Mint cashes in on  PLM software tool

There’s a lot that has to happen before that mound of change can bulge in your pocket. To manage the complex process of money-making, the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) has turned to product lifecycle management (PLM) software from Dassault Systemes.

Besides all those toonies and loonies, the RCM also mints scores of collector coins and manufactures coins on contract for other countries.

“Intuitively, you would think it would be pretty simple, but you wouldn’t believe how much detail there is around a coin,” said Neil Hallam, the RCM’s CIO.

RCM engineers were using a Microsoft Access database that held all coin specifications, from dimensions and specifications to composition, but Hallam said it was a very basic application and was quite internal to the engineering team, not allowing for information to be easily shared across the company.

“We’d just outgrown Microsoft Access,” said Hallam. “It wasn’t robust enough or reliable enough.”

The RCM’s engineers came to the IT department looking for a more “industrial-strength” database, and Hallam said it was decided that a computer-assisted design (CAD) and PLM integrated suite was the way to go.

Hallam added they decided to go beyond just a new engineering database and adopt an organization-wide workflow tool. As an example, he said new product development had long been an issue for the mint, which was looking to reduce its time to market, to streamline the complexity of the development process and to deal with the lack of integration between the different silos within the organization.

“It became a very large project but it was something that, once the people at the executive level got their minds wrapped around it, was very compelling,” said Hallam.

It was a lengthy process over a number of years from idea to implementation, beginning with a survey of 15 different companies and, after a request for proposals process, selecting a solution from Dassault Systemes that included two products: 3D design product Catia, and PLM suite Smarteam.

Hallam said they were impressed with the functionality of the 3D design tool, and how well it integrated with the PLM suite.

The mint began by implementing a system for the engineering team, later rolling out a quote system for its foreign coin business that Hallam said has cut the time to get a quote out by 50 per cent.

The big difference, he said, is knowing where everything is and how it interrelates. When a revision is made to a drawing, for example, many parts of the design process are impacted. Rather than having to ensure that change filters through, it now happens automatically.

“It’s a lot less time spent looking for things, and a lot more time spent actually doing the right things,” said Hallam, adding that the system has made a big difference in the RCM’s preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, which will involve a lot of commemorative coins. “I don’t think we could have done it quite so easily without this new system.”

Dominique Lepor

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