution is available as a Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) model that extends to some 2000 organizations globally.
Recently the company purchased Cohesia, a software developer that had established markets in the aerospace industry. Powerway, which had primary markets in the automotive sector, is set on developing its software licenses domestically as well as worldwide. The company plans to extend its strength to many different types of manufacturing.
To gain an understanding of the company’s products and services in the engineering software sector, we spoke to two executives from Powerway: Scott Conway, executive director of marketing, and Jim Kanir, Powerway’s executive vice president. Here’s how our conversation went:
Can you give us an overview of Powerway's solutions and what they do for engineering and manufacturing?
Conway: For many manufacturers, enterprise resource planning and product lifecycle management systems are deployed to manage relationships with a few key supply community members. System complexity and expense tend to exclude secondary suppliers from the control and benefit of the formal community. Powerway is the innovative solution for connecting the greater “dynamic community,” where tight integration would cost too much, take too long, and just not make sense.
We provide the technology and “community” framework for communication, collaboration, and orchestration of product specifications (and related issues) across the extended supply chain.
For instance, Mercedes Car Group, a division of Daimler AG, uses Powerway to collaboratively manage their Q-LIMA [Quality – Supplier Management] process with all of their Tier 1 suppliers. They conduct online roundtables with key managers throughout the 6-Gate product maturity process.
Your business is essentially software, right?
Kanir: Absolutely. We provide, really, a communications infrastructure where the exchange of applications can be accomplished. When you think of a supply chain, there is the OEM, and the suppliers. But then there’s all sorts of companies that flow below that. We are seeing this across the board, with all of the OEM customers that we deal with.
You have had a strong presence in the automotive community domestically.
Kanir: Yes, what we did was build a community of solutions that links 2500 suppliers together with Chrysler for example. It used to be that everyone showed up at the automobile plant and they [the automobiles] came off the assembly line. As things have gone global, up to now 80 percent of an automobile is outsourced through all of its suppliers. It used to be straight to the OEM, and now it is straight through the supply chain.
What happened is Powerway put together the community links, so that all of the players that build these cars that roll up to Chrysler as final assembly, could be linked together. If Chrysler has engineering change orders, or timing changes and things like that, it all can ripple through the supply chain in a moment, electronically.
Everybody can [answer questions like] is my tooling ready? Am I ready to meet this deadline? Am I able to change my tooling configuration to meet this new product specification?
In your view, how has the role of collaborative software changed over the years?
Conway: What was once a novelty, is now the cornerstone of every successful manufacturing operation. Collaborative software touches more elements of the overall business than ever before, and a growing number of specialized features support expanded communications.
What do customers want in collaboration software within today's manufacturing environments?
Conway: There are several characteristics that must be included in any system for every customer and most of them contribute to giving management a “view” into their processes and the relationships with fellow community members.
Our imperatives are on-demand functionality; accommodate multi-tier users; accessibility via a web browser; work securely within the Web 2.0 world.
Do you think it is important to incorporate feedback from users into subsequent revisions of your software? How do you improve on your products?
Conway: Of course. Feedback is important. But the mistake many make is in not including all users — not just the primary customer. People up and down the supply chain have different needs and perspectives. If they can’t, or don’t, participate in the process as desired, the productivity of the system is compromised.
Product improvements result from two directions. First, customers [and] users tell us what they need, and we try to accommodate them. Second, our development team constantly looks for ways to match the latest technology with best practices in manufacturing. As leaders in our field, we want to anticipate needs and deliver solutions before they become productivity issues.
What role will collaboration software play in the future of “the virtual” supply chain?
Conway: Supply chains are not only virtual, they are also dynamic. Managing change is a key asset as product community collaboration becomes the connective fabric of dynamic virtual organizations. Products like Powerway’s are quickly jumping from a “nice-to-have” to a “must have.”
Given the virtual nature of such a product, are you expanding globally as well as domestically?
Kanir: With the acquisition of Cohesia we’re expanding. Cohesia was primarily [focused on] aerospace. That’s what’s driving our European focus. We are now working with the European countries. We’re going to put together our own hosted data center over in Europe.
We’re trying to put together a European consortium so that all suppliers and OEMs can use this one platform to communicate and use multiple applications to preserve the value and communications between OEMs and suppliers, and make sure that everyone’s going to meet the deadlines and the timing and the specifications for productions. Essentially, you’re taking the suppliers and OEMS and linking them [together] virtually.
What are common mistakes that engineering managers make in creating collaborative approaches to the manufacturing and design process?
Conway: The temptation to become cornered into linear thinking is omnipresent. After all, that is what the term ‘chain’ implies. But the real key is the concept of a manufacturing community where connections and collaboration take many forms. Managers must resist overvaluing tools and undervaluing the community identity, connections, and underlying collaboration purpose.
Are there any common elements that customers look for in your products or those of your competitors?
Conway: Any successful product will embrace the concept of community and will be designed for on-demand use. And different products will have their respective strengths. But the ideal is a moving target as technology enables more and more features and sophisticated manufacturing communities demand even more connectivity.
Jim Romeo is a freelance writer specializing in industrial technology topics. To comment on this interview, send e-mail to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.