Last week I was working with several people on data management issues for the supply chain. As I mentioned in my previous post from the ECC in Munich, there is a trend where OEMs require more and more cooperation from their suppliers. Most of these suppliers are mid-sized companies and these companies often lack the management support to implement changes top-down in an organization.

supply_chain_change More demanding OEMs and outside the supply chain more demanding customers (in fact they are the same) are pushing these manufacturing companies to organize themselves better in a way to guarantee quality, a consistent response and meanwhile remaining focused on innovation in order to differentiate and stay in business.

In mid-market companies the concept for quality guarantee and consistent responses is often implemented in design data management (control the product data), a quality system (ISO,—–) and the ERP system. See also PLM and ERP culture change. As these systems could be implemented on department level, not touching each other too much, it is relative easy from the cultural point of view to implement them. Each department can optimize themselves and often the quality system is not enforcing the users to work completely different.

But who and where is innovation managed ?

Large enterprises discovered that, in order to innovate, you need to connect and analyze all information around the products they are manufacturing. In simple words they realized PLM is needed to connect everyone around the product lifecycle from the concept phase till the production and after-sales phases. For these companies PLM became the backbone for their specific knowledge – we call it IP (Intellectual Property). Big companies could implement PLM because they had the management vision, the resources (people and budget) and the top-down approach to enable (and sometimes enforce) this change.

In mid-sized companies there might be the management vision, but resources and a top-down approach are rare. When it comes to a top-down approach, often the management believes that the goal is to enforce one IT system to the organization to manage all the critical data. Naturally this is the ERP system, and ERP vendors remain claiming that they can do PLM. It is a kind of overestimation of these companies as their nature lies in processing data, resources as efficient as possible, not in being creative to find new innovations. At the end the computer decides – see movie

Innovation is not CAD design as others may believe. These beautiful 3D designs smell like innovation, but in fact before a designer could start working on a concept, a lot of work has been done before. Analysis about what is it that the market, the customers require?  What is de feedback on our current products in the field ? What is the competition doing etc, etc.

PLM requires culture change

As long as an organization remains thinking around 1 or 2 major IT systems (CAD data management and ERP) to manage all, there is no chance for PLM to be implemented successful. All departments and disciplines around the product lifecycle need to work together, change their departmental habits and learn to adapt to PLM best practices.

There is enough argumentation why to implement PLM and I believe solutions like ENOVIA SmarTeam Engineering Express are from the technology point a good start. See all related posts and comments to my previous post.

What I wanted to stress is that changes in a mid-market company are not done from the logical point of view. As the top-down vision and implementation often are not available, we are waiting for all departments to decide let’s change our way of working as we read all these beautiful benefits of PLM. This is of course not going to happen, only in advertisements.

Culture change even in mid-sized companies is a management responsibility and requires an open mind. We often forget that we have two sides in our brain. One side the logical side, analyzes all the arguments and stores them logically as good or bad. The other side of the brain, the emotional side is making the decisions, grabbing arguments that suit from the logical side in order to explain to others and ourselves why a decision is taken.

If you read books like The Language of Change (very theoretical, but the groundwork) or Blink: The power of thinking without thinking (very popular) you will understand that changes won’t happen if we stick to the traditional way of posting our arguments and keep on doing what we feel good with.

It is the management responsibility to think how to enforce a change in their companies. But as they also have a two sided brain, for that reason, management consultants were invented to reflect and discuss the emotional and logical side.

If after reading this post, you are more aware of the fact that one side of your brain fools you, then I achieved something. If however you will say “This is nonsense”, your other half of the brain has won.

Footnote:  No more words about soccer – Holland is out

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