One of the best and worst parts of developing a new product is collaboration. While bringing new people into the conversation stimulates forward movement and better ideas, keeping track of who is has access to your data and who needs to be included on your email chain can be a huge hassle. From communicating with remote suppliers to managing outsourced manufacturers, product lifecycle management solutions have their work cut out for them.
Business-Software.com sat down with Arena Solutions for an in-depth look at their latest offering, Arena Exchange. Read on to get a feel for this innovative collaboration platform. To learn more about Arena and their other offerings, please visit the Arena Solutions’ product profiles.
Bills of materials (BOMs) are crucial part of the manufacturing industry, and sharing BOMs with your supply chain quickly and easily can make or break your manufacturing process. However the process of sharing materials with the right people can be troublesome. Enterprise PLM systems often fail in implementation due to issues arising from complex collaboration needs. Arena Exchange is built on an existing free service offered by Arena (Arena PDX Viewer), which debuted in fall 2013. Arena Exchange aims to be a solution to this problem by giving collaborators a level field to interact with each other and access materials. Arena’s purpose is simple and straightforward. Focusing on high tech industries, they provide a platform for manufacturers to share and collaborate on the process of manufacturing products.
The first impression of Arena Exchange’s dashboard is that it’s very clean. Consisting of a detailed list of BOMs and a real-time activity stream, Exchange’s dashboard is easy to navigate and highly intuitive. Project managers will find the Activity Stream very helpful, as it provides an at-a-glance overview of current activity for all your active BOMs. One-click download and upload functionality let administrators easily pull and add files from dashboard. The project list is filterable by package name, type, poster and recipient. One note on the activity stream: right now it can’t be sorted or filtered by project, but Arena is planning on adding this functionality in the near future.
From the dashboard users can view all documents and files in the context of the multi-level BOM snapshot in the build package. Unlike the more traditional method of emailing around files to countless collaborators, Exchange keeps all files (and all the meta data) in the cloud for easy access from anywhere. The beauty of collaboration via cloud storage is that you don’t have to constantly resend bulky files every time you want to bring someone new into the loop.
Exchange’s stand-out feature is the collaboration tab. To share content, simply type a collaborator’s email into the box to send them an invitation to join your collaboration. Collaborators don’t have to be an Arena customer to access Arena Exchange. Administrators can invite collaborators via any email address, and collaborators will be prompted to create a free Arena account to access shared files. Once they’ve logged in, your collaborators can also invite others to join, ensuring that the right people have access to the information they need, and are included in your conversations. Need to remove irrelevant suppliers from the conversation? Controlling access is easy – simply delete the user’s name from the collaborators box if you decide that you no longer want an individual on your sharing list.
Anyone who has been invited to collaborate on your project can post comments to the feed, which are also sent out as email notifications to all collaborators. This gives Exchange the feeling of a centralized forum, focused in on a given project.
While your BOM data is locked in and uneditable by collaborators, users can attach notes, edits, or anything else they’d like quickly and easily to share with the team.
Arena Exchange is working to provide a solution to the complex and often frustrating process of collaborating with manufacturing suppliers. Exchange won’t replace the functionality of your PLM (nor is it meant to), but it works great a supplementary tool when working with contractors or partners. It’s a great tool for keeping the conversation and data centralized and focused; since everyone can see everything, there’s less risk that key players would get dropped from the conversation.
Arena Exchange is a faster, more effective way to control the flow of information about your BOM. Administrators who implement Exchange can expect to see higher engagement among collaborators. Additionally, Exchange eliminates the hassle and potential security risk of managing permissions for their PLM system.
While Exchange is already a fully functional product, Arena is still working on some of the finer points of the system that will make it a truly stand-out collaboration solution. Despite this, if you’re already using a PLM system, and aren’t getting the collaboration you need due to license constraints, IT overhead, or overall security issues, Exchange is definitely worth consideration.
Want to read more about PLM software solutions? Download our Top 10 Product Lifecycle Management Software report for direct comparisons of the leading PLM solutions.