Being among the top 100 suppliers to the automotive industry, Webasto generated sales of 3.4 billion euros and had more than 13,000 employees at over 50 locations (with 30 of these being manufacturing plants) during financial year 2018. The core business comprises a wide range of products for vehicle manufacturers: sunroofs, panorama roofs and convertible roofs, heating systems for cars and commercial vehicles with all types of drive systems, together with battery systems and charging solutions for hybrid and electric vehicles. Webasto moreover has a strong market position in the aftermarket business and provides dealers and consumers with customized solutions and services for thermo management and e-mobility.
In the last ten years Webasto has also grown strongly through company takeovers. Important milestones were the acquisition of the convertible division of Edscha, the North American business of Karmann, the Diavia air conditioning business of Delphi Italia and the Efficient Energy Systems (EES) business of AeroVironment, which today manufactures charging solutions under the name Webasto Charging Systems Inc. In addition, the company has recently bought the shares of its long-standing South Korean joint venture partner. The joint venture Webasto Donghee, with headquarters in Ulsan (South Korea) that previously focused on production and sales of panorama roofs, is now part of Webasto's worldwide development and production network, thus strengthening its position in Asia further.
Heterogeneous PDM landscape
One consequence of the takeovers is that the company today has a heterogeneous PDM system landscape. The roof and thermal systems division uses PTC Windchill, the convertible division SAP PLM, Webasto Charging Systems Inc. Oracle Agile PLM and the former South Korean joint venture, the Teamcenter software from Siemens PLM. The development and change processes of the various divisions are not uniform either, which makes it more difficult to handle global development and production projects.
Particularly in the field of roof systems, Webasto faces the challenge of developing products for global customers and manufacturing them at various locations. "Whereas we used to develop roof systems for a specific vehicle, we now offer our customers platforms that can be installed in several vehicle types or brands of an automobile manufacturer with certain adaptations," explains Jorge Ortiz, who is responsible for user training in the central PLM project team. This saves development costs, but also means that every change must be coordinated with all development departments involved.
Another challenge is that Webasto is becoming a mechatronic focused company that develops and manufactures its own software and electronic components. The basis for this was laid, among other things, by the takeover of the electronics service provider Schaidt Innovations. This necessarily requires a closer connection of software development to the product development process and the IT systems supporting it.
The Webasto strategy is therefore to establish a uniform organization and implement a globally uniform product development process for all divisions, which can be mapped in a uniform system environment. This process will also support Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) in the future, as Ortiz explains: "We want to create a CAD/PLM development environment with uniform data structures and enable users to access data quickly and easily via a single point of truth, regardless of their location and region.
Approach to production
When selecting the new PLM solution, Webasto was faced with the alternative of either looking for greater proximity to the CAD landscape with CATIA V5 and Dassault Systèmes' 3D experience platform as the target system, or approaching the SAP ERP system. None of the existing PDM systems met the requirements of an enterprise-wide PLM platform. In the case of Windchill, it was an older version that was gradually being phased out of maintenance and with which users were no longer satisfied with the usability.