TL; DR: Since 2000, Arena Solutions has been helping high-tech and medical device companies create products using an affordable lifecycle management solution that unites stakeholders in design and manufacturing. The company’s cloud-based platform allows customers to eliminate barriers to development and gain a competitive advantage by entering the market more quickly. We recently sat down with Steve Chalgren, Arena’s Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, who told us visibility is key in helping customers scale and adapt products throughout their lifecycles — and using feedback and analytics is the answer. As Arena continues to innovate, its customers are enjoying improvements in collaboration, cost management, design, and development, providing them the oversight they need to run effective operations.
Much to the delight of our taste buds, it’s not uncommon for restaurants to improve their menus from time to time. Let’s say a major chain is looking to make its Key lime pie even tastier by swapping out bottled lime juice in favor of fresh-squeezed limes. New menus are printed to reflect the change, customers are rolling in for the tart-yet-sweet dessert, and the kitchen is stocked with limes. There’s only one problem: the head chef never told his staff to stop ordering large quantities of the bottled lime juice, so they’ve paid for inventory they don’t need.
Mistakes like this sting, whether they’re made in the restaurant setting or beyond. Zoom out, and the same communication blunders will have similar effects, even on complex supply chains. And Steve Chalgren, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Arena Solutions, told us why.
“When you think about product lifecycle management, it’s really about what we are building; the design element,” he said. “It’s a recipe, if you will, of how to make a particular product — and everyone needs visibility.”
Through his job at Arena, Steve provides affordable product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions that enable manufacturers to lower costs, shrink time to market, and increase quality. Arena’s cloud-based platform facilitates communication between multiple stakeholders, making it easier to share information, exchange ideas, and implement changes across the supply chain. Ultimately, the approach enhances collaboration, helping teams bring new products to market with fewer errors.
The Goal: To Eliminate Infrastructure Barriers to Development
Arena’s customer base, almost exclusively made up of high-tech and medical device companies, often deals with multiple stakeholders.
“When you think about high-tech, it’s really around companies that have an electrical engineering focus — which also automatically means they have mechanical engineering, firmware engineering, and software engineering teams,” Steve said.
These companies have relatively short product lifecycles and may outsource their manufacturing.
“They have to be able to design this product; capture the design elements, the components, the drawings, the firmware programs; and ship them to suppliers worldwide,” Steve said.
Communication between stakeholders (and thus, better oversight) is essential. Steve told us supplier visibility into what’s changing is key. If all the different suppliers don’t get the message, they don’t have visibility into the data surrounding the change. And that could spell disaster, with a ton of money and resources going down the drain.
Factor in firewalls, and you’ll see why the cloud-based aspect of Arena’s PLM — a concept Arena originated in 2000 — is so desirable.
“It’s very difficult to give suppliers access inside a company’s firewall,” Steve said. “They often have to have VPN access, which means they have to have IT managing their access to the system, firewall, and company, and that provides a lot of overhead. Very few employees at a supplier will have access — usually one.”
For companies working at a high rate of development and release, one won’t cut it.
“You need maybe 100 people from each supplier to have access to the data appropriately,” Steve said. “Doing that through a firewall is just impossible. That’s one of the reasons why cloud PLM is so well-adapted toward their need.”
The Competitive Advantage Inherent in Optimal Lifecycle Management
Arena’s ability to knock down these barriers allows new products to be introduced to market at a high velocity, which Steve said is the number one benefit of choosing Arena solutions.
“First to market has a big advantage and having a product like ours really helps companies when they’re coming up with these new innovations,” Steve said. “It’s all about being able to have the design team and extended supply team across the world work as one unit to keep everything in sync. That’s really what people come to us for.”
It’s an effective strategy that helps entrepreneurs build brand recognition and control resources. It also affords them additional time to improve upon their products. As Steve told us, the goal is to be able to get your next-gen products to market before the competition.
For Arena, offering a technology that is the foundation of well over 1,000 customers’ competitive advantages is quite empowering.
“It is really fulfilling if a company’s IPO grows super fast and you know that you’re a part of that,” Steve said.
Helping Customers Scale and Adapt Through Feedback and Analytics
Once a product hits the market, it continues to experience a high rate of change, especially in the high-tech and medical device sector. Steve noted that businesses will start getting feedback from consumers as they use the product on its shortcomings and features they don’t like, and listening to this is crucial for success.
“There’s a continual feed of change orders that the engineering team is pushing into the supply chain,” Steve said. “The supply chain needs to have very good visibility or even participation in those change processes.”
Arena allows users to form a clear view of potential problems based on a customer service feedback loop or data from the device itself, especially in the case of IoT devices.
“There’s also a whole set of data that comes off those products as far as failures,” Steve said. “We have 300 or more IOT-connected customers, and those customers need to have an analytic that comes off the product.”
The resulting dataset can then be analyzed to inform quality improvements.
As a cloud company, Arena is able to see behaviors, trends, and aggregates across its customer base. And Steve noted this is key in improving Arena’s product.
“So even when the product is to market, that same exact product changes consistently through its lifecycle,” he said. “I always say, if you and I have the same phone in our hands, and they were built two months apart, there could be 80 changes between our two phones.”
Continued Innovation: Enhanced Product Realization and QMS
Over the last several years, Arena has been working to build out its product realization platform, which Steve describes as bigger than just PLM.
“It includes quality management systems and the application lifecycle management space around requirements, so everyone knows what they’re building across different entities,” he said.
Key advancements were made last year that will continue into 2018. In 2017, Arena saw innovations in its PLM processes and enhancements in its quality management systems. The company also increased its capabilities around application lifecycle management and made further investments in process visibility, collaboration, and cost management.
Steve said designers and manufacturers around the world will benefit from the changes.
“You’re going to see a lot more products coming out because there are a lot more opportunities,” he said. “We view ourselves as those backend tools, if you will, that you really don’t hear a lot about, but by doing it right we can have a big impact on customers and everyone in general because they get the benefit of having better products.”