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I believe that PLM with its roots in automotive, aerospace and discrete manufacturing is accepted, as a vital technology / business strategy to make a company more competitive and guarantee its future. Writing this sentence feels like marketing, trying to generalize a lot of information in one sentence.
Some questions you might raise:
- Is PLM a technology or business strategy?
- Are companies actually implementing PLM or is it extended PDM?
- Does PLM suit every company?
- PLM is a combination of technology (you need the right IT-infrastructure / software to start from) and the implementation is a business approach (it should be a business transformation). PLM vendors will tell you that it is their software that makes it happen; implementers have their preferred software and methodology to differentiate themselves. It is not a single simple solution. Interesting enough Stephen Porter wrote about this topic this week in the Zero Wait-State blog: Applying the Goldilocks Principle to PLM – finding balance. Crucial for me is that PLM is about sharing data (not only/just documents) with status and context. Sharing data is the only way to (information) silos in a company and provide to each person a more adequate understanding.
- Most companies that claim to have implemented PLM have implemented just extended PDM, which means on top of the CAD software add other engineering data and processes. This was also mentioned by Prof Eigner in his speech during PLM Innovation early this year in Munich. PLM is still considered by the management as an engineering tool, and at the other side they have ERP. Again sharing all product IP with all its iterations and maturity (PLM) and pushing execution to ERP is still a unique approach for more traditional companies. See also a nice discussion from my blog buddy Oleg: BOM: Apple of Discord between PLM and ERP?
- Not every business needs the full PLM capabilities that are available. Larger companies might focus more on standardized processes across the enterprise; smaller companies might focus more on sharing the data. There is to my opinion no system that suits all. One point they are all dreaming of: usability and as in small companies PLM decisions are more bottom-up the voice of the user is stronger here. Therefore I might stick to my old post PLM for the mid-market: mission impossible ?
However, the title of this blog post is: PLM for all industries. Therefore, I will not go deeper on the points above. Topics for the future perhaps.
PLM for all industries ?
This time I will share with you some observations and experiences based on interactions with companies that not necessary think about PLM. I have been working with these companies the past five years. Some with some success, some still in an awareness phase. I strongly believe these companies described below would benefit a lot from PLM technology and practices.
In July, I wrote about my observations during the Product Innovation Apparel event in London. I am not a fashion expert and here I discovered that, in a sense, PLM in Apparel is much closer to the modern vision of PLM than classic PLM. They depend on data sharing in a global model, disciplines and suppliers driven by their crazy short time to market and the vast amount of interactions in a short time; otherwise they would not be competitive anymore and disappear.
This figure represented modern PLM
PLM in Apparel is still in the early stages. The classic PLM vendors try to support Apparel with their traditional systems and are often too complicated or not user-friendly enough. The niche PLM vendors in Apparel have a more lightweight entry level, simple and easy, sometimes cloud-based. They miss the long-term experience of building all the required technology, scalability and security, in their products, assuring future upgradability. For sure this market will evolve, and we will see consolidation
Owner / Operators nuclear
For s nuclear plants it is essential to have configuration management in place, which in short would mean that the plant operates (as-built) is the same as specified by its specifications (as-designed). In fact this is hardly the case. A lot of legacy data in paper or legacy document archives do not provide the actual state. They are stored and duplicated disconnected from each other. In parallel the MRO system (SAP PM / Maximo are major systems) runs in an isolated environment only dealing with actual data (that might be validated).
The main obstacles encountered are:
- The boiling frog syndrome –it is not that bad
(and even if it is bad we won´t tell you)
- An IT-department that believes configuration management is about document management – they set the standards for the tools (Documentum / SharePoint – no business focus)
- An aging generation, very knowledgeable in their current work, but averse for new ways of information management and highly demanding to keep the status quo till they retire
- And the “If it works, do not touch it” – approach somehow related to the boiling frog syndrome.
Meanwhile business values for a change using a PLM infrastructure have been identified. With a PLM environment completing the operational environment, an owner/operator can introduce coordinated changes to the plant, reduce downtime and improve quality of information for the future. One week less down-time could provide a benefit of million Euros.
However with the current, lowering electricity costs in Europe, the profits for owner/operators are under pressure and they are not motivated to invest at this time in a long term project. First satisfy the shareholders
Owner / Operators other process oriented plants
In the nuclear industry safety is priority one and required by the authorities. Therefore, there is a high pressure for data quality and configuration management. For other industries the principles remain the same. Here, depending on the plant lifetime, criticality of downtime and risk for catastrophes, the interest for a PLM based plant information management platform varies. The main obstacles here are similar to the nuclear ones:
- Even a bigger boiling frog as we have SAP PM – so what else do we need
- IT standardizes on a document management solution
- The aging workforce and higher labor costs are not identified yet as threats for the future looking towards competing against cheaper and modern plants in the upcoming markets – the boiling frog again.
The benefits for a PLM based infrastructure are less direct visible, still ROI estimates predict that after two years a break-even can be reached. Too long for share holder driven companies L although in 10 years time the plant might need to close due to inefficiencies.
EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) and EPCIC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation and Commissioning) companies exist in many industries: nuclear new build, oil & gas, Chemical, Civil construction, Building Construction.
They all work commissioned for owner / operators and internally they are looking for ways to improve their business performance. To increase their margin they need to work more efficient, faster and often global, to make use of the best (cheaper) resources around the world. A way to improve quality and margin is through more reuse and modularization. This is a mind-shift as most EPC companies have a single project / single customer per project in mind, as every owner/operator also pushes their own standards and formats.
In addition, when you start to work on reuse and knowledge capturing, you need to have a way to control and capture your IP. And EPCs want to protect their IP and not expose too much to their customers to maintain a dependency on their solution.
The last paragraph should sound familiar to the challenges automotive and aerospace supply chains had to face 15 years ago and were the reasons why PLM was introduced. Why do EPC companies not jump on PLM?
- They have their home-grown systems – hard to replace as everyone likes their own babies (even when they reach adolescence or retirement symptoms)
- Integrated process thinking needs to be developed instead of departmental thinking
- As they are project-centric, an innovation strategy can only be budgeted inside a huge project, where they can write-off the investment to their customer project. However this makes them less competitive in their bid – so let´s not do it
- Lack of data and exchange standards. Where in the automotive and aerospace industry CATIA was the driving 3D standard, such a standard and 3D is not available yet for other industries. ISO 15926 for the process industry is reasonable mature, BIM for the construction industry is still in many countries in its discovery phase.
- Extreme lose supplier relations compared to automotive and aerospace, which combined with the lack of data exchanges standards contributes to low investments in information infrastructure.
In the past 5 years I have been focusing on explaining the significance of PLM infrastructure and concepts to the industries mentioned before. The value lies on sharing data, instead of working in silos. If needed do not call it PLM, call it online collaboration, controlled Excel on the cloud.
Modern web technologies and infrastructure make this all achievable; however it is a business change to start sharing. Beside Excel the boiling frog syndrome dominates everywhere.
- What do you think?
- Do you have examples of companies that took advantage of modern PLM capabilities to change their business?
I am looking forward to learn more.
Below some links that are relevant for this post as a reference:
- The weekend after PI Apparel
- The week after Product Innovation 2013 in Munich
- PLM, Frogs, Global change and Innovation
- Did you mean ALM, ALM or ALM ?
- Dumb documents or intelligent data ?
- PLM for the engineering construction industry
- PLM and IT – the love-hate relation
- PLM for Asset Lifecycle Management requires a vision
The problem with a TLA is that there is a limited number of combinations that make sense. And even once you have found the right meaning for a TLA, like PLM you discover so many different interpretations.
For PLM I wrote about this in my post PLM misconceptions –: PLM = PLM ?
I can imagine an (un)certain person, who wants to learn about PLM, might get confused (and should be – if you take it too serious).
At the end your company’s goal should be how to drive innovation, increase profitability and competiveness and not about how it is labeled.
As a frequent reader of my blog, you might have noticed I wrote sometimes about ALM and here a similar confusion might exist as there are three ALMs that might be considered in the context I am blogging.
Therefore this post to clarify which ALM I am dedicated to.
So first I start with the other ALMs:
ALM = Application Lifecycle Management
This is an upcoming discipline in the scope of PLM due to the fact that more and more in the product development world embedded software becomes a part of the product. And like in PLM where we want to manage the product data through its lifecycle, ALM should become a logical part of a modern PLM implementation. Currently most of the ALM applications in this context are isolated systems dealing only with the software lifecycle, see this Wiki Page
ALM = Asset Lifecycle Management (operational)
In 2009 I started to focus on (my type of) ALM, called Asset Lifecycle Management, and I discovered the same confusion as when you talk about a BOM. What BOM really means is only clear when you understand the context. Engineers will usually think of an Engineering BOM, representing product as specified by engineering (managed by PDM). Usually the rest of the organization will imagine the Manufacturing BOM, representing the product the way it will be produced (managed mostly in ERP).
The same is valid for ALM. The majority of people in a production facility, plant or managed infrastructure will consider ALM as the way to optimize the lifecycle of assets. This means optimizing the execution of the plant, when to service or replace an asset ? What types of MRO activities to perform. Sounds a lot like ERP and as it has direct measurable impact on finance, it is the area that gets most of the attention by the management.
ALM = Asset Lifecycle Management (information management)
Here we talk about the information management of assets. When you maintain your assets only in a MRO system, it is similar like in a manufacturing company when only using an ERP system. You have the data for operations, but you do not have the process in place to manage the change and quality of data. In the manufacturing world this is done in PDM and PLM system and I believe owners/operators of plant can learn from that.
I wrote a few posts about this topic, see Asset Lifecycle Management using a PLM system, PLM CM and ALM – not sexy or using a PLM system for Asset Lifecycle Management requires a vision and I am not going to rewrite them in this post. So get familiar with my thoughts if you read the first time about ALM in my blog.
What I wanted to share is that thanks to modern PLM systems, IT infrastructure/technologies and SBA it becomes achievable for owner/operators to implement an Asset Lifecycle Management vision for their asset information and I am happy to confirm that in my prospect and customer base, I see companies investing and building this ALM vision.
And why do they do this:
- Reduce maintenance time (incidental and planned) by days or weeks due to the fact that people have been working with the right and complete data. Depending on the type of operations, one week less maintenance can bring millions (power generation, high demand/high cost chemicals and more)
- Reduce the failure costs dramatically. As maintenance is often a multi-disciplinary activity errors due to miscommunication are considered as normal in this industry (10 % up and even more). It is exactly this multi-disciplinary coordination that PLM systems can bring to this world. And the more you can do in a virtual world the more you can assure you do the right thing during real maintenance activities. Here industries similar as for the previous bullet, but also industries where high-costly materials and resources are used, the impact on reducing failure costs is high.
- Improve the quality of data. Often the MRO system contains a lot of operational parameters that were entered there at a certain time by a certain person with certain skills – the fact that although I used the word certain three times, the result is uncertainty as there is no separate tracing and validation of the parameters per discipline and an uncertain person looking at the data might not discover there is an error, till it goes wrong. Here industries where a human error can be dramatic benefit the most from it (nuclear, complex chemical processes)
Conclusion: The PLM system based ALM implementations are more and more becoming reality next to the ALM operational world. After spending more then three years focused on this area, I believe we can see and learn from the first results.
Are you interested in more details or do you want to share your experience ? Please let me know and I will be happy to extend the discussion
Note: On purpose I used as much TLA’s to assure it looks like an specialist blog, but you can always follow the hyperlink to the wiki explanation, when the TLA occurs the first time.
The trigger for this post is based was a discussion I had around the Autodesk 360 cloud based PLM solution. To position this solution and to simplify the message for my conversation partner Joe the plumber, I told him”: “You can compare the solution with Excel on-line. As many small mid-market companies are running around with metadata (no CAD files) in Excel, the simplified game changer with this cloud based PLM offering is that the metadata is now in the cloud, much easier to access and only a single version exists.”
(sorry for Autodesk, if I simplified it too much, but sometimes your conversation partner does not have an IT background as they are plumbers)
He was right and I had to go more in-depth to explain difference. This part of the conversation was similar to discussions I had in some meetings with owner / operators in the civil and energy sector, discussing the benefits of PLM practices for their industry.
I wrote about this in previous posts:
The trouble with dumb documents
Here it was even more a key point of the discussion that most of the legacy data is stored in dumb documents. And the main reason dumb documents are used is because the data needs to be available during the long lifecycle of the the plant, application independent if possible. So in the previous century this was paper, later scanned documents (TIFF – PDF) and currently mainly PDF. Most of the data now is digital but where is the intelligence ?
The challenges these companies have is that despite the fact information is now stored in a digital file, the next step is how to deal with the information in an intelligent manner. A document or an Excel file is a collection of information, you might call it knowledge, but to get access to the knowledge you need to find it.
Did you try to find a specific document in Google docs or SharePoint ? The conclusion will be the file name becomes very important, and perhaps some keywords ?
Is search the solution ?
To overcome this problem, full text search and search based applications were developed, that allow us to index and search inside the documents. A piece of cake for Google and a niche for others to index not only standard documents but also more technical data (drawings, scans from P&ID, etc, etc).
Does this solve the problem ?
Partly, as suddenly the user finds a lot more data. Search on Google for the words “Right data” and you have 3.760.000.000 hits (or more). But what is the right data ? The user can only decide what is the right data by understanding the context.
- Is it the latest version ?
- Is it reflecting the change we made at that functional position ?
- What has changed ?
And here comes the need for more intelligent data. And this is typically where a PLM system provides the answer.
A PLM systems is able to manage different types of information, not only documents. In the context of a plant or a building, the PLM system would also contain:
- a functional definition / structure (linked to its requirements)
- a logical definition / structure (how is it supposed to be ?)
- a physical definition / structure (what is physically there ?)
- a location definition / structure (where in the plant / building ?)
and this is all version managed and related to the supported documents and other types of information. This brings context to the documents and therefore it exposes knowledge.
As there is no automatic switch from dumb documents towards intelligent data, it will be a gradual process to move towards this vision. I see a major role for search based applications to support data discovery. Find a lot of information, but than have the capability to capture the result (or generate a digest of the result) and store it connected to your PLM system, where is it managed in the future and provides the context.
Conclusion: We understand that paper documents are out of time. Moving these documents to digital files stored in a central location, either in SharePoint or a cloud-based storage location is a step we will regret in ten years from now, as intelligent data is not only inside the digital files but also depending on its context.
Since the past six months I am involved in several discussions related to the (building) construction industry. If you look to this industry, it seems like this is one of the few industries without innovation in its processes.
Someone in the discussion even claimed that if a worker from the middle ages would come back to this century, he would be quickly adapt and understand the way people work. OK, there are some new tools and materials, but the way the building construction industry works has not changed.
And let’s look to productivity. Where in the past 60 years in all industries productivity has increased, I have seen a survey where productivity in this industry has not increased and even decreased a little.
Although the survey ends in 2003, another article caught my attention. Robert Prieto, Senior Vice President from Fluor Corporation wrote end of last year in Engineering News Record his viewpoint: Engineering-Construction Needs a New Model. Reading this article and the comments demonstrates there is a need for innovation in the building construction industry.
Failure costs up to 15 % and delayed deliveries are considered normal business in this industry, where if this would be applied to mid-market companies in the manufacturing industry, they would have gone bankrupt due to claims and lost profit.
If we look at this industry, the first excuse you hear is that every project is unique and that project execution is done by a group of loose connected suppliers, not really pushed to stay within the targeted budget. But you might ask yourself: what is the correct budget?
All participants are aware that not all requirements are clear, but no one wants to ask and invest further as to invest more in accurate cost estimation. This is not anticipated. It is about winning the bid with the lowest trouble and investment.
So who is to blame? First of all, the client who has a short term vision. By selecting the lowest bids and not pushing for in-depth analysis of the project delivery and operational costs in the long term, the situation will not change.
What if the client was using the basics of PLM – Product Lifecycle Management? For me PLM means a connection and sharing of the concept phase, the delivery phase, production phase and maintenance phase.
What I consider as strange is the fact that in the engineering and construction industry these four phases are not connected and often that the maintenance phase (operations) is not taken into account during the concept phase.
And then there is the data handover. After engineering and construction specific data is handed over to the maintenance organization. What is the quality of the data, how applicable is it to the maintenance organization and how does it support maintenance is not clear. There is a disconnect and loss of knowledge as the handover is just based on the minimum data required.
What if the engineering construction industry would use PLM best practices, like:
- Requirements Management – connecting, implementing and validating all the requirements from each stakeholder. Making sure all requirements are considered and negotiated in a structured manner – no excuse for surprises.
- Data sharing with versions and status. Instead of a handover, data becomes mature during the lifecycle of the project. It requires the maintenance organization to be involved from the start
- Standardized validation and approval processes related to requirements and data. These processes might be considered as an overhead but they are the ones that lead to quality, risk and cost management
Conclusion: I believe connecting the engineering and maintenance phase for engineering construction companies will lead to higher productivity and quality. For sure the initial engineering cost will be higher, but during the construction and maintenance phase these costs will be recovered and probable much more – here is the ROI
As my intention was to write shorter blog posts this year, I stop at this point and look forward to your comments for a further discussion.
YOUR THOUGHTS ??
- Why PLM 2.0 – Conclusions (virtualdutchman.com)
In the past months, I have talked and working with various companies about the topic of Asset Lifecycle Management (ALM) based on a PLM system. Conceptual it is a very strong concept and so far only a few companies have implemented this approach, as PLM systems have not been used so much outside the classical engineering world.
Why using a PLM system ?
To use a PLM system for managing all asset related information ( asset parameters, inventory, documents, locations, lifecycle status) in a single system assures the owner / operator that a ‘single version of the truth’ starts to exist. See also one of my older posts about ALM to understand the details.
The beauty lies in the fact that this single version of the truth concept combines the world of as-built for operators and the world of as-defined / as-planned for preparing changes. Instead of individual silos the ALM system provides all information, of course filtered in such a way that a user only sees information related to the user’s role in the system.
The challenge for PLM vendors is to keep the implementation simple as PLM initially in its core industries was managing the complexity. Now the target is to keep it extremely simple and easy to used for the various user roles, meanwhile trying to stay away from heavy customizations to deliver the best Return on Investment.
Having a single version of the truth provides the company with a lot of benefits to enhance operations. Imagine you find information and from its status you know immediately if it is the latest version and if other versions exists. In the current owner / operator world often information is stored and duplicated in many different systems, and finding the information in one system does not mean that this is the right information. I am sure the upcoming event from IDC Manufacturing Insights will also contribute to these findings
It is clear that historically this situation has been created due to the non-intelligent interaction with the EPC contractors building or changing the plant. The EPC contractors use intelligent engineering software, like AVEVA, Bentley, Autodesk and others, but still during hand-over we provide dumb documents, paper based, tiff, PDF or some vendor specific formats which will become unreadable in the upcoming years. For long-term data security often considered the only way, as neutral standards like ISO-15926 still require additional vision and knowledge from the owner/operator to implement it.
Now back to the discussions…
In many discussions with potential customers the discussion often went into the same direction:
“How to get the management exited and motivated to invest into this vision ? The concept is excellent but applying it to our organization would lead to extra work and costs without immediate visibility of the benefits !”
This is an argument I partly discussed in one of my previous posts: PLM, CM and ALM not sexy. And this seems to be the major issue in western Europe and the US. Business is monitored and measured for the short term, maximum with a plan for the next 4 – 5 years. Nobody is rewarded for a long-term vision and when something severe happens, the current person in power will be to blame or to excuse himself.
As a Dutch inhabitant, I am still proud of what our former Dutch government decided and did in the after the flooding in 1953. The Dutch invested a lot of money and brain power into securing inhabitants behind the coast line in a project called the Delta Works. This was an example of vision instead of share holder value. After the project has been finished in the eighties there was no risk for a severe flooding anymore and the lessons learned from that time, brought the Dutch the knowledge to support other nations at risk for flooding. I am happy that in 1953 the government was not in the mood to optimize their bonus ( an unknown word at that time)
Back to Asset Lifecycle Management ….
Using a PLM system for asset lifecycle management provides the economical benefits by less errors during execution (working on the right information), less human involvement in understanding the information ( lower labor costs) and lower total cost of ownership (less systems to maintain and connect by IT).
But these benefits are in no relation with risk containment. What happens if something goes really wrong ?
If you you are a nuclear plant owner, you are in global trouble. A chemical plant owner or oil company can be in regional trouble, but they also will suffer from the damage done to their brand name globally. Other types of plant owners might come away with less, depending on the damage they potential ‘embank’
The emerging visionaries
For that reason, it is enlightening to see that some companies in Asia think different. There the management understands that they have the opportunity to build their future in a more clever way. Instead of copying the old way EPC contractors and plant owners work together, they start from a single version of the truth concept, pushing their contractors to work more integrated and clever with them. Instead of becoming boiling frogs, they are avoiding to fall into the same trap of many owners / operators in European and US based companies: “Why change the way we work, it does not seem to be so bad”
It requires a vision for the long term, something that will lead to extra benefits in the long term future: more efficient management of their assets, including risk containment and therefore being more competitive. If European and US-based companies want to be dominating in this industry they will need to show their vision too ..
Tomorrow I am attending the European Chemical Manufacturing Masters conference in Berlin, where I hope to learn and discuss this vision with the participants. I will keep you updated if i found the vision …..
As today it was again ‘Black Saturday”, the day that the French and German roads are filled with cars and traffic jams above100 km length, it was a moment for me to reflect in the middle of my summer holiday. I do not want to make other continents jealous, but the summer holiday is important (and long), still time for some thoughts.
PLM is dead, long live Social / User focused PLM ?
In one of my old 2008 posts, PLM in 2050, I predicted that PLM would no longer exist at that time, as companies would no longer focus on individual systems, but on full coverage of business processes, through integrated and federated data sources. I see this trend coming from two major PLM vendors (Dassault Systems / Siemens) with their 3DLive / HD PLM concepts. These concepts are trying to provide a unique user experience, where in an intuitive manner, a user in a specific role can obtain relevant data, analyze and simulate it in a virtual environment. Here the PLM vendors are really taking the lead to become the main platform for product development processes. Will the name PLM disappear at a certain stage ?
Additional you see startups and also some of the major PLM vendors experimenting with community concepts, social media. Moving towards a “Facebook’- like environment for product development and collaboration processes. The idea behind this direction is partly driven by the fact that the old generation of workforce slowly moves towards retirement where the new generation is not motivated to follow up the same working processes and procedures. The old generation moved from paper-based, manual processes to terminal-like screens, email and excel sheets.
If the new generation of employees will benefit from Facebook like environments is the question. Product development and collaboration requires a lot of boring data entry, even if we have a unique user experience. In addition, I was reading a preview of some research done with American and Dutch students, stating that study results from those students active on Facebook are significant lower as the result of student not active on Facebook, although they spend the same time on internet. I haven’t found the original source – here is a Dutch link. Curious to learn who will develop and bring better products to the market in the future with modern social PLM ?
ALM based on PLM is underestimated by owner /operators
As I have been active the past two years in some Asset Lifecycle Management projects based on PLM, I also feel that many owner/operators do not have the understanding or guts to change the way they are working. Understandable from their point of view – as long as the errors and risks are acceptable, why change the way the whole industry is working ?
In the nuclear industry you see the awareness growing. People know the risks of a nuclear disaster (after Chernobyl) and as we need more energy resources, nuclear energy with enhanced containment of risks is a natural way to go.
Perhaps after the BP disaster in the Mexican gulf, where apparently to the various reports, people were taking the wrong decisions due to inaccurate data or due to lack of information (could not be found in time) ALM based on PLM could be considered. However, investing even a few millions and changing the company’s way of working will never be approved by the BP management, as it will never happen a second time. It is all about being proactive (which is not a natural behavior) or being reactive and trying to control the damage. Here I have no predictions for 2050, I only believe that the proactive companies have a higher chance of survival – no matter which industry
But now my holiday activities call me back – for those not blessed by a holiday, here an overview of some of the relevant posts from the past year/
PLM and Organization
and if these links are not enough – look at my favorite blogs:
This time it is hard to write my blog post. First of all, because tomorrow there will be the soccer final between Holland and Spain and as a Virtual Dutchman I still dream of a real cup for the Dutch team.
Beside that I had several discussions around PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), CM (Configuration Management) and ALM (Asset Lifecycle Management), where all insiders agreed that it is hard to explain and sell the value and best practices, because it is boring, because it is not sexy, etc, etc.
So why am I still doing this job…..
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
Dassault Systemes introduced in 2006 3DLive as the 3D collaboration layer for all users with the capability to provide in a 3D manner (see what you mean) on-line role specific information, coming from different information sources. Recently Siemens introduced their HD PLM, which as far as I understood, brings decision making capabilities (and fun) to the user.
Both user interfaces are focusing on providing information in a user-friendly and natural way – this is sexy to demonstrate, but a question never asked: “Where does the information come from ? “
And this is the boring but required part of PLM. Without data stored or connected to the PLM system, there is no way these sexy dashboards can provide the right information. The challenge for PLM systems will be to extract this information from various applications and from users to have the discipline to enter the needed data.
Those software vendors, who find an invisible way to capture the required information hold the key to success. Will it be through a more social collaboration with a lot of fun, I am afraid not. The main issue is that the people who need to enter the data are not rewarded for doing it. It is downstream the organization, in the product lifecycle, that other people benefit from the complete information. And I even suspect in some organizations that there are people who do not want share data to assure being required in the organization – see also Some users do not like the single version of the truth.
So who can reward these users and make them feel important. I believe this is a management job and no sexy (3D) environment will help here
Configuration Management (CM)
Although it is considered a part of PLM, I added configuration management to my post as a separate bullet. Two weeks ago, I attended the second day of the CMII Europe conference in Amsterdam. What I learned from this event was that the members of the CMII community are a group of enthusiastic people with somehow the same vision as PLM missionaries.
Quoting the organization: “CMII is about changing faster and documenting better. It is about accommodating change and keeping requirements clear, concise and valid.”
And it was interesting to listen to speeches of the members. Like with PLM, everyone is convinced configuration management brings a lot of value to a company, they are also fighting for acknowledgement. Not sexy is what I learned here and also here those people who are responsible for data accuracy are not necessary the ones that benefit (the most).
Like PLM, but even more in Configuration Management, the cultural change should not be neglected. Companies are used to have a certain level of “configuration management”, often based on manual processes, not always as efficient, clear and understood and satisfactory for the management, till something happens due to incorrect information.
Of course the impact of an error differentiates per industry, a problem occurring due to wrong information for an airplane is something different compared to a problem with a sound system.
So the investment in configuration management pays of for complex products with critical behaviors and in countries where labor costs are high. It was interesting to learn that a CM maturity assessment showed that most companies score below average when it comes to management support and that they score above average when talking about the tools they have in place.
This demonstrates for me that also for configuration management, companies believe tools will implement the change without a continuous management push. I remember that in several PLM selection processes, prospects were asking for all kind of complex configuration management capabilities, like complex filtering of a product structure. Perhaps pushed by a competitor, as at the end it was never implemented
Asset Lifecycle Management (ALM)
In some previous posts, I wrote about the benefits a PLM system can bring, when used as the core system for all asset related information. For nuclear plants, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) recommends to use configuration management best practices and I have met an owner/operator of a nuclear plant who recognized that a PLM system brings the right infrastructure, instead of SAP for example, which has more focus on operational data.
Also I had a meeting with another owner/operator, who was used to manage their asset data in a classical manner – documents in an as-built environment and changes of documents in various projects environments.
When discussing the ALM best practices based on a PLM system, it was clear all the benefits it could bring, but also we realized that implementing these concepts would require a conceptual revolution. People would need to start thinking asset centric (with lifecycle behavior) instead of document centric with only revisions.
This kind of change requires a management vision, clear explanation of the benefits and a lot of attention for the user. Only then when these changes have been implemented, and data is available in a single repository, only then the fun and sexy environments become available for use.
PLM, CM and ALM are not sexy especially for the users who need to provide the data. But they provide the base for sexy applications where users have instant access to complete information to make the right decisions. To get there a cultural change is required. The management needs to realize that the company changes into becoming proactive (avoiding errors) instead of being reactive (trying to contain errors); investing upfront and never be able to know what the losses would be in case an error occurred.
Not sexy, however the benefits this approach can bring allow employees and companies to continue to do their work for a secure future
And now … time to close as the final is near
The past month I have been very busy in a specific area where PLM is not yet as understood. Where PLM is a ‘must have’ for companies developing and manufacturing products, in the world of Asset Development and Asset Management not many companies are yet aware of the benefits PLM can bring. I wrote about it in one of my previous posts . I will share some of my experiences here and I must thank Stephen Porter for mentioning my blog in his review (and pushing me to write today – even during the soccer championships in South Africa.
PLM benefits for Owner / Operators
I had discussions with a few owner/operators in the past week and as they all came from different industries (nuclear power generation / gas distribution / chemical processing), the details might differ but the values a PLM system can bring is for all of them the same.
When talking to Owner/Operators there are a few standard situations you observe:
- The usage of a transactional system (MRO / ERP /SCADA) which is managing the operational and financial activities as job scheduling and purchasing. Main dominant players in this area are Maximo and SAP. Most Owner / Operators believe that this is the only main system they need.This looks very similar to what we see in the typical manufacturing companies. They all have an ERP system, and specially in the mid-market these companies are not looking for another major IT-system.
The problem with only the transactional system as the core system for the company is that there is no natural storage for product or process information that can change (the Intellectual Property of the company). Transactional systems use pointers to actual product or process information that they require. But where do they store other and historical information ?
- The challenge to manage in parallel data for maintenance, rework and innovation projects. As the transactional system provides data for the operational environment, these companies are used to copy out data to their project environment avoiding not released project data can be seen in the operational environment. Another situation in relation to the engineering projects is that the owner / operator usually outsources the engineering work to EPC contractors and only coordinates the activities taking ownership of the data only after the new installation is under operation
The two owner / operators I met in the past month were in two different stages. The first one had already many years of experience in maintaining the plant operational and there they understood that the SAP PM module could not help them managing all required plant information around scheduled maintenance projects. Having already four different document management systems in place, the biggest challenge remained to coordinate the different baselines for the various projects scheduled for the annual maintenance. At the end they developed the concept where the PLM system is the owner of all plant related information, based on an Asset Structure in PLM and the PLM system ‘pushes’ the right information to SAP when the changes become operational.
The other owner / operator was in the early stage. They were planning to have a process to become operational. Their understanding is that they need only one system that provides them all the time the actual information and if needed also all the history and approvals of each of the components. For sure the actual information needs to be managed in a transactional system (SCADA) and for sure the SCADA vendor will say they can manage all information in their system. The pity for this owner / operator is that once they need historical data, or need to manage complex maintenance projects, they have lost the opportunity to do it right from the beginning.
Of course there is also a significant difference between the two owner operators.. The first owner / operator is situated in the Nordics, where the cost of labor is high. This means investing in IT-solutions to assure people are working with the right information brings a much faster ROI as compared to the owner / operator from South Europe. Sometime the labor cost can be one-third or less in comparison to the Nordic countries.
The owner/operator in the South Europe will initially not focus on efficiency and reducing labor costs. Due to the economical crisis unemployment is also high, so working with less people – improving by investments in IT are also not a popular measure.
But for all owner/operators a main consideration should be to remain competitive also over 10 – 20 years. Short term strategy is not good for this type of companies
Conclusion so far:
PLM concepts are bringing competitive benefits for Owner/Operator, despite the fact that they do not develop products. The value is based on bringing a single version of the truth (no island systems) and working in a single environment for the as-built and the to-be environment, without data conversions or transitions
next post I will talk about Asset Development and the PLM benefits